miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2016

Tony Blair's blues


The downcast former British prime minister — and close friend of the Clintons — fears that their shared brand of centrism may be dead.

“It’s a very open question whether the type of politics I represent really has had its day or not,” Tony Blair told

Tony Blair isn’t sure the center can hold — hell, he isn’t even certain that centrists like Hillary Clinton or himself have a viable future in Western politics.

“It’s a very open question whether the type of politics I represent really has had its day or not,” said the 63-year-old former Labour prime minister, speaking on Monday.

“There were times when I was growing up in politics and when I was prime minister when I had complete confidence in my own ability, just as a professional, to predict the course of politics. The last few years have caused me to question [that],” he added — referring to the rise of hard-left upstarts Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. and Bernie Sanders in the U.S.

This is not the boyish, optimistic “Bambi” who walked, doe-eyed, into No. 10 Downing St. 19 years ago — a polished politician whose popularity reached an astounding 93 percent after he anointed the late Diana the “People’s Princess.” The past few years have been trying times for a deft maestro of the middle, a man who dominated British politics from 1997 to 2007 — but crashed after joining in lockstep with George W. Bush to advocate the invasion of Iraq.

The past six months in particular have brought four shocks that undermine Blair's legacy and agenda: the rise of the crusty Corbyn to the apex of a militantly leftist Labour, a Brexit vote he viewed as a disaster, a scathing parliamentary commission report that faulted his presentation of unsubstantiated intelligence as a justification for attacking Iraq — and the rise of Donald Trump, which he views as a global harbinger of something sinister.

In a frank, at times self-scouring 40-minute conversation, Blair questioned the political viability of the pragmatic approach to politics that propelled him to power with Bill Clinton in the 1990s, a trans-Atlantic partnership whose depth (and shallowness) was recently revealed in a series of phone call transcripts showing the two swapping political advice, serious consultation about Vladimir Putin and jokes about bananas.

But he also singled out Hillary Clinton — who has positioned herself as a stout progressive in the Sanders mold — as the last, best hope for centrism at a time when it is beset by extremists on both sides, egged on by social media he believes has had a “revolutionary” impact on politics, and not in a good way.

“Hillary Clinton,” he said, with a grin over his coffee cup, “is the Democrat nominee and, at least if the polls are correct, she has a fair chance of winning.”

Blair said he remains in communication with both Clintons. He provided then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with inside intel on his conversations with Mideast leaders when he served as an envoy to the region — and reportedly sought her help in securing a top job at the European Union. More often the exchanges have been less formal, and Blair told me they have talked, from time to time, about how to survive politically during the present era of “protest” politics.

“They're thinking about it the whole time,” Blair said. “I mean, there's no two smarter people in politics. Of course. this is the No. 1 issue: How do you respond to what are genuine anxieties and fears but come up with a response that has real integrity? And real integrity means an answer. It doesn't just mean — it doesn't mean riding the anger. And this is very difficult to do. … This is why I'm reevaluating the whole time but I haven't come to the conclusion that centrist politics is wrong or dead. … I think it's very much alive but it needs to be given a renewal, a revival, and a muscularity which it presently lacks.”

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