Tuesday, Jul. 20, 2010

Blair and Bush

Not long after his inauguration, U.S. President George W. Bush invited British Prime Minister Tony Blair to a retreat at Camp David so they could get acquainted. At a press conference following the 2001 meeting, the two leaders were asked if they had found any common interests. They had: "Well, we both use Colgate toothpaste," Bush joked, adding that Blair had run out and asked to borrow some. It was a small, insignificant start to a friendship between the two men that would see both countries enter into a war in Iraq and eventually lead to the Prime Minister's departure from 10 Downing Street in June 2007.

When Blair crossed the pond in 2001, just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he pledged to stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism. "The British Prime Minister has crossed an ocean to show his unity of purpose with America," Bush said in his address to Congress and the nation on Sept. 20, 2001. It was that pledge that, years later, led to accusations in Britain that the PM had allowed himself to become the President's "poodle" by supporting Bush without pause.

When Bush presented Blair with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2009, it was not without criticism. While the often fiery British press called the award "Blair's Medal of Dishonor," TIME wrote the day the award was given, "What could be more hurtful than a close friend's ingratitude? His gratitude — at least if you're Tony Blair and the buddy in question is George W. Bush." Years later, reflecting on his friendship with Bush, Blair remained true, saying, "I've never been a fair-weather friend. I like him. We had a strong relationship, and I don't regret that relationship."