After listening to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia, I decided that he could have been a successful stand up comedian if he had not gone into politics. Out of office, Blair is literally a laugh a minute.
As British Prime Minister, he was not allowed to have a mobile phone so he did not get a mobile phone until his first day of being a private citizen. "I texted a close friend of mine, how are you. Not recognizing the number, the person texted me back, 'Excuse me, how is this?' All I could think is how quickly they forget. I have been out of office one day."
He continued the laughs by relaying his wife's Cheri's reaction to his 82 trips to the Middle East. He said, "I am not sure she was being entirely supportive here. She said, 'I don't think it is the number of trips that you take, but the progress that you make."
On a more serious note, he made some interesting observations about democracies. He received the loudest applause of the night when he noted that the British election season lasts 4 weeks. He argued against term limits, either mandated or by popular vote.
"When I came into office, I was at my highest popularity, but the least capable. When I left office, I was the least popular, but the most capable. I wanted to say I really know what I am doing now."
Like many politicians in recent times, he decries the extreme partisanship that has paralyzed our governments. "Have you noticed that the parties have gotten ideologically further apart while the people have moved towards the middle.
Serving as the Middle East Envoy for the Quartet, he spoke about the Middle East. I wrote about that for Metro. While the Arab Spring has consumed most of the recent attention, he warned that it would be to the West's detriment to ignore the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. "The West's security depends on Israel's security."
Blair spent a great deal of his talk discussing China. "While the West dominated the 20th century, they will have to share power with China in the 21st."
He gave several examples of China's domination. "China spends more on infrastructure in Africa than the World Bank does."
Another illustration was closer to home. "While we are debating adding an additional runway at Heathrow, China is planning to build 70 international and 200 regional airports."
He praised the current Chinese leaders as smart but "handling a problem the likes of which the world has never seen." Blair expounded, "They are trying to impose change on 1.6 billion people with a communist mindset."
He believes Western unity is more important than ever because "only united west will be able to share power with China."
While there has been a lot of turmoil in recent times, Blair thinks some of it was long overdue. "The economic crisis in Europe was terrible, but it forced change in social program that was needed.