It seems like the September 11 attack on America brought out the best in people. America's political leaders (especially George W. Bush and Rudy Guiliani) seem to have grown in stature.
Frankly, I never expected that this crisis would alter my impression of Tony Blair. The British prime minister sometimes seemed like nothing more than Bill Clinton with an English accent.
Well times and circumstances change, and I've got to give credit to Tony Blair. Lately he reminds me more of Winston Churchill than Bill Clinton.
To be candid, I didn't know how Tony Blair would respond to the current crisis. Margaret Thatcher one time warned George Bush Sr. not to go wobbly during Desert Storm. I wondered if George W. Bush was going to have to make the same warning to Tony Blair not to go wobbly in this assault on terrorism. It turns out he won't need to do so.
Tony Blair's speech on October 2 to a conference of his Labor Party was masterful. I think it ranks right up there with George W. Bush's speech before Congress in late September. In fact, elements of the speech sounded more like Margaret Thatcher or Winston Churchill.
But the speech was more than just a call to action. It was also tender and compassionate. He talked of meeting with the British victims of the September 11 attack who were clutching photos of sons and daughters, wives and husbands. At that moment he said, "You don't feel like the most powerful person in the country."
Tony Blair has been calling his country, our county, and our growing alliance of nations to action. He understands what is at stake knowing that to hold back is the absolute worst thing that we could do. "Whatever the dangers of the action we take," the prime minister said, "the dangers of inaction are far, far greater."
In his speeches (and no doubt in his private meetings), he dismisses all the reasons given for not taking action.
Don't overreact. We aren't.
Don't kill innocent people. We seek the guilty.
Look for a diplomatic solution. There is no diplomacy with bin Laden or the Taliban.
State an ultimate and wait for a response. We stated an ultimatum. They didn't respond.
Tony Blair has been an unexpected and dependable ally to George W. Bush and the American people. We needed his help and support. I'm as surprised as anyone that he was willing to stand before the left-wing members of the Labor Party and boldly call his nation and others to action. To borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, it was Tony Blair's finest hour.