The Journal Editorial Report | May 6, 2005 | PBS
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briefing and opinion
May 6, 2005

British newspapers of Tony Blair
The front pages of British national papers May 6, 2005, reflect the results of the British elections, where Tony Blair was re-elected but his Labour Party suffered a sharply reduced parliamentary majority. (AP/Jane Mingay)

Our panel examines some of the big stories of the week, including Tony Blair's re-election, IBM's layoffs, and Lyndie England's foiled plea bargain.

Melanie KirkpatrickTony Blair won re-election as prime minister of Great Britain, but his margin in Parliament will be much smaller. Some are suggesting that the Labour losses are due to Blair' support of the war in Iraq and that he may not last very long.

MELANIE KIRKPATRICK: Tony Blair is weaker, but he is still a winner. A 60-vote majority sounds pretty good to me. As for Blair's future as leader, it depends on how he performs in the next year on a bunch of domestic issues: welfare, education, health care, and crime. Those are the issues he ran on, and they will determine whether or not he stays prime minister.

PAUL GIGOT: Looks like Gordon Brown, his chancellor of the exchequer, might end up succeeding him. I would say that this is a victory for Robert Shrum, his first victory in a national election. Robert Shrum, the John Kerry adviser who lost a lot of Democratic races here, has finally won one in the U.K. I have always thought Shrum had a better sense of the British electorate than he did of the American electorate.

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IBM announced this week it is going to cut 10,000 to 13,000 jobs, mostly in Western Europe.

Daniel HenningerDAN HENNINGER: I thought this was one of the most interesting messages of the past week in the news. IBM is pulling out of Western Europe, or in part. They are going to make these cuts because the growth rates there are so low, they can't get any business. Growth in Germany and Italy is below one percent. They are pulling their staff out of Germany, Italy and France. They have said they are probably going to invest more heavily now in Eastern Europe, where growth rates are considerably stronger and their prospects are better.

This brings to mind Donald Rumsfeld's old famous formulation, the difference between Old Europe and New Europe, for which he took so much flack. Well now where the rubber hits the road, IBM is doing the same thing. You could say it is a wake-up call to Western Europe, but it looks like they are on snooze alarm.

GIGOT: A 12.5 percent unemployment rate in Germany, 10.2 percent in France, compared with our 5.2 percent. They have really got a big problem over there.

Private First Class Lyndie England tried to enter a guilty plea in return for a short sentence for her role in the Abu Ghraib prison abuses, but it all fell apart when her Army ex-lover testified she was following his lead.

David RivkinDAVID RIVKIN: This was a good week for the administration. Lyndie England's testimony delivered a mortal blow to the whole torture narrative, which of course posits that the reason those abuses were done was because of negligence or connivance or direct orders of spirit. In response to that question from a judge, England said very clearly, "We did it to gratify ourselves, not to assist in an interrogation."

Very importantly, there is also evidence that has come out that before they engaged in abuse of detainees, they engaged in a number of lewd and pornographic acts involving themselves, her lover, Sergeant Grainer, and other personnel. So to put it very crisply, they debased themselves and degraded themselves long before they started degrading and debasing the Iraqi prisoners. This really delivers a mortal blow to the whole concept of a senior leadership culpability in this whole unfortunate episode.

GIGOT: Is the plea bargain likely to be reinstated somehow?

RIVKIN: Yes, I believe so, but she may get a stiffer sentence.