Saturday, July 28, 2012

"The Special Relationship" between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair: they brace for the wrong enemy


I remember in the early part of my high school junior year’s “Virginia and U.S. History” that our ex-military history teacher made a lot of the concept of “mother country” and associated mercantilism.

The Special Relationship” (2010, HBO, dir. Richard Loncraine) could refer to the modern day between “mother” and superpower son. But it’s also about the relationship between new Labor party Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bill Clinton throughout most of Clinton’s presidency.

Martin Sheen looks and sounds like Tony Blair, and there are some household scenes where his body is not as young as his face.  However, Dennis Quaid, in playing Bill Clinton, is kept covered up, maybe for good reason.

Whereas, in the early days, Blair’s main concern was Northern Ireland and the IRA, soon it turned to Bosnia and Kosovo, and here Blair became the hawk, touting “Onward Christian Soldiers”.  His friend Clinton grimaces, saying that Blair sounds almost like Jerry Falwell.  

Blair is presented as having regarded Slobodan Milosevic as an existential threat to the civilized world. The film has considerable excerpted news footage of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia.  In a private meeting, Blair urges that all of NATO send ground troops, and Clinton refuses, saying that Blair does not grasp how politically unacceptable it is for America to fight overseas on the ground.

The film, less than 90 minutes, concludes with brief coverage of the 2000 election, and footage of the real Blair and George W. meeting at Camp David.

The entire history, of course, seems oddly prescient of 9/11, which no one saw coming.  The film does not cover Clinton’s limited strikes against Al Qaeda, focusing entirely on Bosnia.  There’s one line where Clinton says to Blair, “Don’t answer any questions about gays in the military.”

The film briefly covers the affair with Monica Lewinsky, the “impeachment”, and Hillary Clinton’s (Hope Davis) calm handling of her husband’s indiscretions.

The official site for the film is here


The film has an opening tagline from Oscar Wilde: "A real friend stabs you from the front."

I also recall, with somewhat of a cackle, that a Unix programming instructor at a local community college in the 1990s loved to make fun of "Bill Clinton". 


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