Monday, September 15, 2003

Wanted for Attempted Journalism: I'm reading Peter Stothard's Thirty Days, his book about the time he spent shadowing Blair during the pre-war and early-war days in March and April. It makes a mighty brief book, but no doubt was a long enough "think piece" in whatever magazine took it that Stothard's editor advised puffing it up a bit for a book. (If that's the case, I can point to all the stuff he added, I think.) I wonder if Stothard got anything out of his time. I see little on Blair that I hadn't already heard (there's plenty on the Bush-Blair axis of Jesus) and not much new on Blair's political crises (Stothard agrees that Blair is content to let history judge, and spends beaucoup inches wonder just what that means). There are some fun bits (Colin Powell is considered quite dangerous when speeding about in his golf cart at Camp David; Condi Rice traipses about the Cotoctins in high heels) and some slices of life (three-year-old Leo Blair, the PM's son, making clandestine cookie deliveries about the offices of #10; Tony is irritated because the press thinks he lives on bananas) and some old-fashioned, fair-and-balanced, gee-golly filler (Bush is "more articulate" than you might have heard, declares Stothard; everyone at #10 knows the French are being schmucks). Beyond that, there isn't much to count as insight. There's a bit of wonky talk about how Blair's cabinet meets and functions. But, honestly, we lived through the Clintons here, and Blair's style is Clinton-lite: post-socialist left, rock and roll fading into Fleetwood Mac (the American version, though), some bull sessions in the London flat that has to make do as the British West Wing -- but all with positively no sex, no cigars, no fleshy interns in thongs.

And this brings us to thematics. I suppose if there is something to get out of the book, it's this: Blair combines the Clintonian techniques of managed-media, post-modern statesmanship with a good helping of Bush's Christianity, decisiveness, and conviction. Stothard nevers says as much, but it comes across as a good blend of qualities for a leader. But it's boring as hell.

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