Bush's open mike gaffe reveals truth of the special relationship
By Philip Webster in St Petersburg
Times TV: Watch Bush's gaffe
WHAT Hezbollah is doing in Lebanon is “shit”, according to the most powerful man on the planet.
President Bush’s uncomplicated view of world events was laid bare yesterday when his unguarded conversation with Tony Blair at the end of the G8 morning session in St Petersburg was picked up by a microphone and broadcast around the world.
Thus we learnt that Mr Bush and Mr Blair get on so well that the President greets the Prime Minister as a mate with the words “Yo, Blair. How are you doin’?”
In “Bush and Blair unplugged” we could also hear Mr Bush’s delight at being given a present, apparently a Burberry sweater, by his British friend and Mr Blair’s less than convincing claim that he had chosen it himself.
But on the issue of the moment, the Middle East conflagration, Mr Bush had a straightforward solution. “The thing is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over,” he told Mr Blair. The “they” was widely presumed to be Russia.
A transcipt of their exchange also reveals that Mr Blair volunteered for the task of going to the Middle East and taking the temperature.
Mr Bush tells him that Condoleezza Rice, his Secretary of State, will be going out to the region but that he has told her of Mr Blair’s offer. Mr Blair says: “It’s only if she needs the ground prepared as it were. Because obviously if she goes out she’s got to succeed, whereas I can go out and just talk.” It emerged later that a trip by Mr Blair had not been ruled out.
So clipped and familiar were their exchanges that at times it was difficult to work out what or whom they were talking about.
Who, for example, is the man Mr Bush calls “sweet” and Mr Blair calls “honey”? Mr Blair speaks of this mystery figure musing about Lebanon turning out fine, a solution being achieved in Israel and Palestine and Iraq going the right way.
At first the hot money was on it being Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary- General, but some believed that they meant President Assad of Syria. They were right, said officials: Mr Assad was the figure both leaders had in mind.
Asked what Mr Bush said when told his comments were overheard, White House spokesman Tony Snow said: "His reaction first was 'What did I say?', so we showed him the transcript, then he rolled his eyes and laughed."
‘Yo, Blair. How are you doin’?’
Bush Yo, Blair. How are you doin’?
Blair I’m just . . .
Bush You’re leaving?
Blair No, no, no, not yet. On this trade thingy . . .(inaudible)
Bush Yeah, I told that to the man. Thanks for (inaudible) it’s awfully thoughtful of you.
Blair It’s a pleasure.
Bush I know you picked it out yourself.
Blair Absolutely (inaudible).
Bush What about Kofi? (inaudible) His attitude to ceasefire and everything else . . . happens.
Blair Yeah, no I think the (inaudible) is really difficult. We can’t stop this unless you get this international business agreed.
Blair I don’t know what you guys have talked about, but as I say I am perfectly happy to try and see what the lie of the land is, but you need that done quickly because otherwise it will spiral.
Bush I think Condi is going to go pretty soon.
Blair But that’s, that’s, that’s all that matters. But if you . . . you see it will take some time to get that together.
Bush Yeah, yeah.
Blair But at least it gives people . . .
Bush It’s a process, I agree. I told her your offer to . . .
Blair Well, it’s only if, I mean, you know. If she’s got a, or if she needs the ground prepared, as it were. Because obviously if she goes out, she’s got to succeed, if it were, whereas I can go out and just talk.
Bush You see, the thing is, what they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s over. (inaudible)
Blair Because I think this is all part of the same thing.
Blair What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way . . .
Bush Yeah, yeah, he is sweet.
Blair He is honey. And that’s what the whole thing is about. It’s the same with Iraq.
Bush I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to Assad and make something happen.
Bush We are not blaming the Lebanese Government.
Blair Is this . . .? (he taps the microphone in front of him and the sound is cut.)
Expect plenty of disagreement. Just keep it civil.
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