Who was it that once predicted the United States would be the only nation in history to progress from childhood to senility without ever becoming adult? Winston Churchill? I think so, but, if I'm wrong, do forgive me. I'm still a bit addled by the "hero's welcome" accorded to Tony Blair when he spun his way through Washington last week - emphasis on the "spin." If Churchill were alive today, he'd have cause to repeat words I know he did say in January 1940, when faced with Hitler, Stalin and the Battle of Britain: "I fear - I fear greatly."
"Again and again," says right-wing columnist Jay Bryant, "the members of the U.S. Congress stood and applauded British Prime Minister Tony Blair, knowing that they were in the presence of a true master of an art they all have studied, and practiced for at least as long as they have been in public life - the art of public speaking."
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift remarks, "Forget the Congressional Gold Medal. "Give the man a green card!" Fox News counted 17 standing ovations during Blair's congressional address and aired its nauseating, jingoistic coverage of the event under the title, "Standing Strong!"
The more "liberal" media took pains to explain the accolades. "Republicans were not only expressing their appreciation for [Blair's] stalwart support of the United States in confronting Iraq," The New York Times explained, "and the broader threat from terrorism, but were also welcoming him as a bulwark against attacks, mostly from Demo-crats, on President Bush's credibility."
"Blair's visit allowed the two men to portray unity on a world stage at a time they face a cacophony of criticism in their own countries and elsewhere," The Washington Post wrote.
Republicans weren't the only ones leaping up to applaud. Even Senate minority leader Tom Daschle, defending what remains of the Bill of Rights on Capitol Hill, left Congress on the verge of tears, fumbling for his hankie.
"That was beautiful," Daschle sniffed. "It feels good that someone across the Atlantic understands who we are and, more importantly, can stand there with the moral leadership [Blair] has shown, and remind us of what America is." Such eloquence! Such cacophony! Such bright, shiny teeth!
Well, forget it. "The further a kilt is seen from Scotland," reads an editorial in the Scotsman, "the warmer its reception. In London, Tony Blair is a liar-under-fire. Abroad, he is lionized as a statesman extraordinaire, on a par with Winston Churchill."
Churchill again, who had an American mother and once confessed, "I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals." But the only wisdom Tony the Tiger seems to have absorbed from his Downing Street predecessor is this: "Never give in - never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small." Even before the suicide of Dr. David Kelly, his "senior advisor on weapons of mass destruction," Blair was facing a steep decline both in public confidence and that of his own Labour Party over the lying, scheming and rank distortion of fact that brought the British into Gulf War II and gave us what is now - indisputably - a "quagmire" in Iraq.
Indeed, since May 29, when the BBC first reported that Blair had - how shall we put it? - exaggerated the case against Saddam Hussein, a lot of people in Britain have been rooting for his ouster, among them Glenda Jackson, once an Academy Award-winning actress and now a Labour firebrand in Parliament, representing the North London districts of Hampstead and Highgate.
"There should be resignations," says Ms. Jackson, in the same steady, terrifying tones she used to portray Queen Elizabeth I. "Bullets should be bitten." She might have added, "Heads should roll," but the British, unlike us, are humane enough to have abolished capital punishment.
The late Dr. Kelly was the British defense official who spilled the beans about Blair's "dodgy dossier," the forged, "sexed-up," bogus "intelligence" that had Saddam Hussein capable of wiping out the western world in 45 minutes with a flick of his wrist. Or have you forgotten? "Most Britons opposed military action before it happened," says MSNBC, in case you can't remember as far back as March, "and will be slow to forgive if the reasons Blair gave for doing so are not proved."
The 45-minutes-to-doom scenario was a claim made more than once by our own Chief Jackass, who this week was tossing cows on the barbecue for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Never mind the uranium in Nigeria or those 16 words he should or shouldn't have spoken in his State of the Union Address - apparently Doofus will believe anything British intelligence throws his way. And he's got it out for "revisionist history," saying that "intelligence can be debated all day long until the truth shows up. And that's what's going to happen. And the truth will say that this intelligence was good intelligence."
Earlier, he referred to it as "darn good intelligence," adding, "There's no doubt in my mind," whatever that is.
Meantime, Blair is facing the fight of his life, as Dubya ought to be. The British press isn't quite as craven as our own - yet - even though the foul and dangerous Rupert Murdoch owns a huge chunk of it, just as he does here, and even though American lawmakers greeted Blair last week like a pack of teenage girls seeing The Beatles for the first time on "The Ed Sullivan Show." David Kelly's family issued a statement on Monday that ought to put the whole pack to shame: "Events over recent weeks made his life intolerable, and all those involved should reflect long and hard on this fact."
You should, too, if you can tear yourself away from the Kobe Bryant drama long enough to reflect on anything.