Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Blair's fat little compendium of pseudo-revelations, attacks on personal acquaintances and colleagues, self-justifying circumlocutions, political polemic, and narcissistic reflections, comes with its own self-destruct button. Comparing himself to the people's princess, he says: We were both in our ways manipulative people, perceiving quickly the emotions of others and able instinctively to play with them. Elsewhere, he informs astonished readers that sometimes politicians must conceal the full truth ... bend it and even distort it. This being the case, you might suspect that he is not always being honest with his readers, and that the impression he tries to give of opening up and being fully frank is as counterfeit as his intelligence on Iraq. You might wonder what is the point of your parting with a portion of your spending power even for one of the thousands of half price copies that your local WH Smith will be shoving in your direction, if all that's going to happen is that Tony Blair lies to you. Again. When all he's ever done is lie to you, at taxpayers' expense. Will there come a time, you might wonder, when we will stop paying Tony Blair to lie to us?
INITIAL POST: Today, the memoirs of Tony Blair went on sale in the United Kingdom. Needless to say, there has been a media frenzy. Given Blair's return to the spotlight, if only for a few days, I thought it appropriate to repost my film review of the 2007 movie, The Queen, in so far as it addresses Blair.
Please note that the reference to Frears is shorthand for the director, Stephen Frears, while the reference to Morgan alludes to the scriptwriter, Peter Morgan. Both of them fulfilled their responsibilities in stellar fashion in regard to the film generally and most particularly in their characterization of Blair, along with the actor who played the role, Michael Sheen:
Not surprisingly, consistent with his attainment of his petty aspirations, he supports the ruthless budget cutting of the Tory/Liberal Democrat coalition, and urges an attack upon Iran if it continues to develop nuclear weapons.
. . . Another pleasant suprise was Michael Sheen's performance as Tony Blair. Indeed, the film is actually as much about Blair and his abandonment of his Labour idealism as it is about the crisis within the royal family after Diana's death. Blair had just been installed as Prime Minister when Diana died, and his closest advisors are startled by his increasing identification with the conservative royals as the media circus intensifies. Sheen, again assisted by Morgan's top drawer script, portrays Blair sympathetically, but accurately, as a middle class man who aspires to political power so that he can attain social acceptance by the elite. Through such a well rounded, empathetic presentation, Sheen (and Morgan) indict Blair as a cogenial little man who would cheerfully sell out anyone or anything for his self-aggrandizement, and it is an indictment far more compelling than any issued by the left.
In a telling scene near the end, a scene that highlights the allegorical aspect of this part of the story, the Queen, after having been subjected to the most brutal personal insults by her subjects, finds herself, to her dismay, being consoled by Blair. Never mind, he says, the bond between you and your subjects is now stronger than ever. The Queen, not so sure, demurs, and warns, someday, Mr. Blair, you may also find yourself equally reviled by the public. Blair, of course, ever supremely confident of his hold over the populace (and, at times, even the royals), expresses his disagreement through his body language. Frears and Morgan, with benefit of hindsight, recognized that such arrogance lead inevitably to the catastrophe in Iraq.
For someone born and raised in the United Kingdom, it is rather odd to realize that Blair most closely resembles a small town social climber out of a Sinclair Lewis novel, like Babbitt or Elmer Gantry, with the absence of any capacity for self-reflection. Accordingly, he is more akin to the self-serving evangelist Gantry than the emotionally adrift real estate agent George Babbitt. Like Gantry, Blair exploited religion, but in the related field of politics, where there is also a demand for messiahs:
Blair has been notoriously described by many as Bush's poodle, but, in fact, the relationship was the other way round, as recognized years ago by Richard Gott. Just as Joseph Lieberman can be accurately described as the person most responsible for the current orientation of the Democratic Party, Blair is the person who most effectively proselytized the neoconservative values of the war on terror, introducing them into the mainstream discourse, as it were, commencing his effort, as did the participants of the Project for a New American Century, before 9/11.
The strongest support for Bush's war came from Tony Blair, Britain's most religious leader since Gladstone. Like Bush, Blair prays. He keeps a Bible by his bed and says he will only answer to my maker for British deaths in Iraq. When David Frost asked if he and Bush prayed together on Iraq, Blair declined to answer.