2010年9月1日,英国前首相托尼·布莱尔的自传《旅程》(A Journey: My Political Life)一书在全球上市。该书不仅记录了布莱尔历时十年的首相生涯,同时也讲述了关于美国的诸多故事。本文即节选自《旅程》,描述了克林顿、布什和奥巴马三任美国总统在这位英国前首相眼中的独特印象。在他看来,这三位总统不只是高高在上、执掌权柄的政治领袖,还是具有独特个性魅力、有血有肉的性情中人。
As British Prime Minister, you see the U.S. President close-up pretty often—you see the personal side, and no longer look at Presidents as remote officeholders but also as human actors in the unfolding dramas of political affairs. This is the best vantage1) point, and in my case, it has led me to an even greater sense of respect for the quality of leadership that America can produce.
On Bill Clinton 比尔·克林顿
When I first got to know Bill, he was the most formidable politician I had ever encountered. And yet his very expertise and extraordinary capacity at the business of politics obscured the fact that he was also a brilliant thinker, with a clear and thought-through political philosophy and program. He had an endless ability for rapport2) with ordinary people. I remember an occasion in 2003 when he came to the annual Labour Party conference, and went out for a late-night McDonald’s burger and fries, shooting the breeze3) with folks, much to the amusement and astonishment of a sprinkling of4) late-night diners, as if it were what he did every Tuesday night.
Bill had inimitable resilience5). When you reflect on what he went through during the impeachment saga6), you have to sit down. It’s too much. How could he, how did he, survive it? But he did, leaving office with an approval rating of more than 60%. And he was, of course, a brilliant President. At times he made it look easy. He ran a good economy, made big reforms, handled the Kosovo crisis with real leadership. It is fascinating to speculate how he would have handled later world-changing events, the whole crisis and sequence of tough decisionmaking that was started by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. There neither charm nor intellect would have been sufficient. It would have been pure caliber7) that determined the outcome. I believe he would have had it.
On George Bush
George Bush was straightforward and direct. And very smart. One of the most ludicrous8) caricatures of George is that he was a dumb idiot who stumbled into9) the presidency. No one stumbles into that job, and the history of American presidential campaigns is littered with political corpses of those who were supposed to be brilliant but who nonetheless failed because brilliance is not enough. To succeed in U.S. politics, you certainly have to be clever, otherwise you will be eaten alive; but you have to be more than clever.
George has a sense of calm. I was in the White House on the evening of Sept. 20, 2001, with George just before he was to give his first speech to Congress after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He was not panicking or fretting or even plain worrying. He was at peace with himself. He had his mission as President. He hadn’t asked for it. He hadn’t expected it. He hadn’t found it. It had found him. But he was clear. The world had changed, and as President of the world’s most powerful country, he was tasked with making sense of that change and dealing with it. I asked him if he was nervous. “No, not really,” he replied. “I have a speech here, and the message is clear.” I marveled at it.
George had great intuition. But his intuition was less about politics and more about what he thought was right or wrong. This wasn’t expressed analytically or intellectually. It was just stated. At times I would find this puzzling, even alarming. I would be at a press conference with the President, in the epicenter10) of those world-changing events, and I would think, George, explain it; don’t just say it.
However, over time, and more even in retrospect as events have continued to unfold after I left office, I have come to admire the simplicity, the directness, almost the boldness of George, finding in it strength and integrity. Sometimes, in the very process of reasoning, we lose sight of the need for a destination, for finding the way out of the labyrinth11) to solid ground that stands the test not of a few weeks, months or even a year or two, but of the vastness of the judgment of history.
On Barack Obama
Then there is Barack Obama, who stepped into the aftermath12) of the financial crisis and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And as if that weren’t enough, he faces the challenges of avoiding a double-dip recession13) and preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear-weapons capability. As ever, with a new leader, the political character cannot be fully formed or comprehended immediately but happens over time. The personal character, however, is clear: this is a man with steel in every part of him. The expectation of his presidency was beyond exaggeration. The criticism is now exaggerated. He has remained the same throughout. And believe me, that is hard to do.
I think I understand what the new President is trying to do. He is less opposed to some of the aims of the previous President than is supposed. He is under no illusions as to14) the scale of the economic or security challenge and, in his own way, every bit as tough as George. He is trying to shape a different policy to meet these aims, avoiding market excesses in economics and the alienation of America from its allies, potential or actual, in meeting the security challenge.
1. vantage n. 优势,有利情况
2. rapport n. 和谐,亲善
3. shoot the breeze: 闲谈,吹牛
4. a sprinkling of:少量,一点儿
5. resilience n. 复原力,(活力、精神等的)恢复力;适应力
6. 这里是指1998年克林顿因与白宫的女秘书莱温斯基有不正当关系而遭到的弹劾。impeachment n. 弹劾
7. caliber n. 才干
8. ludicrous adj. 滑稽的,可笑的,荒谬的
9. stumble into:无意中卷入,偶尔走入
10. epicenter n. 震中,中心
11. labyrinth n. 迷宫,错综复杂
12. aftermath n. 结果,后果
13. double-dip recession:双下沉衰退,也称为“W型衰退”。它是经济衰退的形态之一,指的是经济出现衰退后,出现一个短暂的回升,而后很快又出现衰退的情况。
14. be under no illusion as to:对……不存幻想