Today's Blogs

Stripped Blair

Bloggers say farewell to Tony Blair and wonder if the effect of screening for Down syndrome amounts to eugenics.

Stripped Blair:British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that he would retire June 27, giving the Labor Party a little more than a month to appoint a new leader (probably Gordon Brown). “Great expectations not fulfilled in every part, for sure,” Blair admitted in his farewell speech. “Occasionally people say, as I said earlier, ‘They were too high, you should have lowered them.’ But, to be frank, I would not have wanted it any other way. I was, and remain, as a person and as a prime minister, an optimist. Politics may be the art of the possible, but at least in life, give the impossible a go.”

Conservative British radio pundit Iain Dale took issue with the apologetic tone of Blair’s resignation speech, in which “[h]is constant craving for approval is stomach churning. ‘I did what I thought was right’ he has said - twice. He sounds as if he is facing a war crimes tribunal rather than making a resignation statement. It was actually very American in tone - very emotional. Very unbritish, if you like.”

From Outside the Beltway, James Joyner points out the effects of extended prime ministerial terms: “After eleven years, few of his countrymen are sad to see him go. Then again, that was the case for Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher, too. Leaders simply wear out their welcome after long stints in office. … Perhaps it’s inevitable in the media age, especially with the advent of 24/7 instantaneous commentary.”

Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House compares Blair’s relationship with President Bush to those between Churchill and FDR and, later, Thatcher and Reagan: “Blair was much more Bush’s equal in the ‘special relationship’ that has endured between the United Kingdom and America for more than a century. It was Blair who convinced Bush at the beginning of the war to try and get the United Nations on board – a futile effort given the amount of Oil For Food bribery Saddam had spread around the Security Council membership as well as the general anti-American feelings in that body.”

But for Arianna Huffington at the Huffington Post, “Blair was exactly what George W. Bush needed to sell his fraudulent and immoral war in Iraq to the American public: a seemingly reasonable and non-partisan stamp of international approval (after all, he’d been bosom buddies with Bill Clinton, hadn’t he?). Blair enabled the Bush myth that the invasion of Iraq was a coalition effort, that it wasn’t just Mongolia, Moldova, Singapore, Poland, and Tonga making up the Coalition of the Willing to Go Along.”

Hilzoy at the moderate Obsidian Wings reminds us of Blair’s nuanced legacy, hoping that “his immense achievement in helping to bring about peace in Northern Ireland isn’t forgotten – by all accounts he worked very hard at that, and achieved a lot.” But Ellee Seymore, press officer for Conservative European Parliament member Robert Sturdy, recalls Blair’s career less sanguinely: “Can you remember the Ecclestone affair of 1997,  a foretaste of the spin and party funding crises that later engulfed his premiership, when he was accused of granting favours to Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone - exempting the sport from a tobacco ad ban - in exchange for a £1m Labour donation?”

Daniel Finkelstein, comment editor of the Times of London, assesses Blair’s overall political footprint at Times Online: “It is often regarded as Mr Blair’s failing that with such a large majority he altered so little. And I certainly concur that his reform, say, of public services was disappointing and that bureaucracy and regulation has grown due as much to sins of omission as to sins of commission. Yet this failing has its good side, too. Tony Blair has been a moderate Prime Minister. He has presided over a period of stability.”

Read more about Tony Blair. Read  his speech. In Slate, Geoffrey Wheatcroft explained  why the Brits no longer fancy the prime minister.

Down and out: The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is recommending that doctors offer a prenatal screening for Down syndrome to all pregnant women, not just those 35 and older. Since 90 percent of expectant mothers abort after receving a Down syndrome diagnosis, bloggers are dusting off their old eugenics arguments.

Christina, a social conservative at Confessions of a Crazy Schoolmarm calls such abortions “sickening“: “Obviously, we hate to see anyone suffer, but we have no right to decide that they can’t be born because we are too weak to handle it, and we’d prefer to eliminate the problem rather than make sacrifices to help them.” Tara Marie, posting at Emma Sage, recounts the treatment she received when she decided to continue her pregnancy.

Columbia law professor Michael Dorf at Dorf on Law has mixed feelings: “I empathize completely with a parent’s desire to have people out there in the world who will fight for the interests of her children and who will form a community into which her children will feel at home and valued. … I do have a competing reaction, however, that is less charitable and empathic than the first. That reaction is to say that a DS child’s parents’ wish that more DS children be born is a a bit like a parent’s wish that other children be sick like her child is.”

Christianity blogger Jon, the Baptist suggests that the way obstetricians’ questions are framed affects the abortion statistics, writing, ” Down Syndrome is presented as a irredemably awful outcome, prefaced by ’I’m sorry, but…’ Abortion, though, with all of its cultural freight, gets presented ambiguously.”

Read more about Down syndrome testing. In Slate, William Saletan comments  on Down syndrome abortions as well as British fertility clinics that weed out embryos for cosmetic reasons.