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In the Crossfire

Do British royals belong in a wax museum?

(CNN) -- A huge, festive crowd converged Monday evening at Buckingham Palace in London to hear a spectacular pop concert and give a rousing cheer to Queen Elizabeth II, marking her 50 years on the British throne. But is the monarchy an anachronism or does it still serve a vital role in English society? Robert Jobson, from the British daily newspaper The Evening Standard, joins "Crossfire" hosts Dee Dee Myers and Tucker Carlson for a debate over the royals.

CARLSON: Thanks to Mr. Washington and his friends, these United States are not ruled by King George III, or for that matter, by Queen Elizabeth II. As you may have seen earlier on CNN, the Brits threw a huge bash for the queen today to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. The monarchy was a bad idea back in 1776. Why should anybody, apart from "The National Enquirer," get excited about it now?

Joining us to answer those questions and more, live from Buckingham Palace, London, is The Evening Standard's Robert Jobson.

MYERS: Robert Jobson, thank you for being with us. Are you enjoying the festivities at the 50th anniversary? And you know, most Americans here on this side of the Atlantic view the monarchy as really little more than fodder for the tabloids. Our constitution institutionalizes the idea that all people are created equal. The British monarchy institutionalizes the idea that some people are born better than others, imbued by God with some kind of special powers. Why do the British people put up with it? It's ridiculous.

JOBSON: I don't think that's strictly true. They don't regard people as better. I think the queen and the royal family have got a job to do, which is to serve in the duty and the way they have to do it, which a million people...

MYERS: What is their job?

JOBSON: Well, a million people in the streets of London turned out to celebrate the queen, who had been on the throne for 50 years. Her job, actually, is to, I think, to act as a figurehead to the British people. And by the look of the way they celebrated tonight, they certainly are doing a very good job.

CARLSON: Well, Mr. Jobson, I mean, it seems from the American spectrum that her job is really to be head of this giant wax museum known as England. And that without her, England would be indistinguishable from anyplace else in Europe, sort of like Belgium, but with worse food and mad cow disease. Is that true?

JOBSON: I think that at present, it looks more like the wax -- I think you've got more problems than we have. There were a million people out here. They really enjoyed it tonight. There's a great party in the palace. And I think we were right to celebrate.

I hope that -- I think that actually, having someone on the throne from the very beginning of this -- halfway through the last century, I think she's done a damned good job. And I think we should celebrate that fact. And no, I don't think she's just the head of a wax museum. I think that's guilty of things at Washington, rather than back in the palace.

MYERS: Yes, and that clearly, a lot of the British people feel like Queen Elizabeth has done a good job, that she's been a steady influence, a responsible figure presiding over the country through, you know, 50 years of very tumultuous times. The feelings are not necessarily the same about her son, who becomes king regardless of whether people think he's up to it. Do people think he's up to it? He's had a very, very spotty public career so far.

JOBSON: Well, I think tonight he delivered a fantastic speech in honor of his mother, which was cheered on the streets of London. I think he did a very good job. I think Prince Charles does an awful lot of things behind the scenes that people don't recognize. He raises a lot of money for charities, he's a great environmentalist. And I think we should applaud him for the things he does.

Whether our system is... obviously the things you're talking about here, I think the British constitutional monarchy works quite well, and so do the British people.

CARLSON: No, but I mean, speaking of the things that Prince Charles does, I mean, one of his most famous and public campaigns has been for toilets that use less water when they flush. His former wife went out and publicly discussed her bulimia.

I mean, if you're -- isn't there a contradiction here? If you're going to have a monarchy that imbues the rest of the country with dignity, shouldn't its members behave with dignity?

JOBSON: Well, I think on the whole, the queen has behaved with great dignity over the last 50 years. You may be able to criticize junior members of the royal family, but very few people can criticize the queen for 50 years of duty.

I mean, you've got to bear in mind that a president of the United States lasts a maximum of eight years. And I think after the last president, the fiasco, I don't think anybody can criticize our monarchy for the way that they behave when you have...

CARLSON: Which wasn't even elected in the first place, I beg your pardon, please.

MYERS: It was elected. But so -- should the British people just pass over Charles and go right to the handsome and dashing Prince William? Would there be popular support for that?

JOBSON: If you start changing the system. The system works because it is a system that operates in the way that it does, which is...

MYERS: But previous princes have abdicated.

JOBSON: They have, but before they've actually been crowned. The fact was that Edward VIII was never crowned. And that's the only person that has abdicated actually. Previous to that, it hasn't happened.

CARLSON: OK, Mr. Jobson...

JOBSON: And that was simply because he ran up several American divorcees, I think was the problem there.

CARLSON: Well, there you go. And consider that before you criticize our president the next time. But thank you for joining us, Mr. Jobson. We sure appreciate it.




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