How many times have you heard this conversation or something like it?
“I love Tony Blair, he’s our best friend in the world.”
“Is he queer or what?”
“No, he’s just English.”
That cracks me up no end – I’m chortling loudly right now. But it’s not funny how important Blair is to American interests, nor what a steadfast friend he has been to our country, and personally to two presidents. The dude rules – David Brooks agrees:
- Our own national leader is fine with the big policy set speeches, delivered at the rough frequency of the seasonal equinoxes. Between these he does not exactly excel at the cut and thrust of argument. But Blair does. And what is more, while Bush has a comfortable chorus of thinkers, foreign policy johnnies and even Democratic hawks behind him, Blair delivers his arguments into the teeth of The Guardian, the BBC and all those dreadful unilateral disarmament types we remember from the Cold War.
….Mr Blair’s critics accuse him of being a US toady. But that is not at all the way he is perceived in America. If it were, we would have vague contempt for him, his Government and his nation. There is not a hint of that on this side of the Atlantic.
Instead we are more likely to see Blair as the man who delivers periodic seriousness injections into the American body politic. Americans would just as soon like to retreat from international affairs to the splendour of their McMansions and their bison-sized patio grills. The American leadership class can be counted upon to be serious about foreign affairs for three-day spurts before retreating into months-long bouts of obliviousness. But then, just as the forces of triviality are about to overwhelm us, along comes a statement of determination and resolve from Blair.
This has cemented Britain’s reputation as the nation of fortitude, steadfastness and will … Britain is seen as the nation of Churchill’s indomitable resistance to the Nazis, Margaret Thatcher’s “Don’t go wobbly, George” and Blair’s gutsy and unfashionable resolve.
….This shift in political perceptions has accompanied a broader shift of cultural perceptions. It is easy to see how American perceptions of Britain were shaped in the 1970s by Monty Python skits and Upstairs, Downstairs: that Britain was a nation that had once been great and worth telling stories about, but which had become the land of upper-class twits and pompous sociologists. Now, however, we live in the age of Austin Powers, Harry Potter and Tony Blair, and suddenly the place seems courageous again. [Times Online]
Well, certainly Harry Potter (and pals) and Tony. Austin Powers is in fact a Canadian-American faking it, but it’s the idea that counts. And don’t forget James Bond: he’s been almost singlehandedly defending the free world for 50 years now.
And what about the “queer” part? Tony is one of those chirpy-voiced, super articulate English types many Americans are intimidated by and suspicious of, which makes it better still that he’s our best pal: while we are doing the beating, Tony is explaining why the beat-ee deserved it (of course this is a misleading stereotype as the British kick ass and takes names with authority whenever called upon).