The substance of the meeting between PM Tony Blair and President Bush on Tuesday was too often obscured by speculation over whether Blair would or would not be rewarded for his loyalty during the Iraq war. This stress on Blair’s travails in the role of “Bush’s poodle,” as his domestic opponents put it, has obscured the momentous matters Britain’s re-elected leader was trying to persuade Bush to take seriously. Blair presents an ethical brief for programmes to alleviate poverty, armed conflicts and preventable diseases in sub-Saharan Africa. Blair called upon Bush to join the other countries in doubling aid to Africa over the coming decade and granting 100 per cent debt relief. But Bush’s recalcitrance means he is failing the moral challenge of his time. And that failure appears all the more indefensible when considered against the backdrop of Bush’s domestic priority of cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

When it comes to Africa, a lot can still be accomplished by other members of the G-8 even if America lags behind. But on the other grave matter — global climate change — an American abstention can be crippling. The denial of scientific kno-wledge in deference to the short-term interests of powerful US energy corporations defines Bush as something less than a real national leader. — International Herald Tribune