Tony Blair on the appeal of George W Bush

George W Bush's approval ratings

People may not remember it, but George W Bush's approval ratings were well over 80 per cent when he declared war on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in October 2001 following the September 11 tragedy. The ratings chart is from the BBC.

Tony Blair cuts to the heart of Bush's appeal back then with this illuminating comment on the US presidency in his book, A Journey:

One of the most ludicrous caricatures of George [Bush] is that he was a dumb idiot who stumbled into the presidency. No one stumbles into that job, and the history of American presidential campaigns is littered with the corpses of those who were supposed to be brilliant but who nonetheless failed because brilliance is not enough …

To succeed in US politics, or that of the UK, you have to be more than clever. You have to be able to connect and you have to be able to articulate that connection in plain language. The plainness of the language then leads people to look past the brainpower involved. Reagan was clever. Thatcher was clever. And sometimes the very plainness touches something else: a simplicity that is the product of a decisive nature.

John le Carre – who hated Bush's war on terror and wrote about it in his last novel, A Most Wanted Man – is coming out with a new book, too, called Our Kind of Traitor. The 79-year-old author tells the Telegraph:

The world of spying is my genre. My struggle is to demystify, to de-romanticise the spook world, but at the same time harness it as a good story. As someone once said, the definition of genius – not that I’m a genius – is to have two conflicting opinions about any one subject and that's what I do all the time. Some call it ambiguity. I call it lack of resolution.

It's a great interview, where he talks about his father, whom he freely describes as a conman. The character, Rick Pym, in A Perfect Spy is said to have been modelled on his father.  Brought up by his father, whom his mother left when he was only five years old, he had a miserable childhood like Charles Dickens.

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