Friday, September 19, 2008

Tony Blair encounters satirical Daily Show

The Daily Show had perhaps its most important guest today. Well actually it was yesterday since British viewers aren’t able to enjoy Jon Stewart’s political satire until some hours later. The regular programme, which airs daily in the United States, is available on the UK satellite or cable channel More 4. CNN International also broadcasts an edited version of the programme billed as the Daily Show Global Edition but is occasionally dropped from the schedule.

On Blair’s arrival he received a rapturous applause, and once setting in set about a serious but candid discussion on the global war on terror, Iraq and the current financial crisis.
In the wake of the current financial crisis he was asked his opinions on globalisation. “I think globalisation is pushing people together and there is a danger religious faith pulls them apart; and that’s why it’s important to get religious faiths talking and understanding each other”.
On religion Blair revealed that his recent conversion to Catholicism would have been difficult during his time in office, perhaps since the British state religion is that of Protestantism.
Moving on to war the ex-British Prime Minister asserted that no two democracies had fought each other. Stewart attempted to catch out Blair by mentioning that Britain had gone to with war with Argentina. “Didn’t you guys fight, I’m talking about the Falklands,” said Stewart. “Actually at the time Argentina was not a democracy” the former PM responded.

In the latter half of the programme he talked about his relationship with President Bush. “I like him” he said simply. But he added, “It depends whether you agree with him or not on the security threat which I happen to do , but if you don’t then obviously you’re less likely to like him”. He continued with his usual mantra that the two counties whatever their differences “should stick together”. He made a quip about Britain’s elections lasting four weeks “while American elections last four years” to which he provoked a laugh.
He stayed generally relaxed even when asked awkward questions about the war on Iraq. The decision to go to war was one of conviction he said. He laughed as Stewart suggested there was an old fashioned English phrase from the time of Lloyd George that went “Don’t invade Iraq, it’s a nightmare”. But Blair kept his focus saying that the same forces that the coalition was trying to defeat in Iraq, persist across the globe in different forms and that the fight against them must be maintained. “That would be one way of looking at it” Tony Blair smiled. “But the forces we are fighting in Iraq at the moment, al-Qaeda on the one hand, are precisely those forces of terrorism based on a perversion of Islam, and Iranian backed militia. And they’re the people fighting in Afghanistan, and whether it’s in the Yemen, Algeria or Palestine or Pakistan there’s a struggle going on”. Jon Stewart then quipped in, “er what was that list again?” Tony laughed, “no, I didn’t say we had to take military action”. After a few more laughs he made the serious point that force was not the only weapon against extremism. “Military is not the only answer, you actually need a combination of a push to eradicate the conditions in which this terrorism breeds, that’s why the Middle East peace process is so important” Blair continued.
But as with the nature of television time, ran out. “Hey, I'm sorry this is gonna take us all night” Stewart interjected, “I’m delighted to even get an opportunity to talk to you and thank you for your patience even discussing all this with me”. But before the show ended Tony Blair was asked to put in a good word to George Bush to get him on the show. Despite their friendship it’s unlikely Tony will be able to persuade his friend George to appear on the Daily Show. It would be a great show if it ever happened though.

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