The Iron Bitch (1925-2013)
I see, from the NYT "Afternoon Update," that "Tributes Pour In for Margaret Thatcher." No, I didn't waste a click on it, fairly confident that the real key words, like "peabrain" and "bitch," would be in sparse supply.
What to say about the old Iron Bitch on the occasion of her passing? One of washingtonpost.com's associate Fixers, Sean Sullivan, today tried to fob off "5 moments that show why Margaret Thatcher mattered in American politics," but most of them aren't so much moments as, um, fuzzy symbioses between Thatcherite Britain and Reaganitic America.
Here's one I like, though (links onsite):
2) Strains in the relationship: The Reagan-Thatcher relationship wasn’t always so rosy. Reagan didn’t immediately support Britain in its conflict with Argentina in the Falkland Islands in 1982, urging the European ally to pursue talks. And Thatcher’s government denounced the Reagan-sanctioned invasion of Grenada in 1983.I'm hard put to say what moment exactly is being defined here, or how exactly it shows "why Margaret Thatcher mattered in American politics." But I do like the image it conquers: the twin Great Conservative Leaders of the West at the pinnacle of their achievements, Mrs. Thatcher as the Conqueror of the Falklands, Master Ronnie as the Conqueror of Grenada -- each, mind you, achieving this feat for the ages without the support of his/her also-evil twin.
Documents that were newly declassified in 2012 revealed some of the details of the strains in the Thatcher-Reagan relationship. Thatcher once described a Reagan dispatch on the Falklands invasion as “so vague, I didn’t think it was worth reading."
Actually, I like one of Sean's other "5 moments":
5) Spurning Sarah Palin: In 2011, the Guardian newspaper reported that Thatcher would not be meeting with Sarah Palin during Palin’s trip to London. "Lady Thatcher will not be seeing Sarah Palin. That would be belittling for Margaret. Sarah Palin is nuts," the paper quoted one Thatcher ally as saying. The rejection sparked an outcry among conservatives in the United States, lending a great deal of attention to the non-meeting.This is at least unquestionably a "moment," though again it's hard to see how it shows the long-out-of-power Mrs. T influencing U.S. politics. For that matter, as I understand it, it also didn't have much to do with Mrs. T, who by then was pretty much beyond making decisions about much of anything. Actually, it seems to me rather a shame that no such meeting took place.
The Iron Bitch's sad decline into dementia tends to take some of the sting off her record of appallingness, which is too bad. She deserves to be remembered for the height of her arrogant, ignorant insufferability and authoritarianism.
Of course it's true that the way was paved for her assault on the state by a succession of Labour leaders unequal to the task of finding an enlightened liberal response to the problems of the time. The New Yorker's John Cassidy recalls Mrs. T, on her way into 10 Downing Street to take over the reins of government in May 1979, "flanked by two burly policemen, her blonde hair swept back and lacquered into immobility," saying --
in a voice that, even today, thirty-four years later, can set my teeth grating, "There is now work to be done."Via a link from the Cassidy piece I got for free to the NYT's John F. Burns and Alan Cowell's "Thatcher Freed Market Forces, and Europe Is Still Adjusting," which mostly tracks tributes and breathless admiration, but manages to squeeze in a scant paragraph noting that --
Indeed there was. Even her harshest critics would concede as much. By the late nineteen-seventies, the social compact that had held Britain together since the Second World War appeared to be coming apart at the seams. During the previous decade, under governments of both major parties, there had been a seemingly endless series of labor strikes, which had brought the country to a standstill. To a schoolboy like me, they were sometimes fun. When the bus drivers went on strike, you didn't have to go to school. When the lights went out, because of a stoppage by power workers, you couldn't do your homework. But in the winter of 1978-79, when the local government unions walked out, leaving the garbage piling up in the streets and the dead laying, unburied, in the morgues, many Brits decided that enough was enough. Prominent among them was the grocer's daughter from Grantham, a nondescript market town in Lincolnshire.
the commemorations were accompanied, too, by more acerbic, even vitriolic, remembrances from those, particularly on the political left, who saw her as a destructive figure, who had ruptured the economic and social fabric of post-war Britain and left a country that was more divided, more selfish, and, for the have-nots, more resentful than at any time in its recent history.But then, you know those left-wingers. It's true that Thatcher's conservatism didn't have an awful lot in common with the kind practiced by the lunatics of the American Right, who even as we speak are wetting themselves in tribute to their goddess, but it was still savagely destructive of the social fabric. However, that seems hardly worth talking about. So apparently we won't.
Labels: Margaret Thatcher