Balkinization  

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

JB

Blair is in Trouble, Why Isn't Bush?

The Washington Post reports:

Tony Blair failed today to quiet the roar of criticism over his insistence that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction, with the opposition leader declaring that "nobody believes a word now that the prime minister is saying."
. . .

Blair has been under fierce pressure here in recent days, in part from members of his own party, since fresh doubts surfaced about his case that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction. More than 70 Labor members in the House of Commons have signed a petition demanding that Blair publish his evidence, with one, Malcolm Savidge, calling the issue "potentially more serious than Watergate." A key Commons committee, brushing aside Blair's objections, approved an investigation late Tuesday.

In a very real sense, the war over Iraq is still being fought here, in marked contrast to the United States, where neither political party has used the failure to find dangerous weapons as a major issue against President Bush.


That last sentence is perhaps the most interesting one. Tony Blair was, throughout the crisis over Iraq, far more believable than Bush, repeatedly portraying himself as the voice of reason and offering a strong moral and political case for invading Iraq. The irony is that, now that weapons of mass destruction do not appear to have been in Iraq as promised, Blair is getting the most flak for misleading his nation. President Bush, by contrast, is getting much less criticism at home for deceiving the American people concerning one of the most central issues of governance in a democracy-- the decision whether to risk American lives and go to war. Bush has, on any number of occaisions, lied through is teeth about the facts of the Iraq conflict and the Administration's reasons for going to war. And yet, he has emerged largely unscathed, free to strut aboard an aircraft carrier and play the part of a hero. To quote Bob Dole on another occasion, where's the outrage?

Part of the reason for this difference has to do with the fact that Great Britain has a much more robust tradition of questioning leaders about their decisions. British prime ministers are subject to questioning about their policies in ways that American presidents would never allow. The British press is also less supine than the American press, which has, in many cases, essentially given itself over to uninhibited flagwaving and infotainment. In particular, the BBC, although run by the British government, has been much more balanced in its coverage than the American news media, whose conservative pundits seem determined to make excuses for whatever disinformation the Bush Administration cares to offer.

In short, I would suggest that the major reason why Blair is in more hot water right now for deceiving the public about why Britain went to war is that the democratic process is simply working better in Britain right now than it is in the United States.


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