Around the time Mikhail Gorbachev received the 2008 Liberty Medal for his role in ending the Cold War, Russia and Georgia went to war. From a public-relations standpoint, that’s not good timing.
When National Constitution Center CEO Mark Eisner presents the award to former British prime minister Tony Blair tonight, the situation won’t be quite as extreme. It’s only Blair versus people throwing eggs and shoes in protest of a war that’s theoretically ended.
Eisner sat down with Metro to explain why Blair was chosen.
Why was Blair selected?
He’s amazingly important in areas of conflict resolution. His work with Northern Ireland, Israel/Palestine and Africa meshes with what the Constitution stands for: citizen engagement, moving toward peace. It’s connected to the importance of balance and compromising interests. We try to look for broad international impact as it pertains to peace and human dignity.
Are you worried about the protests that Blair is facing on his book tour?
It’s really interesting to see how different people and groups tend to see their former prime minister. It’s fascinating, but it reminds me of how it was the same way with Margaret Thatcher. But, it’s particularly issue-focused and doesn’t get at the heart of why we’re giving him the Liberty Medal. I haven’t heard [of any planned protests].
We’ve had presidential candidates, cabinet secretaries. We’re pretty accustomed to [security]. Between President Clinton’s security team and Blair’s security team, they’ll take our folks to school.
Tell me about the book event you’ll moderate between Clinton and Blair this afternoon.
People seem to be enjoying the book. If there’s any downside to the medal ceremony, it’s televised and, thus, scripted. It’s not open to spontaneous dialogue. This event allows an open, frank discussion.