WASHINGTON -- I like Tony Blair. The left always is lecturing us conservatives on moderation. It would do us good, the left says. If only we were moderate, we might win the fall elections. Yet we are likely to go for people like Joe Miller in Alaska and the dreaded Sharron Angle in Nevada, and we are going to get clobbered -- or at least not win as thumpingly as expected. For some reason, this troubles sages E.J. Dionne and Sam Tanenhaus. I sense they cry crocodile tears, but maybe I have misperceived them. Maybe they really wish us the best. Is it another manifestation of the Liberal Death Wish? As the liberals approach the Islamofascists, they clearly have it, and as they approach the economy, a death wish is all I see. Maybe they have it with conservatism, too.
So take heart, E.J. and Sam. I like Tony. Do you? Is he centrist enough?
He has summed up his worldview in his new autobiography, "A Journey: My Political Life," and I admire it. If he does not write in the most scintillating prose, at least it is his prose. That is more than I can say of any politician on either side of the pond today. Says he: "I profoundly disagree with the statist, so-called Keynesian response to the economic crisis; I believe we should be projecting strength and determination abroad, not weakness or uncertainty; I think now is the moment for more government reform, not less; and I am convinced we have a huge opportunity for engagement with the new emerging and emerged powers in the world, particularly China."
In his autobiography, he is for markets, for engaging the jihadists and for the special relationship with America, according to excerpts from the book published in The Wall Street Journal this past weekend. Reading the book in full will be illuminating. I am particularly curious about how Blair took over one of the most dogmatic socialist parties in Europe and made it, well, rather conservative.
On the economic crisis, he says the market "did not fail." A part of it failed, and then the subprime mortgages were "spliced and diced" and sold around the world with no sense of "the underlying risk or value." He says that "government also failed. Regulations failed. Politicians failed. Monetary policy failed. Debt became way too cheap." So why are Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd still at work in the very areas they screwed up? Well, because regulations do not always regulate. Had regulators called for action, "we would have acted. But they didn't say that."
Blair extends his comments to Islam, in which he argues there is a strain of violence. The West can respond to it, "but it can only be actually eliminated by those within Islam." Regarding the phrase "war on terror," "people distrusted this, partly for its directness, partly because it seemed too limited. ... Yet if what we are fighting is not a war, what is it?" Hear, hear, Tony.
Finally, my new best friend -- at least among pols -- adds, "I find the insouciance towards the decline of the transatlantic relationship, on both sides of the ocean, a little shocking." I guess he means insouciance among all the Western powers for concerted action. OK, I shall go along with this, but if it means that we who act resolutely have to dally with the non-English-speaking peoples, I shall do so reluctantly. The fact is that the English-speaking peoples take action. When we give a veto to the French or the Germans or the Russians, there is always the danger that they will put profits for their industries and for their corrupt politicians before strategic considerations. We saw this in the Oil-for-Food scam, and we shall be hearing more in the months ahead.
For now, let us give Tony Blair a careful hearing. He risked a great deal for his beliefs and deserves to be taken seriously. I have yet to see a politician on either side of the Atlantic make such a compelling case. Historian Paul Johnson got me a last-minute appointment to meet Blair at No. 10 while on a quick trip to London years ago. I passed on it, as my flight was booked. Ever since, I have been kicking myself. Talk about penny-wise, pound-foolish.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is "After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery." To find out more about R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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