Rubbing people the wrong way

The G8 summit in St. Petersburg will stick in the memory longer than most international gab fests. What will be remembered, though, is not its deliberations on the crisis in Middle East or energy security, but George W. Bush’s open mic incident and his back rub of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Tony Blair was ...

607315_Massage5.jpg
607315_Massage5.jpg

The G8 summit in St. Petersburg will stick in the memory longer than most international gab fests. What will be remembered, though, is not its deliberations on the crisis in Middle East or energy security, but George W. Bush's open mic incident and his back rub of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Tony Blair was much mocked when the world found out that Bush hails him with a hearty "Yo Blair." The fact that Bush seemed to refuse Blair's request to go to the Middle East as a peace broker provided his critics with more ammunition for their attacks on him as an American poodle. But if he reads the transcript of this interview with Condi Rice conducted by Rebecca Walsh of the Salt Lake Tribune, Blair may feel that he got off lightly. 

Rice defends Bush from the over-heated charges of sexism that followed the Merkel massage by arguing:

The G8 summit in St. Petersburg will stick in the memory longer than most international gab fests. What will be remembered, though, is not its deliberations on the crisis in Middle East or energy security, but George W. Bush’s open mic incident and his back rub of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Tony Blair was much mocked when the world found out that Bush hails him with a hearty “Yo Blair.” The fact that Bush seemed to refuse Blair’s request to go to the Middle East as a peace broker provided his critics with more ammunition for their attacks on him as an American poodle. But if he reads the transcript of this interview with Condi Rice conducted by Rebecca Walsh of the Salt Lake Tribune, Blair may feel that he got off lightly. 

Rice defends Bush from the over-heated charges of sexism that followed the Merkel massage by arguing:

It’s just in his personality to be warm and to reach out and they have a lovely relationship. They are — very nice, easy relationship. You know he probably would have done it to Tony Blair, too.”

One dreads to imagine the derision that would have been poured on Blair in Britain if he had been caught on camera being massaged by Bush. The image would have priceless to his opponents. If you think I’m overstating, consider that the mere sight of the two of them looking at each other elicits the most negative reaction one veteran pollster has ever seen. Blair must be mighty relieved that, as Condi jokes, “they didn’t catch that picture.”

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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