Good-bye, Tony

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A few hours ago, I watched Tony Blair announce that he'll be ending his decade as Prime Minister on June 27. (Or "27 June," as we like to call it here.)

Pundits seem to be zeroing in on the part of his speech dealing with the invasion of Iraq, but for me, the most striking moment was when he said six simple words: "This is the greatest nation on earth."

In an American political speech, such a declaration is pretty much mandatory. Somewhere in the US, there may be an elected official who has never declared that America is the greatest country on the planet, but I doubt it.

In England, though, it's much rarer. We Americans are comfortable selling ourselves, individually and collectively. But the trappings of patriotism that Americans love--giant flags, country-wide celebrations of national pride, boasts about our nation's greatness--seem to make the English a trifle embarrassed.

After a bit of Googling, I've been able to turn up just one instance of a modern British politician using the phrase: in 2002, Tory leader Ian Duncan Smith told his party conference, "For me, this is the greatest country on earth." And note the first two words of the quote, which qualify it as a subject personal preference, not an indisputable scientific fact.

If you read Blair's quote, you'll notice no such hedging. However, if you hear it, or watch the video, you'll notice a slightly defensive tone in the way he says it.

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3 Comments

Eric P. said:

Even stranger to an American is the comment by the Lib Dem leader criticizing Blair for the statement. From the BBC article:

"Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said he thought Mr Blair's speech was 'defensive, defiant, and even chauvinist at the end talking about Great Britain as being the best country in the world'."

Can you imagine any American politician criticizing someone for saying the US was the best country in the world??

I love America, and I also love England, but I also love accuracy.

"This is the greatest nation on earth" comprises seven words. It has been said that there are three kinds of people in the world: those who can count, and those who can't. (Jacob, either you're for math or you're against it. Make your choice!)

Also, perhaps Mr. Blair (for whom I have long had a fondness; he is a declared R.E.M. fan) meant earth, as in land, not Earth, as in this planet. The transcription suggests the former. Such an interpretation would be ironic, though, considering that England is an island nation, and therefore not on earth but on the sea.

(We can disregard the comments of anyone from Lib Dem, which, if memory serves, is an Outer Rim world beyond Dantooine and mostly ignored, with good reason, by the Empire.)

joachim said:

We thought tony bliars departure needed some extra comments see here http://www.goodbyetony.co.uk have a vote on the Bliar"0"meter

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This page contains a single entry by Jacob published on May 10, 2007 2:02 PM.

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