Bush Owes Blair Big Time

In the week following Tony Blair's reelection as British prime minister, here's how the results must look from the White House:

It doesn't pay for a British politician to side with the US on a tough issue.

True, Mr. Blair just broke the mold by being the first Labour Party prime minister to win a third consecutive term. But the electorate punished him over Iraq, slicing his party's majority in Parliament by almost 100 seats, to a mere 67. Accounting for the 40-odd seats held by "rebels" in Blair's party, that's a slim margin.

This probably won't bode well for the "special" US-British relationship, especially with more tough security issues, such as Iran and North Korea, crying out for attention.

What needs to be done from the US side of things is to show Blair, and really, the British people, that it does pay to be America's friend.

Not that President Bush can do anything to assist Blair with his highest domestic priority: cementing his "third way" legacy, including market-driven, improved social services.

But Bush can strengthen the London-Washington axis by doing everything possible (and more than perhaps his conservative supporters would want) to support his British colleague's foreign policy goals.

After the election, Blair reiterated the international causes closest to his heart: Africa, climate change, and the Mideast peace process. As host of the upcoming G8 summit of industrialized nations in July, and as incoming president of the European Union in the same month, Blair will have the international stage to advance these themes - which can't go anywhere under British steam alone.

Tony Blair has just been through the wars - literally - with the US. For Bush, it's payback time.

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