Two dictators face two disasters, one is in China, the other in Burma. One is an earthquake, the other a flood. Tens of thousands are dead and millions at risk. Being dictatorial, both regimes responded in a manner heavy with the politics of sovereignty. In one case that helps people, in the other it kills them.
You don't have to be cynical to do foreign policy, but it helps. A sigh of relief rose over the West's chancelleries on Monday as it became clear that the Chinese earthquake was big -- big enough to trump Burma's cyclone. To add to the relief, Beijing was behaving better than it has over past calamities.
Was anything so old-fashioned as Labour's response to its drubbing at last week's polls? For the past four days the prime minister and his colleagues have sat stunned in a time warp. He appeared besuited on a Sunday television sofa, looking like a wet afternoon and talking about ''getting our message across'' and telling ''the truth about the Tories''.
The American presidential campaign has become a stumble along the Via Dolorosa. As the mob howls from the sidewalk, the candidates seem in a daze, falling to the ground every few steps. Mistakes, gaffes, leaks and 'misspeakings' form themselves into the Stations of the Cross, gradually defining the contest.
Britain should be so lucky. A top general grilled on the Iraq war by sceptical representatives of the people. An ambassador summoned to explain his policy before the cameras. Three detailed reports challenging the official line submitted to Congress. A nation in a ferment of debate.