July 18th, 2007 by Rightsideup

An excellent piece today in the Wall Street Journal online by Theodore Dalrymple of the Manhattan Institute on Tony Blair’s legacy. It captures very well indeed the somewhat baffling contradiction between the gut reaction many people have (or once had) towards Tony as a “straight kind of guy” and what he actually achieved (or failed to achieve) as Prime Minister, and what he really stood for.

This paragraph sums up the thrust of the piece nicely:

Many have surmised that there was an essential flaw in Mr. Blair’s makeup that turned him gradually from the most popular to the most unpopular prime minister of recent history. The problem is to name that essential flaw. As a psychiatrist, I found this problem peculiarly irritating (bearing in mind that it is always highly speculative to make a diagnosis at a distance). But finally, a possible solution arrived in a flash of illumination. Mr. Blair suffered from a condition previously unknown to me: delusions of honesty.

This is the inherent contradiction within Tony Blair, and Dalrymple does an excellent job of putting his finger on it – that Tony Blair believes the TB myth himself and so can blithely go on spouting the stuff he does and sound sincere at the same time. As far as he’s concerned, it’s all true and everyone who doesn’t believe him simply isn’t listening hard enough. Well worth a read of the whole thing.

July 9th, 2007 by Rightsideup

An article in the Wall Street Journal today captures nicely the disconnect between those who ought to be the natural supporters of the Democratic Party (and its equivalents in other countries) and those who actually hold most of the leadership positions in those parties. The article is about the way the Democratic party has lost its way since the days of JFK precisely by misunderstanding and inflating the achievements and appeal of JFK himself. Towards the end we get the following astute observations (emphasis mine):

“John F. Kennedy & Co. took the party up-market, making it an Ivy League and, later, a Hollywood operation. After the Kennedy administration, the Democrats were no longer the party of the little man (Harry Truman’s party), or the party of the underdog (Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s party), but that of the intellectual and cultural sahibs pretending to speak for the little man and the underdogs because it makes them feel virtuous to do so; they turn politics into an affair of snobbery, where politicians are judged on elegance not substance. One recalls how much of an outsider the Kennedy people made Lyndon Baines Johnson feel — LBJ, that vulgar Texan who attended Southwest Texas State Teachers College.

Because of the regularity with which John F. Kennedy’s name is invoked by his skillful PR flacks, the Democrats keep turning up rather anemic Kennedy imitators — Michael Dukakis, Walter Mondale, John Kerry (with only an occasional genuine hustler like Bill Clinton popping up almost by accident) — to head their presidential tickets. But the criteria for president of the United States aren’t the same as those set by the deans of admission at Harvard or Yale, Brown or Duke. The happy snobbery of feeling culturally superior and morally virtuous that is at the heart of the Kennedy myth shouldn’t be what politics is about.”