A quote from Tony Blair’s last day as PM

I think of Blair very much the same way as I think of LBJ–as a great man of many important accomplishments who made a tragic mistake with respect to a war whose implications he didn’t understand. On his last day in office, he said:

“Some may belittle politics but we who are engaged in it know that it is where people stand tall. Although I know that it has many harsh contentions, it is still the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster. If it is, on occasions, the place of low skulduggery, it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes.”

I have been thinking about yesterday’s vote in the House. Like Paul Krugman and Brad Delong and Mark Thoma, all of whom I admire, had I been in Congress, I would have held my nose and voted for the deal, which has many aspects I didn’t like.

But the press today has been about the venality of members who were afraid to vote for the plan because it is unpopular with voters. Having had some conversations today with friends who are to the left of me, and who opposed the plan, I think that the votes against the plan may well have been sincere votes, dictated not by expediency but by principle. Many Democrats view the plan as having insufficient consideration for consumers, and many Republicans genuinely find the idea of socializing risk to be anathema. As it happens, I disagree with this Republican point of view, but in this instance it is honest and defensible (although I think the business about cutting capital gains taxes is nonsense).

So while I think Congress made a mistake yesterday, I find it entirely plausible that the vast majority of members, on this one particular occasion, voted with their heads and hearts,