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September 21, 2007 12:00 am
She may be frail, but Margaret Thatcher still sprinkles stardust. Last week, Gordon Brown, Britain’s Labour prime minister, paid homage to his Conservative predecessor by inviting her back to 10 Downing Street.
This week it was the turn of Rudy Giuliani, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, to stand with Lady Thatcher for the photographers.
In a two-day break in London from the campaign trail, Mr Giuliani saw everyone who is anyone in the political establishment. Former prime minister Tony Blair and David Cameron, the Conservative leader, featured alongside Mr Brown on his crowded schedule. But it was the dinner with Lady Thatcher that mattered for the presidential hopeful. Two decades after she danced on the international stage with Ronald Reagan, a photo-opportunity with the Iron Lady of British politics is still deemed to be worth votes in the Republican primaries.
“I think Lady Thatcher is one of the great leaders of the 20th century who’s had tremendous impact in so many ways on Europe, on freedom and democracy in Europe, on countries that are free now that weren’t before,” Mr Giuliani gushed in an interview with the Financial Times. Along with Reagan, Pope John Paul and Mikhail Gorbachev, she had been a principal mover in the peaceful end of the cold war.
“You had, you know, two prime ministers that had a big impact on the 20th century: Churchill and her,” said Mr Giuliani. “And we had two presidents that had a big impact on the 20th century: Roosevelt and Reagan.”
Mr Giuliani, who delivered the “Margaret Thatcher Atlantic Bridge lecture” at a dinner of Alanticist conservatives, made it clear that he was unapologetic about US foreign policy. The US could do more to explain its policies to its allies but: “The reality is that the United States is a very, very positive force in the world. It’s a force basically for good . So if there are things that we have to do to protect ourselves that we believe are necessary in our self-interest in terms of defending ourselves, maybe we need to do a better job of explaining that to people.”
As for the condition of the transatlantic alliance, it was stronger than was generally appreciated. Mr Blair had enhanced the special relationship and Mr Brown’s visit to Washington in July showed he had “the same understanding of it”.
Mr Giuliani appeared to accept, though, that strategy had diverged over Iraq, with the planned rundown of Britain’s forces in the south. “The fact that we have disagreements occasionally with some of our allies does not concern me. It doesn’t concern me even if you were to ask me that same question about Europe. I think that we all have to get used to the fact that as democracies we’re going to have occasional disagreements but on the big enduring questions we’re going to be 100 per cent together.”
The congressional testimony from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker had persuaded Americans to be a little more patient about the conflict. Even some Democrats, he said, had begun to accept that the present approach was making progress.
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