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Monday, October 10, 2005 

Carole Coleman on the Bush interview

Irish people won't need to be told which interview we're talking about. Carole Coleman (the former Washington Correspondent for Irish national broadcaster RTÉ) was gifted with an exclusive interview with Dear Leader President Bush in advance of his trip to Ireland last June, during the Irish EU presidency.

What ensued was probably the one and only time that Dubya has actually faced a real, live political reporter (and not the poodles in the White House press corps) and led to rare glimpse into the petulant bully that's the real Bush. See here for the RealPlayer video (beginning at 15:25). Bernie Goldbach has a transcript here.

Well, Ms. Coleman recounted her side of story in an RTÉ Guide interview which appeared shortly afterwards, and was notable mainly for the predictable tidbit that Dubya's aides try to carefully pre-screen what questions are to be asked. Now, however, Carole has given a more in-depth account in the Sunday Times (of all papers). The whole article is worth reading for an insight into BubbleBoy's carefully-insulated universe, and the efforts taken to maintain the illusion of a 'great man' for the American people:
"At the studio I handed over the tapes. My phone rang. It was MC, and her voice was cold.
“We just want to say how disappointed we are in the way you conducted the interview,” she said.
“How is that?” I asked.
“You talked over the president, not letting him finish his answers.”
“Oh, I was just moving him on,” I said, explaining that I wanted some new insight from him, not two-year-old answers.
“He did give you plenty of new stuff.”
She estimated that I had interrupted the president eight times and added that I had upset him. I was upset too, I told her. The line started to break up; I was in a basement with a bad phone signal. I took her number and agreed to call her back. I dialled the White House number and she was on the line again.
“I’m here with Colby,” she indicated.
“Right.”
“You were given an opportunity to interview the leader of the free world and you blew it,” she began.
I was beginning to feel as if I might be dreaming. I had naively believed the American president was referred to as the “leader of the free world” only in an unofficial tongue-in-cheek sort of way by outsiders, and not among his closest staff.
“You were more vicious than any of the White House press corps or even some of them up on Capitol Hill . . .The president leads the interview,” she said.
“I don’t agree,” I replied, my initial worry now turning to frustration. “It’s the journalist’s job to lead the interview.”
It was suggested that perhaps I could edit the tapes to take out the interruptions, but I made it clear that this would not be possible.
As the conversation progressed, I learnt that I might find it difficult to secure further co-operation from the White House. A man’s voice then came on the line. Colby, I assumed. “And, it goes without saying, you can forget about the interview with Laura Bush.”
Clearly the White House had thought they would be dealing with an Irish “colleen” bowled over by the opportunity to interview the Bushes. If anyone there had done their research on RTE’s interviewing techniques, they might have known better."
This is pretty much what was known before; but what hadn't come out until now was what happened the day after:

"I thought about the interview again as I climbed up the steps to RTE’s live camera position at Dromoland Castle to account for myself on the 6pm news next day. By now the White House had vented its anger to the Irish embassy in Washington. To make matters worse for the administration, the interview had made its way onto American television and CNN was replaying it around the world and by the end of the day it had been aired in Baghdad.
Had I been fair? Should I just have been more deferential to George Bush? I felt that I had simply done my job and shuddered at the thought of the backlash I would surely have faced in Ireland had I not challenged the president on matters that had changed the way America was viewed around the world.
Afterwards I bumped straight into the taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who was waiting to go on air.
“Howya,” he said, winking.
“I hope this hasn’t caused you too much hassle, taoiseach,” I blurted.
“Arrah, don’t worry at all; you haven’t caused me one bit of hassle,” he smiled wryly.
I don’t know what he said to the president, who reportedly referred to the interview immediately upon arrival, but if the taoiseach was annoyed with me or with RTE, he didn’t show it."
That's our El Berto - whatever else he may be, an unflappable class act.

"Libel"-Richard Waghorne
"Attack blog"-Damien Mulley

About me

  • An early-thirties male Irish technologist living and working in Dublin, I'm a former (recovering) member of both Fianna Fáil and the Roman Catholic Church.

    I'm not a member of any political party these days, but my opinions can be broadly categorised as 'lefty' and republican. I am also a former member of the Irish Defence Forces.

    Please feel free to check out the FI Fie Foe Fum group blog, where I was once a regular contributor, and the Cedar Lounge Revolution, where I can usually be found in the comments.

    (This blog and its contents reflect only my own personal opinions as a private citizen, and not those of any other person or organisation.)

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