Today's Guardian reports that Blair's moral qualities are under threat .
Mr Mandelson, who remains one of the prime minister's closest allies, said there were some inside and outside the Labour party who were exploiting the Iraq issue in order to harm Mr Blair's integrity. 'They do not seem to care what the cost may prove to be to the party or government,' he said.
I would have thought Blair's integrity incapable of being harmed by political attacks. The perception of his integrity, certainly, but not his integrity itself. It is in fact patently absurd to say that criticism is destroying Blair's integrity, as if he were a medieval king an needed everyone to bend the knee.
The same courtly language has flourished in the US recently, most famously as:
MR. RUSSERT:� Is it appropriate to call the president of the United States a deserter?
The best answer to that is to restate its terms slightly, either as:
Is it appropriate to call the president of the United States a draft-dodger?
Is it appropriate for the president of the United States to be a deserter?
Is it appropriate for the president of the United States to procure a burglary?
I am not aware of anyone feeling that Clinton should be exalted above the draft-dodger language, although that is a much lesser charge than desertion. Nor does anyone any longer contend that Nixon was above the law.
I am equally unaware of the US media, including the eminent Mr Russert, investigating the AWOL issue much beyond the kind of appalling vista investigation made famous by Lord Denning. If you declare even the question too appalling, there is simply no way you can ever investigate it. And that is not a happy thought.