Why is Tony Blair NOT considered an idiot?

I watched Tony Blair speaking at the Human Cloning conference. Or should I say, I watched the top of Tony Blair’s head. He looked up about every 10-15 seconds to view his audience but for the most part he was incapable of NOT reading from his prepared script.
Now, when George W. has a speech (although he makes CONSTANT eye contact with his audience, and only occasionally looks down), he is criticized by many as being ineffectual, unconvincing, and everything he says is only through the good graces of his speechwriter. In short, a complete dunce.
Yet, I have heard nothing but praise for Tony Blair’s leadership, and speaking abilities.
Is this a double standard or am I missing something?

Chris W

Praise from whom? From Americans? I’d guess that Americans are probably harder on Dubya, since he’s “our own”, and also because to Americans, the Office of the Presidency is more about “image” and less about “content”, but that Americans make allowances for Tony’s needing to read his speech because he’s a “foreigner”, and everybody knows they do things different “over there”.

So, yeah, there’s probably a double standard.

Got any cites or “fer instances” for the “praise” thing? :smiley:

You’re missing something.

A President or a Prime Minister is only as good as his advisors. Tony Blair makes no pretence of the fact that he is merely reading out what is the consensus of opinion in his government.

Bush, on the other hand, tries to look into the camera sincerely in order to convince the audience that what he is saying are his own thoughts. When they are quite clearly not.

Bush is not the equivalent to Blair. Bush is the Head of State like the Queen. He’s the equivalent to the Queen not to Blair. The role of the Queen (and the President) is to pronounce the official view of the government, not to actually decide on what is the official view of government.

There are three branches of government - the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. The executive consists of the President (or the Queen). The legislative consists of Parliament (or Congress). The judiciary consists of the courts.

When the Queen makes a speech, she looks the camera in the eye just like the president does.

But it’s not Blair’s job to tell people what he (personally) thinks. His job is to tell the people what his government (officially) thinks.

Err… No. Blair’s job it to lead the country, and that involves telling them what he thinks. He is “first among equals” under constintional convention, but he is entitled to adopt a more presidential style if he wishes, and he has tended to. He frequently says things the rest of his cabinet (probably) and party (certainly) feel uneasy with.

The reason Blair just reads out from a script at a conference on cloning is (I would have thought) because he knows (and probably cares) little about the subject. He was given a prepared speech, and he just read it out as a chore.

Send him to a press conference or something on a subject he’s interested in, and he’ll be animated and engaged, not to say odious. All the eye contact you’ll ever want, and more.

Same goes for W, come to think of it, though obviously the styles are poles apart.

Would it be more impressive or significant if Tony had memorized his speech?

I wonder how George Bush would fare if compelled to engage in off-the-cuff debate in the House of Commons.
Or how important that ability is, in the final analysis.

You are most certainly missing something. Blair is very articulate; I’ve seen him at Question Time (broadcast on C-SPAN weekly) and he’s noting short of brilliant. As for for what was up with the cloning speech, I can’t begin to guess.

No one will ever accuse Bush of being articulate, but he’s still quite an effective speaker in his own way. Like Reagan, he oozes with conviction–and many of his own critics are usually forced to acknowledge that he genuinely holds the views he expresses; that counts for a good deal among most people.

Blair reads a piece of paper, Bush uses an autocue, and this has some bearing on leadership?

Short answer to the OP - because few people consider him an idiot.

Self serving, lacking in principle, smarmy - these are the sort of complaints you do hear. But idiot - no.

So you think that the fact the GW cannot read makes him a better leader? Strange.

The executive in the UK is nominally represented by the Queen, as head of state, but executive power is to be found in the cabinet, members of whom are selected from amongst the members of Parliament, and led by the PM.

The Prime Minister and cabinet ministers are members of both the executive and the legislature (one of several such overlaps that exist in the British government system).

Tony Blair is lampooned often in the British media for his presidential style, and for his “sincerity”. He is satirised as an over-eager, trendy vicar, wanting to get down with “the kids”, but relying on the programming skills of spin doctors. For the sake of balance, I would like to be able to say that GWB is promoted in the UK as a model of intelligent, personal leadership. Unfortunately, he is often depicted as a chimp.


The performance of either men (Blair or Bush) when they are reading a prepared speech depends a lot on whether they are using a paper or autocue. Obviously Blair was using paper in this case.

You can get a better indication of whether they are great speakers or not from their performances when they are not following a prepared speech, and are having to ‘wing’ it. Personally I don’t think Blair is an outstanding speaker compared to some other politicians, but compared to Bush there is no contest. Bush is, not unlike his father, rather stilted and struggles to get his point across if it involves more than three simple phrases.

None of this is any real indication of their leadership qualities. But it is unusual to meet a successful politician who doesn’t have much of a gift for talk.

BTW just so we’re clear on this (specially for non-US Dopers), the US Prez is BOTH Head of State AND of Government, as CEO of the republic. But FWIW in many parliamentary states the PM has come to assume the role of “leader of the people” as well.

This does create at times a tension between whether the person in question should project superior intellectual mastery of the nitty-gritty of policy issues or whether he should project “big-picture” inspiration and motivation. Being good at both tends to be a rarity, being reasonably good at one and no better than passing mediocre at the other seems the norm – but that’s why you have cabinets, and preponderance of one role over the other does not an idiot make (or unmake!).


I don’t think this is true. Bush has made no secret of the fact that he sees himself as “CEO-in-chief”, taking advice from others more knowledgeable than he in specific matters and making the final decision on which direction to go, then leaving the implentation to those more knowledgeable others.

Listen carefully to Bush, he gets tongue-tied quite a bit. He is reading just as much as Blair is, and he is not any better at it. As others have noted, he can look at the audience or directly at the camera through a transparent screen that has the speech on it.

Cecil discussed this here

[Saturday Night Live]

Can we not agree that OASIS IS THE GREATEST BAND EVER?

[/Saturday Night Live]

This is the important point, as made by Jackmanii and Rmat (and jarbabyj :wink: ). I would love to see Question Time instituted in the States; it’s a perfect opportunity to ensure accountability (or at least verbally deft defense of policy), while giving the PM’s party an opportunity to showcase new programs and initiatives. And they (generally) do it with such civility and humor!

(At least since the departure of Wildest Bill) this has to rank up with one of the most inane GD OPs ever.

Because Mr. Bush or his political advisors have heard of the Teleprompter[sup]R[/sup], he’s a better leader and speaker?!!

Quite frankly, I’m sure Mr. Blar and his advisors are fully aware of the glory of Teleprompter technology. My suspicion is that, given the comparative peculiarities of British and American political culture, using a Teleprompter is considered less “authentic,” and therefore less Prime Ministerial, than reading from notes.


the question is,

Would bush be able to debate in question time with after taking Mexican fat burners and a beef and bean burrito?

He sure would. He’d say… “GOTCHA YA!”

So, even the President of the United States can’t find a beef, bean, and cheese burrito?