London — “That Sarah Palin is splendid news. Many may not think so, but I do. And I tell you this, I know Americans and John McCain will win with Palin on his ticket.”
That’s the view of Paul Johnson, the prolific British writer and historian who has a loud and clear message on the eve of his 80th birthday: “Obama is not the man to sort out America’s problems. He’s full of high-falutin waffle. We just do not know what he stands for. Americans have a lot of common sense and know rough times lie ahead. That is why America needs a leader from the right.”
Johnson speaks with the authoritative tenor of someone who once was a leading voice on the left of British politics. As Margaret Thatcher rose in the late 1970s, she won him over to the right.
He also speaks with the authoritative perspective that comes from personally knowing all the U.S. presidents of the past 50 years and from penning the best selling “History of the American Peoples.” A staunch supporter of the United States, he remains as contrarian and controversial as ever, as Newsmax discovered during an interview.
“People may not agree with me,” he said. “I may not always have been consistent, but I am convinced that what makes an effective leader and what America needs most in a crisis is a president who has courage. And it is this which the Republican candidate has in spades.”
Johnson cited McCain’s record as a prisoner of war and Palin’s as governor of Alaska as evidence of their mettle.
“People forget it is difficult to be a woman in Alaskan politics,” he said. “It is a difficult state and, she’s been doing a great job there — and has five kids to boot! I have to say I like her cut!”
Other opinions Johnson voiced: Colin Powell would have been better . . .
In contrast, Barack Obama is really “an untested man,” Johnson said. “If America had wanted a black president, they ought to have chosen Colin Powell. That is why, on a number of occasions, I personally urged him to stand. But I was told to forget it by his formidable wife. She told me, ‘I have lived in Army houses all my life and I now want my own . . . even if the alternative is the White House!’ ”
Her views were purely of a domestic nature, and had nothing to do with fears that Colin might be assassinated, he said. Thatcher: One of the all-time great prime ministers.
A close personal friend of Thatcher, Johnson was outraged by a recent book her daughter, Carole, published revealing that the former prime minister has acute dementia. “It was just not right to publish such a book,” Johnson fumed, “especially as Margaret’s memory is not as bad as her daughter alleges. I should know, as I see Margaret regularly.”
Johnson’s admiration for the lady who ruled Britain for 11 years remains undiminished, 18 years since she left No. 10 Downing Street. He rates her as “one of the all-time great prime ministers — up there in the same category as Winston Churchill.” Thatcher famously convinced Johnson to abandon the left and embrace the new right in the late 1970s. In turn, he became one of her most powerful supporters in the media. When Thatcher was pushed out in a coup of her own party, Johnson’s loyalty was seriously tested. It was not long before he was drawn to the new charismatic force in British politics, the man who became leader of the opposition Labour Party in 1994, Tony Blair.
Tony Blair: Second-class prime minister.
“Whilst it’s true I personally liked Tony Blair and found him to be courageous and easily the most courteous man I ever met, he had one great weakness that Margaret did not have: He was obsessed with wanting people to like him. That’s why I rate him only as a second-class prime minister.”
Other commentators would argue that Blair, like George W. Bush, permanently scarred his reputation by waging war on Iraq. Johnson once again takes a different stance, saying that it is “absolute rubbish to suggest that the invasion of Iraq and its bitter aftermath fatally stained Blair’s premiership. The war succeeded in its purpose. The invasion quelled Islamic fundamentalism. It distracted al-Qaida and America has not been attacked since 9/11.” Bush: Will be judged more favorably.
This is why Johnson believes most people have misjudged Bush’s presidency.
“History will look more kindly on President Bush. After all, he finished the job that his father failed to do — namely, going all the way to Baghdad and toppling Saddam Hussein. He showed courage and conviction and will, I strongly believe, be ranked by future historians in the same league as Harry S. Truman, who also took tough war-time decisions.”
In many ways, he said, “President Bush is another Ronald Reagan.” However, he accepts that Bush has lacked The Gipper’s genius for communication. “Whereas Bush had a couple of dozen one-liners, Reagan ruled on the basis of 4,000 one-liners!” Europe needs U.S. leadership.
At this time of economic and political turmoil, the West needs to confront the twin challenges of a newly assertive Russia and China. “Americans are wrong to rely on Europe. The European Union is ill-equipped to deal with either problem,” Johnson said.
“There is a fundamental lack of leadership. The European Union is not up to dealing with the crises we face. It is riddled with anti-Americanism. Its capital, Brussels, is run by faceless bureaucrats obsessed with form-filling and subsidies, whereas what is needed is an outgoing, dynamic, and entrepreneurial revival in Europe. That was what my friend, the founder of the European Union, Jean Monnet envisaged. But it is not what we have got.”
“Nicolas Sarkozy, as French president, has proven a bitter disappointment. He has been too distracted by his beautiful new wife, the Italian ex-model, Carla Bruni. She may have done much to enhance France’s image but he has squandered his first year in power.”
Europe’s leaders have demonstrated appalling weakness in their dealings with Putin’s Russia. “Whereas President Bush has rightly taken a tough stand against Putin, Europeans have been cowardly. Bush realised early on that Russia is a paper tiger. He saw that its renewed status as a ‘great’ depended solely on its oil wealth. Now with oil prices in free fall, the country’s fragility should be apparent even to Europeans,” Johnson said.
As a result, Johnson is more concerned about China. “China, like Russia, is a police state. But it is one where communism is withering as capitalism takes root. But Chinese communism is giving way to an ugly aggressive nationalism that is cowing China’s Asian neighbors. This is going to cast a long shadow on the 21st century.”
Is Paul Johnson pessimistic about the future, then?
“No,” he replied crisply, adding, “As a European, all I can say is thank God for America!”
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