the beginning and the end

It all started out so well for Gordon Brown.  After years of being the eternal bridesmaid, he was finally able to don the dress and have his day when Tony Blair handed over the keys to Number 10.  Ok…maybe that’s imagery you don’t need.  But that’s kind of what happened in 2007.  Now-former British PM Gordon Brown was handed the assignment of continuing with the Blair policies and sustaining the political power Labour had gained with Blair’s election 10 years previous.   Sounds simple enough, right?  So how is it that after only 3 years as British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has been unceremoniously dumped by the electorate?  Hmmm.

Well, first of all, he shouldn’t feel too distraught over it.   The British voting public didn’t seem very keen on any of the three parties — Labour just got the brunt of the abuse because it was the party in power.  Gordon Brown was highly unpopular.   All the polls said so.   But in all the postmortems I’ve read on this election, the writers have yet to point to a singular failure on Brown’s part that directly led to Labour’s defeat.   Yes, there were comments about his off-mike asides calling one woman who asked him questions “bigoted”, but those kind of things aren’t the ones that definitively swing an election one way or another.  In the end, it was voter fatigue with Labour’s 13 years in power combined with the many voters who chose the Liberal Democrats that sealed Brown’s fate, but for the way he handled his own tenure, Gordon Brown has no one to blame but himself.

good stuff other people wrote

What I’m currently reading:

The fallacy that continues to dog Project Cameron – John Rentoul (who wrote this killer Tony Blair bio I totally loved) says that David Cameron’s ideas are just as flawed as Gordon Brown’s. Sad part is that in this battle between the Conservative Party (Cameron) and Labour Party(Brown) one of these two will probably end up being UK Prime Minister.  Side note: Current UK PM Brown was never going to be Tony Blair.  Sometimes a politician is best suited to his previous job, rather than his current one.  This is very true of Brown.   However, I have no love for David Cameron and his “New Labour” -lite schtick and his obsession with the environment.  Of course, that’s generally how the Brits roll anyway — with their entrenched welfare state and their socialized health care with the NHS.  Naturally, these are the kind of politicians they like.  Bully for them.   Moving on…

Jack Kelly on President Obama’s new nuke deals.  Here’s the bottom line as far as I’m concerned – if President Obama really believes that we are facing a more challenging time in dealing with nuclear threats, then he’s got the wrong solution to this.   We can’t be voluntarily reducing our own nuclear arsenal and stopping production on more modern weapons at the same time North Korea and Iran are ramping up their nuke production.   This seems backwards to me.  The United States of America may very well be the only country which would be willing to voluntarily do this — and that’s exactly why we can’t do it.

A cautionary tale from Europe – Greece’s monetary struggles – a result of overspending and a massive entitlement society.

april fools day

The funniest gag of the day (although I wasn’t fooled) was Jonah Goldberg’s description of President Obama’s visit with the Queen of England.

From the Corner:

Diplomatic jaws dropped across the continent yesterday when it was revealed that U.S. President Barack Obama had, once again, fumbled a routine protocal of international statecraft: finding the right gift for a foreign leader or head of state. In a private ceremony with Queen Elizabeth, Her Royal Highness bequeathed to the Obamas one of the earliest known copies of William Shakespeare’s Henry V. She also presented him with the framed orginal sheet music of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.” To the Obama daughters, the Queen gave a dollhouse-sized replica of Windsor Castle with a functioning train station in the year of the compound. They also received a prize Shetland pony. Mrs. Obama was given a ruby ring commissioned and worn by Queen Victoria.

The Obamas, unfortunately, did not seem prepared for the occasion despite the row set off by the exchange of gifts between Prime Minister Brown and the U.S. President barely a month ago.  Mr. Obama rather unceremoniously handed the Queen a shopping bag from the Duty Free shop at Heathrow airport. It contained a signed paperback copy of Dreams of My Father, purchased at the WH Smith shop at the airport, a bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch (black label), a CD of the Swedish band ABBA’s greatest hits (still in shrink wrap with a 2-for-1 sticker on it) and ten bags of M&Ms with the presidential seal on them.

The Queen responded in a rather flat: “How delightful.”

I really don’t understand why people actually believed this was true.  After all, the Obamas are much more thoughtful gift givers than that.  I’m sure they would have at least wrapped all those lovely gifts.  Apparently, the Queen received at least one really cool gift — a rare Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook.  (She digs show tunes…and really..who doesn’t?) Oh yeah — and a personalized iPod full of videos of her US visit. Inquiring minds want to know.  What kind of iPod was it?  If you really want to impress with Apple-related swag, everybody knows that you buy the MacBook. Or a 24 inch iMac.  That’s fancy technology right there.  After all, we are talking about the Queen of England, not some run-of-the-mill peasant.

but it’s all working SO well

According to the BBC, the struggling Labour government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown is considering allowing private firms to run NHS hospitals.  You know…because the National Health Service has done such a smashing job with providing quality health care and efficient service to the good citizens of the UK.  But you know that innovator and inspiring leader Gordon Brown — can’t settle for perfection.  Pay attention.  This is what the ultimate goal of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton is for YOUR health care.  Sure they come up with slightly less scary proposals than what the UK’s got with the NHS, but that’s where they are headed. Make no mistake about that.

On the subject of Gordon Brown himself and his struggle as PM, I’m not sure what exactly his endgame is to keep his job.  He keeps throwing ideas up against the proverbial wall and watching to see if they stick.  Not much is sticking for him these days.  Of course, let’s be honest — if I was one of the lucky folks to get a phone call from the British Prime Minister — that would turn my head a little bit in favour of the guy.  But Gordon Brown will never have the sizzle of Tony Blair, and there’s nothing he can do about that.  It’s my humble opinion that the guy’s in over his head.  He was fine in his supporting role in the Blair government, but he showed nothing special in that role that suggested he was ready for the top job.  He was the guy who Labour deemed as next in line, and he was never seriously challenged as Blair’s successor.  Maybe that was a mistake.

be very afraid of president mccain

So says the Financial Times.

McCain is even scarier than Bush because he will start more wars!  He will spread more “democracy by force”!  He’s actually serious about dealing with rogue states!  He really is a neocon, and his “realist” advisors — mere window-dressing.  Be very very afraid of this man.  He’s a close friend of Bill Kristol, who, as the left reminds us, has to be the most terrifying advocate of pre-emptive war EVER.  The Financial Times’ writer, Anatol Leiven, worries that McCain won’t talk to our allies enough before pursuing US foreign policy.  He seems to be fearful that a President McCain would get the UK into another war.  Does he seriously believe that PM Gordon Brown (for as long as he remains PM) and possible successor, David Cameron, have the same instincts as Tony Blair as far as a joint venture in more wars?  I don’t know the answer to that.

I do know what would happen if we let Europe attempt to defend itself.  It would be a miserable failure.  The UK has its own national identity crisis right now. The leadership there is willing to surrender piece by piece the UK’s national sovereignty.  There’s a reason why PM Brown and Labour will not allow the people to have a say on the Treaty of Lisbon, which gives more and more control and authority to the European Union.  It’s not much different from the EU Constitution, which was decisively rejected by several EU member states.  Why do I bring that up?  It’s important to recognize the signs of a fading power in the world.  A country unwilling to protect and preserve its own existence would hardly be a country willing to defend its allies, or to be a useful asset in the pursuit of the terrorists.

All I have to say to those like Leiven is: Be careful what you wish for.  After 4 years of President Obama or President Hillary, you might be sorry that you questioned the wisdom of electing John McCain.

trouble for gordon brown

Looks like Gordon Brown will have a little trouble duplicating Tony Blair’s electoral success.  That was one heck of a short honeymoon for current UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and like here in the US, it’s about the economy. Apparently his finance minister does not share his skill in economic matters, but you would think that Gordon Brown could give the guy a few ideas. It’s odd that Brown has struggled so much as Prime Minister.  After all, he made quite a few brilliant moves as Chancellor of the Exchequer.  He isn’t Tony Blair, and that’s what the good citizens of the UK thought that they wanted. Even with all of his years in the Blair orb, it’s not clear that he was the right guy to take Blair’s place in Number 10.  Voters are fickle though, even across the pond, and they could change their minds tomorrow.

Until then…the latest poll has the Tories leading Labour by 13 points.  (h/t – Real Clear Politics)

The numbers– Conservatives – 42, Labour – 29,  LibDems – 21

Tories once lost elections on the economy.  Will this be the reason Labour loses power again?  The leader of the Conservatives, David Cameron, sure hopes so.

barack’s third way

Even as a Republican, I like Obama. I think he’s a nice guy. He provides a sharp contrast to his opponent Hillary Clinton and to the presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, both Washington insiders. Barack Obama is indeed a fresh face with a message of hope, optimism, unity, and not much else. What is different about Barack Obama is that he has mixed the attacks on President Bush with the soaring rhetoric and optimism of the Huckster. There’s more than one spoonful of sugar in what Barack’s dishin’ out. In fact, I’m not sure that everything his supporters are taking right now is a legal substance. I joke about this, but how else can you explain the brainless fanaticism by some of his followers(who are enjoying the music while ignoring the lyrics)? May I remind the groupies out front with their raised lighters and massive cardboard signs that we are not electing a rock star? Doesn’t the substance matter with Democratic candidates?

All the comparisons fall short of the mark. Barack Obama is no JFK. He doesn’t have JFK’s political or military experience, and no one has ever accused him of fiscal conservatism (even though he should be given some credit for the attempts at earmark reform). He’s certainly not Ronald Reagan. Obama has too much faith in the usefulness of government to solve the country’s problems. He’s also no Bill Clinton. He has the charisma, but none of the weaknesses of the 42nd president, and that’s a strong point in his favor as far as being the right guy for the Dems this year.

There is one comparison that would be somewhat accurate. It involves another man who was selected to sell the old, failed policies of his party by watering down its hard left origins. That man was former British PM Tony Blair. He too was a talented speaker and salesman. The problem was that Labour had always been a hard-left party, and the reason that Labour had spent so many years in the political wilderness was because people didn’t buy into their socialist policies once they became part of the working class. (They also had various non-photogenic types trying to sell Old Labour, and somehow this brilliant strategy failed…) Then Tony Blair came along, and the party recognized his talent and rhetorical skills, and elevated him to be the face of the party. This was a brilliant move on their part, and with a few tweaks in the wording, the Brits bought into this re-packaged version known as New Labour, and voted the Labour party into power in 1997 with Blair as the new PM.

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just a sticker on that burning suv

At what point are we all going to admit that terrorism is a real problem? Terrorism did not stop after 9/11. There were attacks all over the world, including the 7/7 terror atttack in London. Some countries stayed strong, like the UK, and some caved in and made concessions to try to appease the bloodthirsty murderers killing innocents mostly in the name of Islam. But it’s not our friends, or family, or co-workers this time around. It’s only been someone else’s friends, family, co-workers, and fellow countrymen. It should still matter to us. What makes us so invincible? We are doing almost everything that is in our power to do to try to prevent another 9/11. (That is, everything except making a serious attempt to secure our borders – and we need to keep pressuring Congress and the White House to do what they have no desire to do.) Even with our aggressive attempts to stop a potential terrorist attack here in the United States, we have no guarantees that we won’t have another terrorist attack.

That’s why we should care what is happening in the UK — London with the foiled bomb plot, and the more recent events at Glasgow Airport when a Jeep Cherokee loaded with gas cylinders crashed into the main entrance at that airport and burst into flames. It’s a reminder to us to stay vigilant. It’s a reminder to us that there are people out there who are willing to sacrifice their own lives for revenge on the infidels (or for those 72 virgins). Either way, negotiation with someone who thinks like that isn’t possible. You would think that Islam would win more converts if those fringe elements in their religion would stop beheading people or blowing things up. But I guess that kind of religion just can’t be understood.

Islamic extremists must be stopped. Anyone who wants to trivialize what we are now seeing in the UK, simply because it might not have been a top-of-the-line car bomb, or because this could be something concocted by the Bush-Cheney-Blair conspiracy, is not someone we should want to lead this country for the next 4-8 years. No serious presidential candidate should have this view, and we should disqualify anyone who isn’t willing to do whatever is necessary to protect America from all her enemies, both foreign and domestic.

(This is not a rip on John Edwards for two reasons. First of all, his position on terrorism is much more nuanced than his memorable soundbite about terrorism being a bumper-sticker slogan. It’s still a wrong-headed approach, but I think to some limited degree he knows that terrorism is a threat to this country. Secondly, I don’t see him as as a viable threat to Hillary and Obama, so I’m only worried about what those two or our Republican nominee might do about this threat once elected.)

It’s all well and good to talk about how the government could fix Darfur, health care, education, and every domestic problem by throwing all of our tax money at those areas, but when events like these keep the terrorist threat on our minds, will those domestic issues still take priority over national security? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have solutions about health care and education. After all, the Democrats claim to want to fix those things EVERY SINGLE election cycle. But if we ignore the bigger problems right in front of our eyes, then someday we might have more to worry about than the price of our prescription drugs.

blair announces his resignation

Tony Blair will step down on June 27th, handing over the keys to Number 10 to Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. It’s not a minute too soon for those who are convinced that he talked Britain and the United States into an unnecessary preemptive war. They are looking for someone to blame for what they see as a failed policy in Iraq, and Tony Blair is a convenient target.

History will be kinder to President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair than we realize. While we are still engaged in this war in Iraq, it is difficult to view the record of these two men through any other prism. Tony Blair will leave Number 10 with a record of achievement that cannot be matched by any previous Labour Prime Minister, and I hope that Gordon Brown intends to keep the US/UK alliance as strong as Blair made it during his time in office.

Blair’s resignation speech is here, but his farewell address is not what we should remember about him. This is.

From a June 2003 speech before Congress:

That is what this struggle against terrorist groups or states is about. We’re not fighting for domination. We’re not fighting for an American world, though we want a world in which America is at ease. We’re not fighting for Christianity, but against religious fanaticism of all kinds.

And this is not a war of civilizations, because each civilization has a unique capacity to enrich the stock of human heritage. We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind – black or white, Christian or not, left, right or a million different – to be free, free to raise a family in love and hope, free to earn a living and be rewarded by your efforts, free not to bend your knee to any man in fear, free to be you so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others. That’s what we’re fighting for. And it’s a battle worth fighting.

And I know it’s hard on America, and in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I’ve never been to, but always wanted to go. I know out there there’s a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, ‘Why me? And why us? And why America?’

And the only answer is, ‘Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do.’

And our job, my nation that watched you grow, that you fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond, our job is to be there with you. You are not going to be alone. We will be with you in this fight for liberty. We will be with you in this fight for liberty. And if our spirit is right and our courage firm, the world will be with us.

The Economist has a good recap of the Blair years here. Will Gordon Brown be this kind of ally to America? Time will tell, but I’m not optimistic about that possibility.

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beckett’s delusion

I have been watching with great interest the evolution of the Labour party since Tony Blair came to power in 1997. Blair’s victory was proof that one could, with enough charm and personal charisma, convince the British people to buy into a more palatable version of the socialism that was the foundation of Old Labour. Of course, like the American mid-term elections, it may have had more to do with dissatisfaction with the ruling Conservative party than a mandate for the policies of Labour. It’s all in the interpretation, I suppose.

The Iraq war raised Blair’s profile a great deal in the United States when he decided that the UK would support the invasion of Iraq, and not only support it, but also be a passionate defender of that war. This was a unique position for a Labour prime minister to take, since the Labour party has always had the same Achilles heel as the Democrats when it comes to being soft on war. Even though I suspect that the delay and the appeals to the UN were Blair’s price for that support, he still took a political risk for his support of the war, and he deserves credit for this. The international community made the decision that Saddam needed to be dealt with, but they did not have the will to stop him. We can argue all day long about whether Saddam was a threat or not, or whether those WMDs ever existed. The point is that we can’t afford to make a mistake about Iran and its intentions.

What we already know about Iran is scary enough. The delusion that Iran only has good intentions (if only the US, the UK, and the West would stop aggravating those peace-loving mullahs) is a very dangerous one, and we must not get sucked in to their games. I thought that Blair understood the threat of Iran, but I’m not sure his Foreign Secretary does. Margaret Beckett is still trying to convince the British people that the release of the British hostages was some kind of victory for diplomacy.

She says:

This was a victory for patient and determined diplomacy. We got our people out, unharmed, and we got them out relatively quickly. That has to be the measure of success.

In going down this route, we have shown that those who confused diplomacy with weakness were wrong in their analysis and wrong in their advice.

By building support among our allies and Iran’s neighbours, we put a consistent squeeze on the Iranian regime.

In the end, its best option was to look for a way out from an unhappy situation of its own making.

Propaganda wars are winnable without bloodshed, madam Secretary, and Iran has claimed the first round. While I am not suggesting the correct response would have been to bomb Iran, surely there was a solution between concessions and military action. Iran will continue to defy the will of the majority of the international community, including the best intent of the UN, and nothing will happen to them.  That’s the lesson Iran learned from their little stunt, and we must reverse this trend toward appeasing the dangerous, or worse things will happen than the kidnapping of a few British sailors.

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