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Tony Blair is ‘Baffled’ by Bernie Sanders

Tony Blair delivers a speech at the National September 11 Memorial Museum Auditorium in New York City.Featuring: Tony Blair. Where: New York, New York, United States. When: 06 Oct 2015.

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Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, says he is “baffled” by the rise of left-wing leaders Bernie Sanders in the US and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the UK.

Blair’s point, in a nutshell: it’s all about the “the question of electability.” The practical-minded centrist in him believes that a truly leftist candidate isn’t electable. His comment to The Guardian about the appeal of Bernie Sanders:

“It’s very similar to the pitch of Jeremy Corbyn… Free tuition fees: well, that’s great, but someone’s going to have pay for it. An end to war, but there are wars.”

Photo of Tony Blair

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“There are wars,” yes. That’s a remarkably tone-deaf statement by a fellow who was once considered the savviest politician in Britain before he helped launch the disastrous Iraq War in 2003. But more remarkable than Blair’s comments is the steady stream of vitriol directed at him in The Guardian’s comments section. Sure, The Guardian is a proudly old-school liberal paper, but the comments are still quite stunning:

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His old Labour friends have also had it in for him with protests stretching back to 2010:

A demonstrator dressed as Tony Blair protests outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, London, England on January 29, 2010.. Demonstrators, including some families of the 179 military personnel killed while on duty in the Iraq war, are calling for former Prime Minister Tony Blair to be jailed following his decision to join America in overthrowing the regime of executed leader Saddam Hussein.. The Chilcot Inquiry takes place today and Mr Blair will be quizzed regarding his decision to take the UK to war, and whether the question of Iraq owning WMD's (weapons of Mass Destruction) were justifiable or exaggerated.. London, England - 29.01.10.Where: London, surrey, United Kingdom. When: 29 Jan 2010.

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Protesters - Poster. The Shelbourne Hotel was on a security lockdown as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in town to promote his book 'Tony Blair A Journey'. Former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern visited him to get a free copy of his book..Featuring: Protesters - Poster. Where: Dublin, Ireland. When: 03 Sep 2010.

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Demonstrators outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, London, England on January 29, 2010.. Demonstrators, including some families of the 179 military personnel killed while on duty in the Iraq war, are calling for former Prime Minister Tony Blair to be jailed following his decision to join America in overthrowing the regime of executed leader Saddam Hussein.. The Chilcot Inquiry takes place today and Mr Blair will be quizzed regarding his decision to take the UK to war, and whether the question of Iraq owning WMD's (weapons of Mass Destruction) were justifiable or exaggerated.. London, England - 29.01.10.Where: London, surrey, United Kingdom. When: 29 Jan 2010.

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Whether Blair is lying to himself or the most practical thinker on the block is an open question. Certainly it’s a strange election year, and anyone who saw Ralph Nader inadvertently hand the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000 knows that there’s something to be said for practicality.

That said, I must say I, too, find myself bitterly disappointed in Tony Blair. It’s hard for me to cut him any slack at all over the Iraq invasion — and he only made things worse with his mealy-mouthed “apology” last year:

“I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong. I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”

Is there anyone left who really believes that Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and all the rest were really confused by bad intelligence? The record pretty clearly shows that all involved knew that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 and also knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

An honest apology would be, “We thought we could change the Middle East to benefit our own countries and also to establish democracy there. We were naive and wrongheaded, we lied to the public, it was all a terrible idea, and then we also bungled the execution of that terrible idea badly as well. For that, for the loss of tens of thousands of lives in Iraq, for the deaths and maiming of tens of thousands of our own soldiers, I am truly sorry.”  That would be an apology.

The best you can say for Blair is that perhaps he put the historic “special relationship” of the US and the UK above everything else. We’d helped them out in a somewhat dodgy Falklands War; they’d help us out in a somewhat dodgy Iraq War.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair gives a talk at Progress alongside talkSPORT presenter and former Labour Party organiser Matt Forde.Featuring: Tony Blair. Where: London, United Kingdom. When: 22 Jul 2015.

Euan Cherry / WENN.com

Perhaps he just bet on the wrong horse in George W. Bush. Perhaps, however improbably, he was genuinely fooled by bad intelligence. Either way, he doesn’t have much standing now to comment on why people might prefer voting for a more idealistic liberal to a practical centrist. Whatever may be baffling about Election 2016, the “practical” approach didn’t turn out so well on his watch.

 

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