The Blair Years
The Alastair Campbell Diaries
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This is not the typical sort of book that OnTheIssues excerpts -- it is about American politics from the British perspective. Actually, it's about British politics, but our excerpts only focus on the parts relevant to American politics -- that's often a very different perspective than we're used to in America. The book itself is a diary -- which makes it even harder to read because it contains numerous abbreviations (a compendium of names and initials appears on p. 191ff) and also assumes the reader is familiar with issues relevant to the United Kingdom. If you can struggle through all that, it's a worthwhile read.
Alastair Campbell was Prime Minister Tony Blair's press secretary, and then Director of Communications and Strategy, from 1994 to 2004. That period, which is covered chronologically in this book, includes most of Bill Clinton's presidency and George W. Bush's first term. Campbell met both several times, and opines on both presidents from several perspectives. The diary also opines on Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, and all of the other key American political players in that period.
Tony Blair was elected to Parliament in 1983, and became Labour Party leader in 1994. He was elected Prime Minister in 1997 and served until 2007. Blair applied Bill Clinton's "Third Way" in getting elected and in serving as Prime Minister. The "Third Way" means the leader attempts to synthesize a policy stance reconciling the two opposing views, usually favoring a more centrist outcome than either the left wing or the right wing would prefer. The Labour Party is the equivalent of the U.S.'s Democratic Party, so Blair and Clinton are similar both in their underlying political philosophy as well as in their policy choices. Blair also worked with President Bush, however, most famously joining the U.S. as the prime supporter of the invasion of Iraq. Blair paid the price for his loyalty to America, being labeled "Bush's poodle," and undergoing a formal investigation regarding the intelligence dossier that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger (claimed as a reason to start the war, but later proven fraudulent).
Campbell's diary covers all those events and many more. For the avid U.S. political junkie, this book provides a good change of pace -- one must read it more slowly just to get past British terms like "dossier" and "Labour". For the rest of us, these excerpts are plenty.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, Oct. 2013
| OnTheIssues.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
Bill Clinton: Implement Brahimi report: work towards UN standing army.
Bill Clinton: Deeply involved in UK-IRA negotiations.
George W. Bush: Donates to charities funding leukemia research.
Dick Cheney: Pro-Israel lobby's influence sometimes is overstated.
Colin Powell: Concerned about Pakistani reaction to US's Afghan invasion.
George W. Bush: Lack of Russian reaction to 9/11 shows Cold War is over.
George W. Bush: We owe it to humanity to get missile defense working.
Bill Clinton: Gays in military issue resulted in disrespect from soldiers.
Principles & Values|
George W. Bush: OpEd: Obsessed with punctuality; loyal but unforgiving.
George W. Bush: I'm not great with words, and I don't care what press thinks.
Al Gore: OpEd: Campaign better if Bill Clinton were more involved.
Bill Clinton: Republicans won in 2000 by neutralizing issue of the economy.
Al Gore: OpEd: In, UK Bush win portrayed as disaster.
Mario Cuomo: We campaign in poetry but we govern in prose.
Bill Clinton: OpEd: Respond to MonicaGate by emphasizing big picture.
Hillary Clinton: On Princess Diana: It is hard when press invades your space.
Bill Clinton: OpEd: Good on big picture, and backed up with details.
Bill Clinton: OpEd: At his best when winning support to manage change.
War & Peace|
George W. Bush: OpEd: Roadmap unites world in Middle East Peace process.
Donald Rumsfeld: Problem with UN in Iraq is its open-endedness.
George W. Bush: Getting rid of Saddam allows progress elsewhere in Mideast.
Dick Cheney: More "U.N.ery" just gives Saddam the chance to mess around.
Dick Cheney: OpEd: Says "democratization" but world fears Americanization.
George W. Bush: OpEd: Conflicted about going to UN vs. hitting Iraq earlier.
Dick Cheney: OpEd: Polarized policy debate into Powell vs. Rumsfeld.
George W. Bush: This is a new war: Pearl Harbor in the 21st century.
Dick Cheney: Skeptical about Arafat's commitment and ability.
Wesley Clark: Confronted Russian troops at Serb airport; but they withdrew.
Wesley Clark: Chinese believed bombing of Belgrade embassy was deliberate.
Wesley Clark: NATO is a political structure running a military.
Bill Clinton: Reluctant but willing to use round forces in Kosovo.
Wesley Clark: OpEd: Failure to delegate risks being swamped by events.
Bill Clinton: Bottom line on Saddam: unfettered repeat inspections.
The above quotations are from The Blair Years
The Alastair Campbell Diaries.
Biographies of past presidents:
- President George W. Bush
- Decision Points, by George W. Bush
- A Charge to Keep, by George W. Bush
- President Bill Clinton
- Back to Work, by Pres. Bill Clinton
- The Agenda, by Bob Woodward
- President George H. W. Bush
- All the Best, My Life in Letters, by George Bush Sr.
- The Family, (the Bushes) by Kitty Kelley
- William & Mary Environmental Law Review, by Cameron Lynch
- President Ronald Reagan
- Dutch, a Memoir of Ronald Reagan, by Edmund Morris
- Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation, by Pres. Ronald Reagan
- President Jimmy Carter
- An Hour Before Daylight, by Jimmy Carter
- Jimmy Who?: biography of Jimmy Carter
- President Gerald Ford
- Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate,by Bob Woodward
- A Time to Heal: The Autobiography of Gerald R. Ford
- President Richard Nixon
- Seize the Moment, by Richard Nixon
- The Watergate Transcripts, by The Washington Post
- President Lyndon Johnson
- The Passage of Power, by Robert Caro
- Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, by Michael Beschloss
- President John F. Kennedy
- Profiles In Courage, by John F. Kennedy
- A Nation of Immigrants, by John F. Kennedy
- Kennedy & Nixon, by Chris Matthews
- 1000 Days, by Arthur Schlesinger
- President Dwight Eisenhower
- Waging Peace, by Dwight Eisenhower
- Ike and Dick, by Jeffrey Frank
- President Harry Truman
- Plain Speaking, by Merle Miller
- Wit & Wisdom of Harry Truman, by Ralph Keyes