British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush share one thing in common-they are both under attack by the media, here and abroad. And that’s mainly because of their stand on Iraq. The attacks continue. But is there a chance of a turnaround?
For an understanding of this phenomenon, please read our recent AIM Report, British Media Invade America. The British media assault on Blair has set the stage for what has happened to Bush in America.
Blair is quite clearly the most articulate and eloquent defender of the war. Watching his weekly Question Time on C-SPAN is like watching a master swordsman, fencing his way through a badly undermanned opposition. Bush, by contrast, is considered not very articulate.
Two recent profiles have underscored Blair’s predicament. The Washington Post ran a recent front-page story that expressed how beloved he had been by so many in his country, since having been elected as the youngest prime minister, at age 43, since 1812. He brought the Labor Party back to respectability, after years of being led by representatives of the hard left. But now, the Post reported that his poll ratings are near 30 percent, and that nearly half of those polled want him to resign.
“The prime minister has been widely praised for his efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland and Kosovo, and his dedication to eradicating poverty in Africa,” wrote Mary Jordan of the Post. “Blair has often led Britain by means of the remarkable force of his personality and his talent for articulating issues as few others can.”
But here’s the rub: “It is Blair’s passionate?some say disastrously stubborn?leadership on Iraq that is the one issue that continues to weigh him down. There is a widespread perception that the prime minister exaggerated, or even fabricated, the dangers of weapons of mass destruction in taking the country to a war that has no end in sight.”
If only Blair would tell them what they want to hear. That he was wrong to support the war. That he was duped by George Bush. All would be forgiven. The Post identifies some financial scandals that have damaged Labor as part of Blair’s troubles. But it is clear the real offense is the war in Iraq.
Slate.com has published another attack on Blair. In this Letter from London, author Geoffrey Wheatcraft sees the same issues, but from a more home-front point of view. Calling Blair “worse than Bush,” he believes the explanation is obvious: “He knew that Washington was going to invade in any case, and he believed that ‘it would be more damaging to long-term world peace and security if the Americans alone defeated Saddam Hussein than if they had international support to do so.’ So he told one London journalist, telling another that he was worried about an American drift toward unilateralism and that his mission was to embrace Bush so as to ‘keep the United States in the international system.'”
But as I pointed out in a recent commentary, Blair gave a speech on the third anniversary of the war that echoed Winston Churchill’s warnings of the Nazi threat. He not only recognizes the global danger, he sees the media complicating the need for victory.
Blair said that the Western media too often served as a mouthpiece for terrorists in Iraq, “which saw every killing as an indication of the coalition’s responsibility for disorder, rather than of the ‘wickedness that causes it.'” Over the long run, Blair and Bush stand to be vindicated by history-if the West stays the course.
The polls may look bad now for Blair and Bush, but Ann Coulter points out in a recent column, “Four major world leaders who sent troops to Iraq have faced elections since the war’s inception?Jose Maria Aznar in Spain, John Howard in Australia, Tony Blair in Britain and Junichiro Koizumi in Japan. Three of them won re-elections in campaigns that centered on their support for the Iraq war.”
In addition, Germany replaced Gerhardt Schroeder, a strong opponent of the war, with Angela Merkel, who has chosen to align herself with the Bush administration.
In Italy, it appears that Iraq War supporter Silvio Berlusconi barely lost his re-election bid, but was also plagued by corruption charges throughout his administration. In some cases he was convicted of crimes, which were later overturned.
The Left continues to be the dominant voice in the media, trying to convince us of the disastrous path down which Blair and Bush have supposedly led us. Judging by the polls, this media assault has had quite an impact.
The media assault on Blair, because he is the British Prime Minister and because the BBC and The Guardian are based there, is more pronounced. Here, if Bush could take command of the facts on the public stage, the polls could turn around.
A new White House press secretary may help, but Bush himself needs to take the offensive.
Bush should start the counter-offensive by highlighting the new information out of Iraq that the mainstream media would like to ignore-the evidence confirming Saddam’s interest in WMD programs, and his deep ties to terrorist groups, including al Qaeda.
Bush should say in no uncertain terms that the cause is noble and just. The alternative is that our brave men and women in uniform will have given their lives and limbs in vain, after a new liberal Congress decides to conduct a hasty withdrawal.