Blair – “Good”, “Brave”, President?
- Blair – “I did what I thought was right” Blair’s retirement announcement
- A Leaders Deathbed Confession?
- Prince Harry to Iraq Yes, yes, yes – No, No!
- Tony Blair to Iraq No, No, No – yes, yes!
- “VERY LATEST on TONY BLAIR” (from 30th March on)
- “Thoughts and Opinion on Tony Blair” Political obituaries for Blair.
- Click – “OK … I give up … sort of!” Blair’s resignation plans, September 2006
- View Tony Blair Videos
- View Prime Minister’s Questions from House of Commons
Comment at end of page
18 May, 2007
AMERICA SINGS BLAIR’S PRAISES
A bit like the proverbial bus – you wait for ages then three come along at the same time. But this time it’s not so much a bus as songs of praise for our present Prime Minister.
- Not only has President Bush made clear that he thinks Tony Blair is the best thing since the US equivalent of sliced bread – TRUE
- Not only have Americans praised the PM as the essential element and the prime mover for settlement after 10 years in the Northern Ireland peace process – TRUE
- But also … there is word that Tony Blair might be about to become President
President of the World Bank, that is, after the resignation of Paul Wolfowitz, which just happens to coincide with the end of Mr Blair’s present job. Well, it’s a couple of steps up from Brown’s old job as British Chancellor. View video on Blair top job speculation.
Excerpt from EuroNews
Now that Paul Wolfowitz has resigned as President of the World Bank, speculation is rife as to who will replace him. With his departure set for June 30, there is one world leader who may be available around that time: the outgoing British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. A spokesman for Blair said rumours that he was being considered for the top job were just speculation. But one of the World Bank’s former chief economists said Blair would be an ideal candidate.
Joseph Stiglitz said the World Bank needed someone like Blair, with his commitment to third world development, to get its reputation back on track. Normally the appointed president of the World Bank is an American, with a European heading the International Monetary Fund. But after the scandal caused when Wolfowitz granted a huge pay rise and a promotion to his girlfriend, there are calls for a new way of appointing his successor.
PRESS CONFERENCE – THEY NEVER PROMISED US A ROSE GARDEN
I realise that Mr Blair is in the USA, a land where he is appreciated – obviously they know NOTHING about Iraq there! This morning he must be thinking, “at least SOME PEOPLE appreciate me”.
Watch video of Bush & Blair Press Conference
BBC report on Bush/Blair affair to remember.
After the heartfelt, genuine and quite articulate praise he received from President Bush yesterday at their last dual-leaders White House Press Conference, he has now been at the receiving end of similar plaudits from Irish/Americans and others both democrat and republican, for his pivotal, extraordinary leadership role in the Northern Ireland peace settlement.
GREAT! That might compensate for the muted and fairly lukewarm response here in the British press, where his name and tenacious contributions have been mean-mindedly diluted amongst those of anyone else who had ever done anything over the last ten years for the Northern Ireland peace settlement. I expect the tea lady was in there somewhere, if we look hard enough.
But it won’t compensate us for losing this man as our Prime Minister, when we patently should NOT be in this position.
And so – in praise of and thanks to MY PRIME MINISTER, Tony Blair, here are a couple of snippets that should shame us here. They signify a warmth, understanding, and breadth of vision, the lack of which makes me ashamed to put fingertip to keyboard – in case people get the mistaken idea that I am a member of the British press or some such cynical rudities. (OK I’ve just invented the word, but you get the drift).
But, for MY PRIME MINISTER, I’ll do it ;0)
Read Number 10’s website Report and pictures of visit 16 -18 May 2007
White House Report site Including video & audio
Mr Blair & President Bush – Press Conference transcript in full follows:
Rose Garden, White House, Washington
11:23 A.M. EDT, May 17th 2007
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you. I’m pleased to welcome Tony Blair back to the White House. He is a good friend. He has led the British people for a long time, since 1797. (Laughter.)
You know, I was sitting with Tony on the Truman balcony last night, and we were discussing a lot of issues. And it dawned on me, once again, what a clear strategic thinker he is. Somebody asked me the other day, how would you define Tony Blair and your relationship with him? I said, first of all, it’s cordial, it’s open, and I appreciate the fact that he can see beyond the horizon. And that’s the kind of leadership the world needs.
I do congratulate the Prime Minister for being a — when he gets on a subject, it’s dogged. Witness his patience and resolve regarding Northern Ireland. And congratulations for your leadership.
We talked about a lot of issues at dinner and our meetings. We talked about, of course, Iraq. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister and I have just finished a video conference with our respective commanders and ambassadors from Baghdad. We got a full briefing on the situation on the ground. I appreciated Tony’s willingness to interface with our people there. I reminded our people that the best decisions are made when you listen to the commanders. And our commanders have got good, specific advice as to how to achieve our objectives, which I believe we’ll achieve; objectives that I know are necessary for peace — peace in the Middle East, peace in the United States, and in the United Kingdom.
We talked about Afghanistan. We strongly support our NATO mission in Afghanistan, and I informed the Prime Minister that the Secretary General of NATO will be coming to Crawford this weekend. I’m looking forward to talking to him about how we can continue to work together. And I want to thank you for your strong commitment to the NATO mission and the people of Afghanistan.
We talked about the Middle East, and we’re concerned about the violence we see in Gaza. We strongly urge the parties to work toward a two-state solution. I’m looking forward to continue to work on this issue. I’ve instructed my Secretary of State to be actively engaged. She represents the position of the Bush government, which is two states living side by side in peace. We believe that vision is possible, but it requires strong leadership on both sides of the issue.
The Prime Minister and I discussed the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. We recognized the deep humiliation that can come as a result of living in a land where you can’t move freely, and where people can’t realize dreams. We talked about the need to reject and fight terrorism. We understand the fright that can come when you’re worried about a rocket landing on top of your home. I’m committed to peace in the Middle East, and I appreciate Tony Blair being a partner in peace.
We talked about Iran. We fully recognize that the Iranians must not have a nuclear weapon. And therefore it’s important to continue to work in the international arena to speak with one voice. And if we’re unable to make progress with the Iranians, we want to work together to implement new sanctions through the United Nations, to continue to make it clear that Iran with a nuclear weapon is not in the interests of peace in the world.
We talked about, of course, Africa. We spent a lot of time talking about Africa. I told the Prime Minister that the AIDS initiative that got started under my administration will continue; that I’ll work with Congress to make sure that the PEPFAR Initiative, that has been so effective at getting anti-retro viral drugs to people on that continent will continue. It’s an important initiative of ours.
I applaud the Prime Minister’s education initiative on the continent of Africa. It’s a bold stroke. And we look forward to working with you on that initiative. We talked about Darfur, and how frustrated I am, and I know the Prime Minister is frustrated at the inability for the international community to react with consequence in Darfur. And I explained to him my strategy of moving forward with sanctions, and hopefully a new, stronger United Nations resolution if we don’t see some improvement in the lives of the people there.
And we talked, of course, about climate change. We spent a lot of time on climate change. And I agree with the Prime Minister, as I have stated publicly, this is a serious issue, and the United States takes it seriously, just like we take energy security seriously.
We talked about the upcoming G8, and I assured the Prime Minister we want to be a part of a solution, that we want to work constructively together. He’s got some really good ideas on how to advance the technologies that are going to be necessary to help solve this problem. And I told him I’ve got some good ideas as how to convince China and India to be a part of a global solution. We have a lot of common ground that we’ve been discussing today.
Finally, we agreed to improve defense cooperation by working towards an agreement reducing barriers to trade in defense goods and services and information between the United States and the United Kingdom, including defense industries. This is an important issue for the Prime Minister; it’s an important issue to me. I made it clear to the Prime Minister we will work on this issue tirelessly until we can get it solved.
It’s been a joy having you back here. I appreciate — every time I’m with you I appreciate very much the insight you provide. And I guess, for the final time as Prime Minister, you get to address the good folks in our country from the Rose Garden.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President, and thank you, as ever, for the kindness and graciousness of your welcome to me here at the White House. And thank you also for the strength of your leadership over the past few years. You have been a strong leader at a time when the world needed strong leadership. You’ve been unyielding and unflinching, and determined in the fight that we face together. And I thank you for that.
And I also would take this opportunity of saying that I believe that the relationship between the United States of America and Britain is a relationship that is in the interests of our two countries and in the interests of the peace and stability of the wider world. And sometimes it’s a controversial relationship — at least over in my country. But I’ve never doubted its importance. I’ve never doubted that it’s based on principle, on shared values, and on a shared purpose, which is to make our world a better, more free, more just place in which people of all nations and all faiths can live.
So I would like to thank you for the strength also of that relationship over these past few years.
The President has, rightly and comprehensively, gone through the various issues that we discussed. And I would like to pick out from those, first of all, the discussion we were able to have with our ambassadors and commanders in respect of Iraq, where there’s no doubt at all it’s immensely challenging, immensely difficult, but also there is a huge amount that is being done, not just to improve the security there, which is important, but also in respect to the politics where, as they were telling us, there are the majority elements in each of the main communities, whether Sunni, or Shia, or Kurd, who actually want to live in peace with one another, and want a future for that country that is not marred by terrorism and sectarianism. And we, of course, want to see that happen in the interests of that country, and the interests of the stability of the wider region and the world.
Again, in respect of Afghanistan, where American troops, and of course, British troops, down in the Helmand province, are doing an extraordinary job, a heroic job, actually. And I think we can be so proud of the Armed Forces of both countries and what they’re doing in the world today.
The situation is fraught with danger, which they take on with immense courage and immense determination. And down in the south of Afghanistan at the moment, there are operations the whole time against the Taliban, in favor of, again, what the Afghan people want, which is the chance to have a better future and escape from the poverty and misery and oppression of the Taliban years.
And we discussed, of course, the Middle East and the very dangerous, difficult situation there, and our belief, again, that the important thing is how we make progress towards the two-state solution, which is the only solution in the end that will offer a realistic prospect and progress in that region.
And of course, also, we talked about the upcoming G8 where there’s going to be important negotiations over the issue of climate change and over the issue of Africa. I mean, in respect of climate change, I welcome very much what the President has said today. The important thing is that we see that it’s possible for people to come together on an agreement for the future that will allow us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that will allow us to have a way forward that involves not just Europe and the United States of America, but China and India and the rest of the developing world also, and that also addresses what is an issue of top, top priority now in Europe, but also, I know here, which is energy security.
There are two reasons why this issue is on the agenda in a way that is perhaps more acute than ever before. There is the issue of the environment, there’s the issue of energy security. And I think there’s a — there’s a synergy between those two issues and the way they come together, which offer some prospect of hope for the future.
And in respect of Africa, as you will know, at the Gleneagles summit a couple of years ago, we made Africa, if you like, the centerpiece of the summit. I think it’s important that we recommit to the undertakings we gave there to help people in Africa, and that we do not lose sight of that as a major, in some sense, the major moral course of our time, which is to lift people out of poverty on that troubled continent. And I totally agree with what the President was saying. We have the same position exactly on Darfur and the need to take action there.
And finally, can I thank the President for what he has said on the issue to do with defense and trade between our two countries. This is an issue that seems technical, but actually is a very important way of trumpeting the understanding, the work that we’re doing together on the issue of defense and technology between our two countries.
And so let me end where I began, which is the importance of the relationship between the United States and Britain. I mean, whether it’s in respect of fighting terrorism, the big issues to do with energy and climate change, the cause that is Africa, the agreements between our two countries in respect to defense, our two nations should always work together. It’s served us well in the past. But it’s not a relationship that’s founded on history; it’s a relationship that is about a shared future.
PRESIDENT BUSH: So as a parting gift to the Prime Minister, we’ll take some questions. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. Mr. Prime Minister, will Britain in the coming months and years be as staunch an ally in Iraq for the United States as it has been under your leadership?
And, Mr. President, will you sign a war spending bill that has consequences for the Iraqi government if it fails to meet benchmarks for progress?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: The answer to your question is yes, I believe that we will remain a staunch and steadfast ally in the fight against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Let me just explain one thing that came out very powerfully from the discussion we had with our commanders this morning. Essentially, what we have in Iraq at the moment is a situation where there is a renewed attempt to find political reconciliation — between Sunni and Shia, particularly. And I believe there are signs, real and genuine signs of progress there.
But what you are seeing in Iraq is an attempt by al Qaeda — through these appalling suicide bombs and also, particularly, down in the south, through the improvised explosive devices by Iranian-backed elements — to try to disturb any prospect of Sunni and Shia coming together and delivering what the people of Iraq want to see.
And the only point that I would make is this, and this is the reason why it’s important that Britain holds steadfast to the course of fighting alongside America in this battle against terrorism: The forces that we are fighting in Iraq — al Qaeda on the one hand, Iranian-backed elements on the other — are the same forces we’re fighting everywhere. And over these past few weeks you can see in different parts of the world — Morocco, Algeria, Pakistan, in Saudi Arabia recently — where this extremism is rearing its head, is trying to dislodge the prospects of stability and progress in so many different countries. There is no alternative for us but to fight it wherever it exists. And that is true whether it’s in our own countries, which have both suffered from terrorism, or in Iraq, or Afghanistan.
And so this is not a — it’s not about us remaining true to the course that we’ve set out because of the alliance with America. It is about us remaining steadfast because what we are fighting, the enemy we are fighting is an enemy that is aiming its destruction at our way of life and anybody who wants that way of life. And in those circumstances, the harder they fight, the more determined we must be to fight back.
If what happens is, the harder they fight, the more our will diminishes, then that’s a fight we’re going to lose. And this is a fight we cannot afford to lose.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I’ve instructed Josh to stay in touch with leaders — Josh Bolten, Chief of Staff — stay in touch with leaders, both Democrat and Republican, about moving a supplemental as quickly as possible. First I applaud what Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi said, that time is of the essence; we’ve got to get the bill done, and if need be — I think they said — they would keep members here to get the troops funded.
Secondly, I appreciate you trying to get me to negotiate here on the platform. Josh has been told that — we understand benchmarks are important. I talked specifically about benchmarks, and he’ll work with members of Congress to come up with a supplemental that we — both sides can live with. And I’m confident we can get the job done.
There’s been a series of votes in Congress that people have been able to express their opinion; now it’s time to put forth a spending bill that doesn’t have artificial timetables for withdrawal, doesn’t micromanage the military, and is wise about how we spend the people’s money. We’ll work it hard. I think we can get a deal.
Q — question?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As I said, you’re trying to get me to negotiate. Our negotiator is Josh. And we fully understand the need to have benchmarks in a bill. I accept and respect the members’ desire to have benchmarks — after all, I’m the person who laid them out initially. We will work through something we can all live with, and enable us to get the job done.
Again, this is an issue that has been very emotional here in Washington. People have got strong opinions. I do appreciate the leadership of the Speaker and the Leader in saying, okay, now let’s work together and get it solved. I’m optimistic we can do so.
Q During the course of this visit it has been confirmed that Gordon Brown is going to be the next British Prime Minister, taking over in 40 days’ time. I wonder if I could have both your reactions to that. And, in particular, Mr. Blair, what you say to those people who are saying now there is a new Prime Minister in place, you should go sooner? And to Mr. Bush, whether —
PRESIDENT BUSH: That’s a lovely question. (Laughter.)
Q — however inadvertently, you once said that you would like Tony Blair to stay for the duration of your presidency. He’s not doing that. Do you think you’re partly to blame for that?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I haven’t polled the Labour conference, but could be. (Laughter.) The question is, am I to blame for his leaving? I don’t know.
Q And what do you think of Brown?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I hope to help him in office the way Tony Blair helped me. Newly elected President, Tony Blair came over and he reached out, he was gracious — was able to converse in a way where our shared interests were the most important aspect of the relationship. I would hope I would provide the same opportunities for Gordon Brown. I met him, thought he was a good fellow.
My attitude is this, this man here is the Prime Minister, we’ve got a lot of work to do until he finishes. He’s going to sprint to the wire. He’s going to finish the job that the people want him to do, and I’m going to work with him to do it. The meetings today weren’t — this wasn’t like a farewell deal; this was “how can we continue to work together for the common good.” And that’s what we’ll do.
As to why things happen politically in Great Britain, I’d suggest you go over there and ask people. Nice to see you again. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: You had kind of forgotten what the British media were like, hadn’t you? (Laughter.) These things —
PRESIDENT BUSH: He woke up to ask the question. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: First of all, having signed Gordon’s nomination forms to nominate him as leader, of course I wish him well and I believe he’ll make a great Prime Minister. And I know he believes in the relationship with America, too. And as for me, I will carry on doing the things that I’ve set out over the next few weeks that I need to do, not least and what we’re talking about with the upcoming G8 summit and the deal which we’ve been trying to put together, different countries involved on climate change, and Africa — and then, of course, you’ve got the European agreement at the end of June, which is going to be very important.
And just let me to stress to you, incidentally, that will be a government position. It will be a government negotiation that goes on there. But it’s very, very important so that we can make sure that Europe moves forward. And then, of course, there are various domestic issues, too, as well.
I’ll answer the question about the President, as well, in relation to me. You can debate that as much as you like, but I want to say one thing to you — since it will be the last chance I get to have a press conference in the Rose Garden, standing next to President Bush — I’ve admired him as a President and I regard him as a friend. I have taken the view that Britain should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with America after September 11th. I have never deviated from that view. I do not regret that view. I am proud of the relationship we have had. I am proud of the relationship between our two countries.
And I think that sometimes in politics there are all sorts of issues where you’ve got to negotiate and compromise, but when it comes to the fundamental questions that affect our security and the future of the world, you should do what is right. I have tried to do that. And I believe that is what he has done, as well.
Q Would you do it again?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: And I would take the same position of alliance with America again; yes, I would.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve.
Q Thank you, sir. The fate of Paul Wolfowitz appears to be hanging in the balance. After all we’ve heard in recent days, is it still possible for him to provide the kind of leadership needed at the Bank?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I believe all parties in this matter have acted in good faith. I regret that it’s come to this. I admire Paul Wolfowitz. I admire his heart. And I particularly admired his focus on helping the poor. There is a board meeting going on as we speak. All I can tell you is I know that Paul Wolfowitz has a interest in what’s best for the Bank, and just like he’s had an interest in what’s best for making sure the Bank focused on things that matter: human suffering, the human condition. I — and so I applaud his vision, I respect him a lot, and as I said, I regret this has come to this right now.
Q Mr. Blair, you outlined some very big policy areas there — in your discussions with the President. Is it really possible, do you think, to make significant progress on them in the time that you have left?
And, Mr. President, if I could ask you, is this really still the right man to be talking to?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes. No question about it’s the right man to be talking to. And, yes, we can get a lot done.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: You know, we’re going to have a G8 summit in a couple of weeks time, at which these issues to do with climate change in Africa are going to be debated and discussed. And I hope very much, because you come together at the G8 a bit like we did a couple of years ago at Gleneagles, and it’s an opportunity for the international community, a major part of the international community, to come together and reach, in principle, agreements. I think most people would accept that what happened at Gleneagles a couple of years ago was very important.
I think what happens in Germany in a couple of weeks time could be equally important, and that will be the time when we come to those decisions. So of course, I want to see — see that through, because I’ve been involved in this all the way — all the way through.
And the important thing, as well, is that I think you will find at the German summit that not just the G8 countries are there, but also China and India and Brazil and Mexico, South Africa, maybe some of the African nations. And so it will be an opportunity for us to recommit on Africa, and for the world to make important commitments on that, and then to see if it’s possible to agree the elements that could go into a more comprehensive climate change deal. So it’s a pretty important thing, and that’s what we’re working on.
PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, it’s interesting, like trying to do a tap dance on his political grave, aren’t you? I mean, this — you don’t understand how effective Blair is, I guess, because when we’re in a room with world leaders and he speaks, people listen. And they — they view his opinion as considered and his judgment as sound.
And I find it interesting the first two questions are, is this the right guy? Well, he happens to be your Prime Minister, but more importantly, he is a respected man in the international arena. People admire him. Even if they may not agree with him a hundred percent, they admire him a lot. And it’s not just the American President who admires him; a lot of people admire him. And so he’s effective. He’s effective because he is — his recommendations to solve problems are sound. He’s also effective because he is the kind of person who follows through.
There’s a lot of blowhards in the political process, you know, a lot of hot-air artists, people who have got something fancy to say. Tony Blair is somebody who actually follows through with his convictions, and therefore, is admired in the international community.
So I guess this is an appropriate question to ask — right guy, is he still standing — yes. This guy is a very strong, respected leader, and he’s absolutely the right guy for me to be dealing with.
Kelly. By the way, if I’m not mistaken, this is your birthday. It is? Would you like me and the Prime Minister to do a duet, you know? (Laughter.)
Q I didn’t realize the intel briefing was so far-reaching. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: That’s right. Kelly O’Donnell.
Q Thank you, sir. There’s been some very dramatic testimony before the Senate this week from one of your former top Justice Department officials, who describes a scene that some senators called “stunning,” about a time when the wireless — when the warrantless wiretap program was being reviewed. Sir, did you send your then Chief of Staff and White House Counsel to the bedside of John Ashcroft while he was ill to get him to approve that program? And do you believe that kind of conduct from White House officials is appropriate?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Kelly, there’s a lot of speculation about what happened and what didn’t happen; I’m not going to talk about it. It’s a very sensitive program. I will tell you that, one, the program is necessary to protect the American people, and it’s still necessary because there’s still an enemy that wants to do us harm.
And therefore, I have an obligation to put in place programs that honor the civil liberties of the American people; a program that was, in this case, constantly reviewed and briefed to the United States Congress. And the program, as I say, is an essential part of protecting this country.
And so there will be all kinds of talk about it. As I say, I’m not going to move the issue forward by talking about something as highly sensitive — highly classified subject. I will tell you, however, that the program is necessary.
Q Was it on your order, sir?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As I said, this program is a necessary program that was constantly reviewed and constantly briefed to the Congress. It’s an important part of protecting the United States. And it’s still an important part of our protection because there’s still an enemy that would like to attack us. No matter how calm it may seem here in America, an enemy lurks. And they would like to strike. They would like to do harm to the American people because they have an agenda. They want to impose an ideology; they want us to retreat from the world; they want to find safe haven. And these just aren’t empty words, these are the words of al Qaeda themselves.
And so we will put in place programs to protect the American people that honor the civil liberties of our people, and programs that we constantly brief to Congress.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Hi, Tom.
Q Hello. — Prime Minister many times in the course of the last six years. But it’s been five years since a leader of the British Conservative Party set foot in this city. Mr. President, does it surprise you that aides close to David Cameron say that he does not want to be seen with you? And can I ask you both what it means for the prospect of future relations between Britain and America when the leader of the opposition dare not set foot in Washington?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I can just tell you, my relationship with the leader of Great Britain has been unbelievably productive, and I have enjoyed working with Tony Blair more than I could have possibly imagined.
It’s hard to define our relationship in sound bites or press conferences, or to — in a way that really reflects the depth of what we have done together. And so I — you know, I don’t regret things about what may or may not have happened over the past five years. I honor a relationship that I truly believe has been laying the foundation for peace.
This may not interest you, but I’ll tell you anyway — I read three histories on George Washington last year. It’s interesting to me that they’re still analyzing the presidency of our first President. And my attitude is, if they’re still analyzing 1, 43 doesn’t need to worry about it. (Laughter.) I’m not going to be around to see the final history written on my administration.
When you work on big items, items to — agendas based upon sound philosophy that will transform parts of the world to make it more peaceful, we’re not going to be around to see it. So my — let me finish. My relationship with this good man is where I’ve been focused, and that’s where my concentration is. And I don’t regret any other aspect of it.
And so I — we filled a lot of space together. We have had a unique ability to speak in terms that help design common strategies and tactics to achieve big objectives. And it’s — will I miss working with Tony Blair? You bet I will. Absolutely. Can I work with the next guy? Of course.
And I’m here to make it clear to the people of our respective countries that this relationship is one that is vital to accomplish big objectives. It has been vital in the past; it has stood the free world — it has enabled the free world to do hard things. And it’s a relationship that I believe is necessary to do the hard things in the 21st century. And so I honor Tony Blair.
Q What about David Cameron?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Never met him.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I don’t — it’s not for me to give advice to the leader of the Conservative Party, or a different political party. And that’s up to them as to what they do, and up to him as to whether he comes here or not.
But I do just make this observation to you, and — what we are — what we are trying to do is — don’t mind these two individual leaders, but the two countries, let’s accept for a moment that at least even if people very strongly disagree with Iraq, for example, that at least people understand that there is a battle that we are fighting around the world today.
And let’s at least accept, also, that it’s a battle about the type of values that govern the world in the early 21st century. You don’t win those battles by being a fair-weather friend to your ally, you don’t win those battles by being hesitant or withdrawing support for each other when the going gets tough. You don’t win those battles by losing the will to fight if your enemy’s will to fight is very strong, and very powerful.
And actually, the values that we represent, us two countries, are shown by what we — what we’ve been through today. I mean, the President gets tough questions from the American press corps; I get, I like to say, even tougher questions — (laughter) — or at least as tough questions in the British press corps. And —
PRESIDENT BUSH: One at a time is tough. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: And we can — here as we speak at this press conference, I mean, I can’t make out the words that they’re shouting over there, but I bet they’re not totally complimentary to either of us. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Wait a minute, I don’t know about that. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I mean, it could be the supporters we brought in, but I’ve got a feeling the likelihood is, no. (Laughter.) And that’s what it’s about. It’s about democracy, and it’s about people being free to express their views, and it’s about politicians having to face the pressure to justify their decisions, to be punished if the people don’t like those decisions. And it’s a commonality of values that we have that is so important for the world today.
And so — you know, yes, of course, it’s like — anybody who’s sitting there inviting a politician in any part of Europe today, if you want to get the easiest round of applause, get up and attack America, you can get a round of applause if you attack the President, you get a —
PRESIDENT BUSH: Standing ovation. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Yes. And that’s — that’s fine if everyone wants to do that, but when all of that is cleared away, you’re left with something very, very simple, fundamental, and clear: that that battle for values is still going on.
And you can debate about the mistakes and the issues and you can debate about Iraq, whether we should have done this or we should have done that. But, actually, what is happening in Iraq today is that our enemy is fighting us, and, therefore, if what happens when our enemy fights us is that we drift away from our friends, that we kind of make the little accommodations so that we don’t escape some of the difficulty and the responsibility and occasionally a proprium of decision-making — if we do that, our enemy takes heart from that, they watch that. They watch what we’re doing the whole time. They ask, are these guys standing up for what they believe, or if we carry on, is their will going to diminish and they’re going to give up, because it’s just too difficult, because the public opinion is too difficult, because the opinion polls tell them it’s too difficult?”
Now, that is the decision of leadership. And it’s not just a decision for me and him; it’s a decision for everybody who’s engaged in politics. And people run down politics and say it’s all just a series of positions and attitudes and sound bites and occasionally even lies and all the rest of it. Actually, what politics is in the end, when it’s done in the right way, when people stand up for what they believe, is it’s about public service. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of in that. And the fact is, the decisions are difficult; of course they’re difficult.
And we took a decision that we thought was very difficult. I thought then, and I think now, it was the right decision. History will make a judgment at a particular time. But one thing I know is that what we represent coming here today, speaking in the Rose Garden to you people and getting your questions and being under your pressure, that is a finer and better way of life than either a brutal, secular dictatorship or religious extremism. It’s a better way of life and it’s the way of life, actually, people, anytime they are given the choice, choose to have. And what we should be about, our two nations, is giving as many people in the world as possible that choice and being proud of it.
PRESIDENT BUSH: What I know is the world needs courage. And what I know is this good man is a courageous man.
Thanks for coming.
END 11:59 A.M. EDT
Well, to me that says it all about the present relationship between our two countries, our two leaders, and their vision for values which should predominate, yes should predominate around the world.
Now go and make the case to me for Why They Are Wrong.
And the other day a commenter at this blog, left a link to her site and an article which I have pasted here in its entirety.
The Brave Mr. Blair: Reflections on the Legacy of America’s Greatest Friend
By Diane – Posted in Foreign Affairs
I suppose this is a little late, as the news has moved to debates and other debacles, but I wanted to offer a tribute while I still have time. And considering that Mr. Blair is visiting President Bush in Washington today, probably for his last time as PM, perhaps it’s not too late after all.
As most of you know, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced last Thursday that he was going to be standing down as prime minister after a 7 week period during which a new leader of the Labour Party will be chosen, making Blair’s official departure date June 27th.
Although this is hardly surprising news, as he had previously announced he would be leaving this summer, it is signicant news, as Mr. Blair has been a bedrock of support for America in the Global War on Terror and an ally in engaging the world.
Blair ends his career on a low note – his reputation shrouded in the fog of Iraq, his poll numbers among Britons at record lows. His career ends ironically for someone who had won landslide victories and achieved record high support.
Looking at the histories of the United States and Britain, it is easy to downplay the significance of what Tony Blair has done. Britain and the United States share a common language and a common history – it is natural to assume that they would be close allies.
Unfortunately, in the last few years, things have hardly followed their normal course. 9/11 and Iraq have changed the world. Iraq, among other things, has significantly soured many in the world against the United States. It was no longer natural or normal for any European country to stand “shoulder and shoulder” with the United States in a time of such intense criticism.
Britain, though, because of Mr. Blair, did stand with the United States, not only offering verbal support but offering significant troop support. Mr. Blair led Britain into the Iraq War despite significant opposition in his country, a phenomenon Bush wouldn’t face until later down the road. He did it knowing what it would cost.
The decision to enter the Iraq War was and is a gamble. Whether one thinks it was worth the gamble or not, it was a brave move and it was a just move. It was a move designed, not to enrich or expand a nation, but to protect the world from rogue actors and establish democracy where it had never before existed.
In attempting this grand goal, Mr. Blair, along with Mr. Bush, committed himself – regardless of the price it would inevitably cost, regardless of the scorn it would earn him, regardless of the difficulty it would require.
And Mr. Blair was an enormous asset, in the war, in 9/11 and in a number of other international relations issues. He spoke with an eloquence that Bush didn’t have. More than that, he understood, in a way few understand, the interworkings of world events: the connections of ideas, events and actions.
He acted with a level of altruism that is rare, seeking to engage the world for the sake of peace. Among other things, he brokered a historic peace agreement in Northern Ireland and worked to seriously address the deep problems in Africa, proposing major debt relief initiatives.
And for all this – a country engaged in the world, a strong British economy and a strong alliance with the US – he has gotten the type of criticism that frequently makes liberals’ criticism of Bush look tame in comparison.
We can debate Mr. Blair’s domestic policies – I am sure there are policies that many of us would disagree with. I know I disagree with some of them – but I think the calibre of his leadership is undebatable.
Under the leadership of Gordon Brown, Britain will continue its relationship with America, but probably in a much more subdued and reserved manner. It is hard to see him as enthusiastically supporting the war effort in Iraq (and he may start initiating more withdrawals) and maintaining the same level of closeness with America that Blair did.
It is doubtful if any European leader will be as Blair was. It is doubtful because few could and because few would. It is just too hard. It demands too much. It, in fact, demands everything.
Blair, like Bush, is someone who will be seen as one of the significant figures of our time. He is someone who learned throughout his career what it meant to be a statesman. He asked himself the question that all politicians must ask themselves: will I do what is easy or will I do what is right? He answered that question correctly, and America and the world are better off for it.
This article still moves me, every time I read it. Yes, Tony Blair gave what was demanded – “everything”, including, it would seem, trust and thus his credibility at home, the scorn of the press and chattering classes and in the end his position as one of the most capable politicians of his time, in order to stand up for what he believed to be right. For that he has received little empathy at home, where the natives simplistically assert that in that situation, THEY could have done better. In THAT situation, “bargaining” limply, they would have got scant regard from America. Nothing but polite recognition as an old European country, stuck in the past, fighting yesterday’s wars. They kid themselves, as does former President Carter, if they really believe that ANYTHING or ANYONE could have diverted President Bush from his course.
We can be proud that OUR leader was prepared to lay down his premiership, his popularity and the trust of his people, for freedom and principle, and for the future shape of the world. In the eyes of Americans on this trip Mr Blair saw the reward. Deep respect for him as Prime Minister and for Britain, willing to stand united with the USA against the world’s present common foe.
Perhaps one day we will understand and appreciate that.