Of course, shaking hands with Gerry Adams, which Blair did Monday during his visit to the all-party talks at Stormont, does not come without its drawbacks. Clinton was embarrassed when the IRA cease-fire collapsed only three months after he "happened to bump into" the Sinn Fein leader.
But in becoming the first PM since David Lloyd-George to go head to head with an Irish Republican — even without cameras present — Blair showed the world his confidence in the current peace process.
"This is a watershed," says TIME London Bureau Chief Barry Hillenbrand. "It's not just a show. Blair's put more energy into these talks than anything else in the last few months." With strong criticism from Ulster Unionists and opposition Conservatives, the 10-minute encounter also bears testament to the Labor leader's courage.