06 May, 2005

Does democracy suck?

So Blair won. Despite recent scandalous evidence that he's a shocking liar who dragged his country to war, deliberately, unwillingly, despite his better knowledge. And Brits actually care about this sort of thing.

But he won weakly - his majority is scraped to a bare 66 seats, meaning if his fractious and malcontent Labour brethren decide he's out of line, it won't be difficult for them to defect and side against him. And his failing public status forced him to announce that he would not serve all of his third term; that he would step down and his finance minister Gordon Brown would replace him. Odds are this promise is all that brought Labour a victory. Brown appeared constantly along with Blair, as if to assure the electorate that, no, you're not voting for this sad-sack.

This is encouraging. But can the same happen here? Would George Bush ever have to resign in disgrace?

Much ballyhoo is being made of Bush's low approval rating (49%), which is being unfavorably compared to Nixon's at the start of his second term. Nixon, however, managed to climb before he fell, finally, to a low of 24% in 1974, when he was at last forced to resign. Blair's is a more analagous case: public opinion does not always react with lightning speed. But it needs an engine driving it, namely scandal. Otherwise known as good journalism.

That's been conspicuously absent in Bush's case. Observe the complete lack of fallout in the U.S. over the memo that killed Blair. Or the lack of noise over the apparently mundane statement attributed to British senior intelligence officer Sir Richard Dearlove, that "Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," because "Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action."

We can go two ways: Brits have sensibilities that Americans don't (e.g. "Lying to go to war in a non-threatening country is bad."), and the same facts don't have sharp teeth here in the States; or else Bush is well-shielded by the studious indifference of the press, which no longer has any interest in journalism.

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