Her Majesty’s government?Some light Saturday reading…
I think Tony Blair will from now on try to leave press conferences before someone gets a chance to ask the last question.
Back in September 2003 in Berlin, a British journalist asked Blair about being embarrassed about being a spokesperson for the American President when talking to Chancellor Schr?der and French President Chirac (afoe post). Blair was visibly surprised by the question, and certainly a little embarrassed that Chirac and Schr?der replied on his behalf.
Yesterday, Mr Blair must thus have sensed some kind of “d?j? vu” when the London Times correspondent asked Mr Bush if he indeed, as suggested by so many British, regarded Tony Blair as his “poodle”, or if he did not think that the US owed something to the UK for Mr Blair’s support. Mr Blair then sort-of-jokingly asked the President not to say “yes”, for that would be, well, difficult, before Mr Bush went on to praise Mr Blair’s leadership and wondered what he should owe a leader “[p]lenty capable of making his own mind.”
Since you’re going to read about this everywhere, you might as well read the original. So in the extended part of this post you can find the (slightly edited by the White House) transcript of that part of the press conference as well as the video footage. For the interesting bits, forward to the last minute or so. Enjoy.
Q Mr. President, first. The Prime Minister is sometimes, perhaps unfairly, characterized in Britain as your “poodle.” I was wondering if that’s the way you may see your relationship? And perhaps, more seriously, do you feel for the —
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Don’t answer “yes” to that question. If you do, I would be — (laughter.) That would be difficult.
Q Do you feel, for the strong support that Britain has given you over Iraq, that you have to pay back Britain for that support in some way?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The Prime Minister made the decision he did because he wanted to do his duty to secure the people of Great Britain. That’s why he made the decision. Plenty capable of making his own mind. He’s a strong, capable man. I admire him a lot. You know why? When he tells you something, he means it. You spend much time with politics, you’ll know there’s some people around this part of the — this kind of line of work where they tell you something, they don’t mean it. When he says something, he means it. He’s a big thinker. He’s got a clear vision. And when times get tough, he doesn’t wilt. When they — when the criticism starts to come his way — I suspect that might be happening on occasion — he stands what he believes in. That’s the kind of person I like to deal with. He is a — I’m a lucky person, a lucky President, to be holding office at the same time this man holds the Prime Ministership.
These are troubled times. It’s a tough world. What this world needs is steady, rock-solid leaders who stand on principle. And that’s what the Prime Minister means to me.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I just want to add one thing, which is that, well, this — this concept of payback — we are — we’re not fighting the war against terrorism because we are an ally of the United States. We are an ally of the United States because we believe in fighting this war against terrorism. We share the same objectives; we share the same values. And if we look back over our own history in the last half-century or more, we, both of us, in different ways, the United States and Britain, have a cause to be thankful for this alliance and this partnership. And I should we — I believe we should be thankful that it is as strong as it is today. And as long as I remain Prime Minister of our country, it will carry on being strong — not because that’s in the interests of America, simply, or in the interests of the international community, but because I believe passionately it is in the interests of Britain.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good job. Thank you, sir.
And while I was looking for the transcript on the White House website, I came accross another marvel. Apparently, some questions asked by concerned citizens are answered by White House Press Secretary, Scott McLellan, and then posted on the Press Office’s web site. And on September 22
I heard this morning that Scott McClellan has not met with reporters for more than a month now. What’s up with that?
thereby unwittingly provoking the following gem
A: Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary:
Katy, unfortunately the truth can be a casualty in an election year. Be wary of nonsensical and inaccurate diversionary tactics.