Friday, September 15, 2006


Wise Old Man Speaks

Former US President Jimmy Carter was interviewed on last night’s Newsnight. When I was a boy, he was the first politician I remember finding insincere; it was that dazzling smile. Unlike that other great smiler Mr Blair, my opinion on Mr Carter has become more positive. His smile now seems more saintly than salesman, adding to his moral force against ‘subservient’ Mr Blair:
“no matter what kind of radical or ill-advised policy was proposed from the White House, it seems to me that almost automatically the government of Great Britain would adopt the same policy, without exerting its influence.”
I didn’t like Mr Blair to begin with, of course, but I’ve got no fonder of him as his smile has faded into that scary-eyed stare. Mr Carter’s smile is gentler, but still ready, and he’s remarkably bright-eyed at 81. If I didn’t think such things were nonsense, it’d be easy to look at the two men and come to just the right moral judgement about their lives at a glance. At the same time Mr Blair is claiming that to disagree with him is “madness” and “anti-American,” this deeply sane-seeming old man gave the lie to it, speaking for real American values in bringing a very measured, kindly and wise sort of devastating condemnation to our Prime Minister.

President Carter left office in defeat and disfavour; since then, he’s had a sharp rise in public esteem for his tireless work in international peace and justice, even winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. Freed of the burdens of office, he comes across as wise and gentle, with the very considered tone of his statements making them all the more damning. He thinks Mr Bush and Mr Blair are sincere men, but that they’ve made the wrong decisions, most of all
“The ill-advised abandonment of the war against terrorism to substitute the war in Iraq.”
He regretted that “in the past there has been a very strong voice from London in the shaping of a common policy” between two great democracies, but that now
“I have been really disappointed in the apparent subservience of the British government’s policies related to many of the serious mistakes that have been originated in Washington.”
He carefully considered all sides when asked about Mr Blair’s claimed influence on American policy:
“There may have been influence exerted behind the scenes, but I haven’t seen the evidence of that… But then, when the British have a public news media appearance, there seems to be a total acquiescence to whatever America proposed at the beginning. I haven’t seen the corrective effect of British disagreement with what the White House has proposed. It may be there, it hasn’t been evident to the public.”
I think that middle sentence is the key one in judging how much ‘influence’ there has been, and that it’s all been from Mr Bush and onto Mr Blair.

Mr Carter’s interview also touched on his new book (yes, I know), Faith and Freedom, in which he takes a rather different line of Christianity to that of Mr Bush and Mr Blair. Describing himself self-deprecatingly as a Baptist and “a part-time political participant,” he quoted Thomas Jefferson’s remark that Americans should “build a wall” between religion and government, and is deeply disturbed at the rise of the Religious Right – though using such a pejorative term isn’t his style.
“I worship the Prince of Peace,” he gently testified.
“I don’t worship the Prince of Pre-emptive War.”
I don’t usually add pictures to this blog, but I notice it’s my 150th post, so… Remember that smile?

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There’s another reason I remember it from my youth (or possibly from the 22nd Century)…

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Good to hear your views as an American. Yes, he used to turn on that smile like a tap. (By the way, I see his son is standing for office in some godforsaken state).

What really annoys me about Blair and Bush is that they claim to be guided by God.

Of course, everyone knows that Carter is a good Baptist so it is good to hear him contrasting his presidency (when no American service personnel whatsoever weer killed in combat - I seem to remember) with Bush's bloody record.
Oh, so he is - for the senate seat in Nevada. Unfortunately for him, it's one of the handful of safe Republican seats being contested.
I've looked into the eyes of Tony Blair face-to-face, and when I did I saw nothing behind them at all...
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