The Campaign Spot

I’m Still Hoping for the Return of Prime Minister Jim Hacker

From this morning’s Jolt:

You Could Call Gardner and Montgomerie a Pair of Clegg-Warners

The Economist’s cover depicted the three options in the UK Parliamentary elections as “The Devil You Know” (Current Labor – sorry, Brits, over here it’s not “Labour” – Prime Minister Gordon Brown) “The Devil You Don’t” (Conservative leader David Cameron) and “Who the Devil?” (Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg).

I covered the 2005 British elections from London – it was during my Turkey years – and I remember feeling pretty good about the options before I headed there. Sure, Blair was technically the center-left party, but he had stuck by the U.S. in the Iraq War, at great personal cost, and you had to admire a loyal friend who’s willing to take the heat for what he believes to be right. He went in the favorite, and guided Labor to a win that wasn’t historic in size, but kept Labor in power for a record length of time. The Conservatives looked set to gain some seats, which was good, even though there had been some harrumphing that they didn’t like the Iraq war and were drifting away from America. And the Liberal Democrats were set for their traditional third place.

I concluded, “Tony Blair laid out a vision of a muscular liberalism that didn’t back down from threats and didn’t hesitate to use military force. For this, his own party smacked him around like soccer hooligans running into a guy wearing the wrong colored jersey. The majority of voters punished his party for his staunch pro-U.S., anti-tyrant stand and sent George Galloway, a man whose lips were firmly attached to Saddam Hussein’s rump when it mattered most, back to Parliament. We are witnessing the slow-motion triumph of a rancid anti-Western ideology taking root in the nation of Shakespeare, Locke, Disraeli, Churchill and Thatcher. A nation that kept buggering on during the Blitz is now enraptured by a philosophy that is anti-U.S., objectively pro-Saddam, resolutely defending the worst of the status quo, and indifferent at best to the war on terror.” (Those words were written two months before the London bombings.)

Today, things look worse.

In the Corner, Nile Gardner labels Clegg as the anti-Churchill of British politics, and gives five reasons Americans should be afraid, very afraid, of his rise to power. He concurs with Tim Montgomerie, editor of ConservativeHome.com, who warned, “Clegg does not want Britain to have an independent nuclear deterrent. He supports earlier withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan. He wants Britain to move closer to the European Union and farther away from the USA. The U.S. doesn’t even get a mention in his party’s manifesto. His party won a good number of seats at the last election by currying favor with anti–Iraq War Muslim communities, and that has reinforced a very timid approach to the war on terror.”

I don’t often agree with the take of Daniel Larison, but here’s his defense of Clegg to chew over: “Whether or not one agrees with Clegg’s entire speech, it is flatly dishonest to portray the views contained in it as ‘anti-American,’ and it is misleading at best to say that Clegg is anti-Israel. Clegg will not be the next Prime Minister, but America and Britain would be much better off and would have a much stronger, more balanced relationship if the next Prime Minister paid attention to even some of Clegg’s ideas.”

Larry Sabato predicts that Clegg will be taking fire in today’s debate, concluding, “Double-teaming likely. If Clegg gets another boost in debate 2, it will very hard to slow his momentum, barring a collapse in third debate.”