Blair & Bush on Iraq, Washington 7 December, 2006


Not Mr Bush’s finest moment, I thought.

It may be the American way, but the President seems to love rambling answers most of the time. Perhaps he was nervous; or perhaps it’s to fill up the time to exclude really difficult questions to follow. Like for example, that of the BBC’s Nick Robinson! Poor Nick. He’s quite worried on his blog that Mr President has marked his card. In fact, Nick has probably done his job prospects no harm at all. I bet he’ll be off to the States before long to teach ourAmerican journalist cousins how to put their politicians on the spot!

Click to read transcript of Press Conference at the Eisenhower Executive Building, Washington.

Anyway, Tony Blair came out of the whole press conference in the White House looking like a politician of greater substance and stature than Mr Bush. Not least because he did not sound dismissive of the ISB Baker/Lee report.

Well, he wouldn’t, would he? After all he has already done much of the same thinking. Years ago he wanted to “chat with the neighbours”, but was over-ruled. Now Blair is in a stronger position than Bush, and must take advantage of that.

Payback Time For Bush

I have never heard Bush extolling his ally so effusively throughout a press conference, a fact that was not lost on Blair either. It’s payback time, Mr Bush, and you don’t have a lot of capital in the bank.

Now the Prime Minister needs to get on with the job and follow his diplomatic instincts. It’s worked for him in Northern Ireland.

We can’t expect any dramatic results in the short term. But if Blair at least gets the ball rolling, it may be that he instigates a new path to peace. That might provide some solace for the perceived “failures” which were not mainly of his doing, but for which he bears, it would seem, half of the responsibility.

Geoff Hoon, former Defence Secretary, has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons by releasing the information that the USA over-ruled the British wish to retain Iraqi troops on the downfall of Saddam. A cooling in the “special relationship”. Personally, I kind of hope so.

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