This isn’t just
an excuse for gratuitous toilet humour at Dubya’s expense. In case you
missed it, this is the note that George W Bush wrote to Condoleezza
Rice during a Security Council meeting at the UN world summit on
Wednesday: “I think I may need a bathroom break? Is this possible?” The
image was captured by the powerful lens of Reuters photographer Rick
Wilking.

The conspiracy vultures were soon circling,
claiming that this was a plot to embarrass the president. But Wilking
was quick to shoot them down. It was taken “at a pretty good distance,”
he says.
“I had no idea what was on the paper.” Until, that is, the editors at
Reuters enlarged it. “I was just as surprised as you,” says Wilking.

“Rick
had no idea what he was shooting, or what Bush was writing,” news
editor-photos for the Americas at Reuters, Gary Hershorn told Editor & Publisher.
Wilking assumed the president was taking notes on what some other
official was saying. “If Rick knew what he was writing we’d have 25
pictures of this, not two.”

But that didn’t stop the London Times revelling in the opportunity for a p*ss-take, with no fewer than three articles on the story.

Mr
Bush, who had delivered his speech on terrorism, “waited politely until
Tony Blair had finished his address,” says James Bone in the paper.
It was only as President Kerekou of Benin was about to speak that Bush
got up and left the room with his UN Ambassador John Bolton. He was
then waylaid by John Howard on his way into the chamber, a lavatory
which is “famous in UN circles because a high-ranking protocol official
once allegedly tried to fondle a messenger boy there.”

The Times
then
brings in the big gun for an extra angle: Mark Fordham, consultant
urologist at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. The 59-year-old President
was wise not to wait any longer, he says: “In older men it is unwise to
delay passing urine when there is a strong need to, as there is a risk
of developing acute urinary retention.”

And The Timespersisted
with an enlightening article from Michael Binyon: “From emptying of the
diplomatic bag to breaking wind before Virgin Queen:” how the need to
relieve oneself diplomatically has on occasion determined the fate of
nations.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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