Bush, Blair friendship began with toothpaste
WASHINGTON: The world’s most important friendship is also one of its least probable.
When President George W Bush first met Tony Blair four years ago, all the sophisticated left-leaning London lawyer and the folksy Texan rancher seemed to share was toothpaste.
Asked what he had in common with the British Prime Minister, Bush said they both used Colgate.
Since then, Blair’s decision to stand by Bush has become perhaps the single most decisive relationship in world politics.
The friendship has been nothing but a blessing for Bush, and an unmitigated headache for Blair, lampooned to devastating effect by cartoonists at home as the president’s poodle.
It is all but inconceivable that Bush could have invaded Iraq without Blair. During last year’s invasion, London was Washington’s only credible ally until the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Bush sent far fewer troops to the Gulf last year than his father did in 1991.
But Blair ordered Britain’s largest deployment since the Korean War 50 years ago, making up percentage-wise on the battlefield for all the other countries, especially France, who fought alongside Bush the father but abandoned Bush the son. Blair received a standing ovation in Congress last summer, and is admired by Democrats and Republicans alike.
And Bush has repeatedly taken advantage of his friend’s popularity, dropping his name on the campaign trail every time Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee whom Bush defeated this month, accused him of alienating the world.
Blair, by contrast, has been tarred at home by association with perhaps the least popular American president in recent European history. And Bush has given him little to show for his pains.
On issue after issue of importance to Blair - from climate change to the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - Bush has barely budged. reuters