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Old 09-02-2010, 07:26 PM  
Silock Silock is offline
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Tony Blair on Clinton, Bush and Obama -- GREAT read

http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/08599201540900


By TONY BLAIR

Thu Sep 2, 11:25 am ET

Adapted from Tony Blair's A Journey: My Political Life, published by Alfred A. Knopf.

During my time as Prime Minister I came to love America - loved its sense of aspiration, the notion of coming from nothing and making something of yourself. I didn't start that way; I didn't know many Americans at school or university, and I was 32 before I visited the U.S. My view of America had been formed from countless movies and TV shows and the odd interaction with American tourists. I had a touch of that British raised eyebrow at our American cousins. But in 1985, I was part of a delegation of Members of Parliament sent to see then U.S. Treasury Secretary James Baker, to talk about an issue that had arisen over double taxation, which happens when two nations both claim to be able to tax the same economic activity. I knew nothing about Jim, but it was decided that I would be the one to make our case to him and give the Treasury Secretary a good tough talking-to. Like the diligent lawyer I then was, I mugged up on the facts, became an overnight expert on double taxation and was duly thrown into the fray, the flight over on the Concorde having boosted my sense of my own importance. (See pictures of Tony Blair.)

I came out of the meeting feeling a little like a boxer who had been told that the fight was fixed and the other guy would go down in the second round, only to find he was in the ring with Rocky Marciano and no one had told him about the deal. Jim was focused, on top of the detail, erudite, answered my points one by one, threw in a few of his own, took my warnings of tough action and exposed them as a series of paper tigers and sent me out of there reeling and seeing stars. Above all, he was smart. What I learned that day is that Americans can be really, really clever.

It was a useful lesson for my time in office. I worked closely with two Presidents, Bill Clinton and George Bush, and have got to know a third, Barack Obama, through my recent work in the Middle East. Leadership is personal. People often think of leaders as the repositories of unique knowledge, who by reason of their office can survey things that others cannot. Despite the modern media tendency to bring leaders down to earth and expose their frailties more rapidly and intrusively than in times gone by, there is still a sense in which the leader, and most particularly the President of the United States, remains on the Olympian heights. Mere mortals are still inspired by a certain awe - at least for the office of the presidency, if not always for the human being that occupies it. (See pictures of Tony Blair in Egypt.)
Once you know the truth - and as British Prime Minister you see the U.S. President close-up pretty often - you see the personal side, and no longer look at Presidents as remote officeholders but also as human actors in the unfolding dramas of political affairs. This is the best vantage point, and in my case, it has led me to an even greater sense of respect for the quality of leadership that America can produce. People often ask me: "Tell me, how was it with Bill Clinton, and then George Bush?" I always reply, "Here's a real insight: they were very different from each other!" But they both have tremendous strengths.

Resilience and Intuition

When I first got to know Bill, he was - as he remains - the most formidable politician I had ever encountered. And yet his very expertise and extraordinary capacity at the business of politics obscured the fact that he was also a brilliant thinker, with a clear and thought-through political philosophy and program. He had an endless ability for rapport with ordinary people. I remember an occasion in 2003 when he came to the annual Labour Party conference in the rather faded northern seaside resort of Blackpool, and went out for a late-night McDonald's burger and fries, shooting the breeze with folks, much to the amusement and astonishment of a sprinkling of late-night diners, as if it were what he did every Tuesday night. Over time, the right wing created the legend that people voted for Bill because he was just a really clever political operator. In fact, people voted for him because they were smart. They didn't buy a slick politician; they bought a sensible, modern, worked-out program, based on a philosophy that seemed far more relevant to their times than anything they had been offered before.

See pictures of Tony Blair and George W. Bush.

Read an interview with Tony Blair.

Bill had inimitable resilience. (When you reflect on what he went through during the impeachment saga, you have to sit down. It's too much. How could he, how did he, survive it? But he did, leaving office with an approval rating of more than 60%.) He was preternaturally cool under fire. And he was, of course, a brilliant President. At times he made it look easy. He ran a good economy, made big reforms, handled the Kosovo crisis with real leadership. It is fascinating to speculate how he would have handled later world-changing events, the whole crisis and sequence of tough decisionmaking that was started by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There neither charm nor intellect would have been sufficient. It would have been pure caliber that determined the outcome. I believe he would have had it.

George Bush was straightforward and direct. And very smart. One of the most ludicrous caricatures of George is that he was a dumb idiot who stumbled into the presidency. No one stumbles into that job, and the history of American presidential campaigns is littered with political corpses of those who were supposed to be brilliant but who nonetheless failed because brilliance is not enough. To succeed in U.S. politics - or in the U.K. - you certainly have to be clever, otherwise you will be eaten alive; but you have to be more than clever. (See the top 10 across-the-pond duos.)

George has a sense of calm. I was in the White House on the evening of Sept. 20, 2001, with George just before he was to give his first speech to Congress after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington nine days earlier. He was not panicking or fretting or even plain worrying. He was at peace with himself. He had his mission as President. He hadn't asked for it. He hadn't expected it. He hadn't found it. It had found him. But he was clear. The world had changed, and as President of the world's most powerful country, he was tasked with making sense of that change and dealing with it. I asked him if he was nervous. "No, not really," he replied. "I have a speech here, and the message is clear." I marveled at it, looked carefully at him; but, yes, he did appear to be completely at ease.

George had great intuition. But his intuition was less - as in the case of Bill - about politics and more about what he thought was right or wrong. This wasn't expressed analytically or intellectually. It was just stated. At times - since I was more from the Clinton school - I would find this puzzling, even alarming. I would be at a press conference with the President, in the epicenter of those world-changing events, and I would think, George, explain it; don't just say it.

However, over time, and more even in retrospect as events have continued to unfold after I left office, I have come to admire the simplicity, the directness, almost the boldness of George, finding in it strength and integrity. Sometimes, in the very process of reasoning, we lose sight of the need for a destination, for finding the way out of the labyrinth to solid ground that stands the test not of a few weeks, months or even a year or two, but of the vastness of the judgment of history.

Then there is Barack Obama, who stepped into the aftermath of the financial crisis and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And as if that weren't enough, he faces the challenges of avoiding a double-dip recession and preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear-weapons capability. As ever, with a new leader, the political character cannot be fully formed or comprehended immediately but happens over time. The personal character, however, is clear: this is a man with steel in every part of him. The expectation of his presidency was beyond exaggeration. The criticism is now exaggerated. He has remained the same throughout. And believe me, that is hard to do. I achieved that serenity only at the end.

I think I understand what the new President is trying to do. He is less opposed to some of the aims of the previous President than is supposed, or even politically convenient to admit. He is under no illusions as to the scale of the economic or security challenge and, in his own way, every bit as tough as George. He is trying to shape a different policy to meet these aims, avoiding market excesses in economics and the alienation of America from its allies, potential or actual, in meeting the security challenge.

Read an article by Tony Blair.

See pictures of Barack Obama's trips overseas.

A Certain Conception of a Nation

Clinton, Bush, Obama: Of course, they are different from one another. But they share a great similarity too. They meet, I think, at a certain conception about the character of America itself. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, and I have stumbled across the full range in my time. I recall sitting across the table from some leaders, unable to think of anything other than: my God, the poor people of that country. You get the dumb; the cynical; the tedious; the mildly unsuitable; the weird; the products of systems so mad and dysfunctional, you find yourself marveling that the leader is sentient, let alone capable. And frankly some weren't sentient. I remember asking rather unkindly when told of one leader's death, "How could they tell?"

Then there are the clever, wise and good ones, the ones you have to admire and like. And here's the thing: there are more of them than you would think.
But the real test of leadership - amongst all the tests of policy, judgment, politics and ability - is whether, in the final analysis, you put the country first; that ultimately you are prepared to put what you perceive to be the common good of the nation before your own political self. It is the supreme test. Very few leaders pass it. Each of these Presidents does and for a reason not connected simply to them. (Watch TIME's video "Tony Blair's New Calling.")

Americans can be all that the rest of the world sometimes accuses them of: brash, loud, insular, obsessive and heavy-handed. But America is great for a reason. It is looked up to, despite all the criticism, for a reason. There is a nobility in the American character that has been developed over the centuries, derived in part, no doubt, from the frontier spirit, from the waves of migration that form the stock, from the circumstances of independence, from the Civil War, from a myriad of historical facts and coincidences. But it is there.

That nobility isn't about being nicer, better or more successful than anyone else. It is a feeling about the country. It is a devotion to the American ideal that at a certain point transcends class, race, religion or upbringing. That ideal is about values: freedom, the rule of law, democracy. It is also about the way you achieve: on merit, by your own efforts and hard work. But it is most of all that in striving for and protecting that ideal, you as an individual take second place to the interests of the nation as a whole. It is what makes the country determined to overcome its challenges. It is what makes its soldiers give their lives in sacrifice. It is what brings every variety of American, from the lowest to the highest, to their feet when "The Star-Spangled Banner" is played. Of course the ideal is not always met - that is obvious. But it is always striven for.

The Need for American Confidence

The next years will test the American character. America won't be loved in this presidency any more than in previous ones. But America should have confidence. That ideal, which produces the optimism that generates the achievement, is worth all the striving. It is the most precious gift a nation can have. The world is changing. New powers are emerging. But this does not diminish the need for that American ideal. It reaffirms it, renews it, gives it added relevance. There is always one, more prosaic, test of a nation's position: Are people trying to get into it, or to get out of it? I think we know the answer to that in America's case, and that ideal is the reason. (Comment on this story.)

A friend of mine whose parents were immigrants, Jews from Europe who came to America in search of safety, told me this story. His parents lived and worked in New York. They were not well off. His father died when he was young. His mother lived on, and in time my friend succeeded and became wealthy. He often used to offer his mother the chance to travel outside America. She never did. When eventually she died, they went back to recover the safety box where she kept her jewelry. They found there was another box. There was no key. So they had to drill it open. They wondered what precious jewel must be in it. They lifted the lid. There was wrapping and more wrapping and finally an envelope. Intrigued, they opened it. In the envelope were her U.S. citizenship papers. Nothing more. That was the jewel, more precious to her than any other possession. That was what she treasured most. So should America today.
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Old 09-02-2010, 09:21 PM   #2
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Old 09-02-2010, 11:17 PM   #3
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That was good. It's so interesting to hear stories about the personalities of the Presidents, especially from another world leader who has worked closely with them. There's not many people on the planet that could actually give that perspective.
I also liked the anecdote at the end. As much as people run the U.S. down there's still millions of people in the world that feel the way that lady did. They would love to be here, and many would make tremendous sacrifices just to be here.
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Old 09-02-2010, 11:34 PM   #4
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Talk radio is destroying this country.

George H. Bush was NEVER as bad a POTUS as advertised.

Bill Clinton wasn't even CLOSE to being as bad as advertised.

GWB was wasn't close to being as bad as advertised.

And Obama hasn't even been in office for two friggin' years, after taking over a recession (near depression), two wars and a government bailout, the likes of which we've NEVER seen in US history.

Time will tell but I'm guessing that in 25 years, people aren't going to be pointing fingers at GHB, Clinton, GWB or Obama like they do Hoover, Harding (and somewhat) Wilson.
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Old 09-02-2010, 11:46 PM   #5
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That was awesome, thanks for sharing!
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Old 09-02-2010, 11:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaneMcCloud View Post
Talk radio is destroying this country.

George H. Bush was NEVER as bad a POTUS as advertised.

Bill Clinton wasn't even CLOSE to being as bad as advertised.

GWB was wasn't close to being as bad as advertised.

And Obama hasn't even been in office for two friggin' years, after taking over a recession (near depression), two wars and a government bailout, the likes of which we've NEVER seen in US history.

Time will tell but I'm guessing that in 25 years, people aren't going to be pointing fingers at GHB, Clinton, GWB or Obama like they do Hoover, Harding (and somewhat) Wilson.
Honestly, you read that and the first thing that comes to mind is that talk radio is destroying America? Talk radio? Good Lord.
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Old 09-03-2010, 12:58 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaneMcCloud View Post
Talk radio is destroying this country.

George H. Bush was NEVER as bad a POTUS as advertised.

Bill Clinton wasn't even CLOSE to being as bad as advertised.

GWB was wasn't close to being as bad as advertised.

And Obama hasn't even been in office for two friggin' years, after taking over a recession (near depression), two wars and a government bailout, the likes of which we've NEVER seen in US history.

Time will tell but I'm guessing that in 25 years, people aren't going to be pointing fingers at GHB, Clinton, GWB or Obama like they do Hoover, Harding (and somewhat) Wilson.
So you're telling us that you think talk radio is why George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush were advertised as being worse than they actually were? Really?
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Old 09-03-2010, 01:27 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaneMcCloud View Post

GWB was wasn't close to being as bad as advertised.

And Obama hasn't even been in office for two friggin' years, after taking over a recession (near depression), two wars and a government bailout, the likes of which we've NEVER seen in US history.

Time will tell but I'm guessing that in 25 years, people aren't going to be pointing fingers at GHB, Clinton, GWB or Obama like they do Hoover, Harding (and somewhat) Wilson.
Sorry but thats a contradiction.
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Old 09-03-2010, 01:43 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
So you're telling us that you think talk radio is why George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush were advertised as being worse than they actually were? Really?
That, or message boards. It's really quite up for grabs.

The liberals tend to dominate the internets as much as the conservatives dominate the waves. It all ends in the same circle jerk. Other than our demographic is growing older while yours is dying that is...

I'm not sure playing semantics does much to disprove the point.
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Old 09-03-2010, 01:50 AM   #10
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And FTR, Bush one lost for the same reason Obama is losing right now - the economy.

I've said it before, name me one western head of government that has quality poll numbers that hasn't been recently elected.
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Old 09-03-2010, 02:25 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bewbies View Post
Honestly, you read that and the first thing that comes to mind is that talk radio is destroying America? Talk radio? Good Lord.
People forget that there was a very Limbaugh-esque radio personality during the depression...Walter Winchell. He didn't destroy america. People generally forgot about the picture he portrayed.
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Old 09-03-2010, 02:27 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaneMcCloud View Post
Talk radio is destroying this country.

That sounds like a problem with education to me.
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Old 09-03-2010, 02:32 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by DaneMcCloud View Post
Time will tell but I'm guessing that in 25 years, people aren't going to be pointing fingers at GHB, Clinton, GWB or Obama like they do Hoover, Harding (and somewhat) Wilson.

Bush is going to be remembered as The Great Squanderer. His mismanagement will ring in infamy for a century at least.
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Old 09-03-2010, 06:01 AM   #14
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Other than our demographic is growing older while yours is dying that is...
Your ignorance makes it that much easier to squash you.

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Old 09-03-2010, 06:13 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaneMcCloud View Post
Talk radio is destroying this country.

George H. Bush was NEVER as bad a POTUS as advertised.
I don't think talk radio is what gave George Bush his image. More like the constant attacks from T.V. media. He would give an hour long speech and flub one line by mispronouncing a word. That flub would be played over, and over, and over, and over. Forget the content of the speech, lets focus on the mistake.
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