When President Bush heads overseas, it’s ripe pickings for late night talk show hosts.

President Bush is in Germany right now. One embarrassing moment when he asked the German Chancellor if he could see the site where they filmed Hogan’s Heroes. – Jay Leno

You’re asking yourself where’s President Bush? I’ll tell you where he is. He’s in Europe preparing for the G8 Summit and he’s very excited. He thinks it’s a conference on vegetable juice. – David Letterman

President Bush left for the G8 Summit today in Russia. The White House says he’s going to try and convince other world leaders to develop nuclear power. Apparently, it’s working, because so far, Bush has convinced Iran and North Korea. – Conan O’Brien

But as ever, when it comes to gaffes, Bush does it best. This time, the fun started during a break at the G8 conference in Russia. Bush bailed up British PM Tony Blair – with the opening gambit: “Yo Blair” – and the two nattered about trade talks, sweaters and the Middle East situation before Blair realised the mic was on. Perhaps the most interesting tidbit is Bush’s belief that Syria is pulling the strings and could “get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh-t”, not to mention Blair’s apparent subservience.

Media transcripts of the conversation differ somewhat. The BBC version, which picks up from just before the Middle East discussion, records:

Bush: And thanks for the sweaters – I know you picked em out yourself…

Blair: Oh yes absolutely – in fact I knitted it!!!

(laughter)

Bush: What about Kofi Annan – he seems alright. I don’t like his ceasefire plan. His attitude is basically ceasefire and everything sorts out…. But I think…

Blair: Yeah the only thing I think is really difficult is that we can’t stop this without getting international presence agreed. I think what you guys have talked about which is the criticism of the [inaudible word). 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: Yeah I think Condi’s [US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) gonna go soon.

Blair: Well that’s all that matters but if you… You see at least it gets it going.

Bush: I agree it’s a process…I told her your offer too.

Blair: Well it’s only if she needs the ground prepared as it were. If she goes out she HAS to succeed whereas I can just go and…

Bush: You see the irony is what they need to is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this sh-t and it’s all over…

Blair: Dunno… Syria….

Bush: Why?

Blair: Because I think this is all part of the same thing…

Bush: (with mouth full of bread) Yeah

Blair: Look – what does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine. If you get a solution in Israel and Palestine. Iraq goes in the right way

Bush: Yeah – he’s [indistinct]

Blair: Yeah…. He’s had it. That’s what all this is about – it’s the same with Iran.

Bush: I felt like telling Kofi to call, to get on the phone to [Syrian President] Assad and make something happen.

Blair: Yeah

BUSH: [indistinct] blaming Israel and [indistinct] blaming the Lebanese government….

For a different transcript (complete with explanatory annotations), see The Independent.

Peter Fray

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