NBC's Williams: Fmr. British PM Tony Blair 'May Never Recover' From Being Bush's 'Poodle' on Iraq War

In an interview with British Prime Minister David Cameron aired on Wednesday's NBC Rock Center, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams cautioned Cameron about one of his predecessors: "You'll concede, Prime Minister Blair may never recover from that label that was attached to him. Someone used the word 'poodle' to describe his relationship with President Bush as the march to war [in Iraq] continued."  

Moments earlier, Williams touted Cameron's criticism of the Iraq war: "Cameron, whose wife was in New York on 9/11, gave a speech in '06 criticizing the Iraq war, in which he said, 'Democracy cannot quickly be imposed from the outside. Liberty grows from the ground. It cannot be dropped from the air by an unmanned drone.'"

Williams bizarrely set up the topic by citing the 2003 movie "Love Actually": "There is a great speech – Hugh Grant playing your role and Billy Bob Thorton playing the visiting American president – in which they talk about the special relationship and how it covers all manner of sins."

A clip of the scene in question was played, in which Grant's character lectures: "I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants, and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to Britain."

Cameron rejected the notion from Williams that the Britain should be antagonistic to America: "I don't buy the theory that the British people somehow want their prime minister to be standoffish with the Americans. Yes, they want you to stand up for what matters for your country, if you have differences and you have disagreements. Air them, discuss them....But people don't want you to be standoffish. They want this relationship to be living, breathing and close."


Here is a transcript of the exchange aired on March 14:

10:06PM ET

(...)

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And you can't be in this structure and not think of "Love Actually"

[CLIP OF HUGH GRANT DANCING IN LOVE ACTUALLY]

DAVID CAMERON: I promise I haven't run and danced through here and sung.

WILLIAMS: I was just going to say, Hugh Grant seemed to have more fun than you're having while he – of course, he was a young, single prime minister.

CAMERON: Yeah, it's a remarkable film. I live in a flat just next door...

WILLIAMS: Next door.

 CAMERON: ...and I can sing and dance all I like in there. But not, not in here.

WILLIAMS: There is a great speech – Hugh Grant playing your role and Billy Bob Thorton playing the visiting American president – in which they talk about the special relationship and how it covers all manner of sins.

HUGH GRANT [IN LOVE ACTUALLY]: It covers all manner of sins, doesn't it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants, and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to Britain.

WILLIAMS: And the truth is, it hasn't always been that special. Is it special now? Is this a good time for the special relationship?

CAMERON: I believe it is. But I would take issue that I think it has been very special over the last few decades. Obviously, it's had highlights, whether Reagan and Thatcher or – you know, one can pick out those highlights. But the real nature of it is not just that the individuals have tried to get on and have a good relationship, as I have with President Obama, the real nature of the special relationship is the fact that we share the same interests.

WILLIAMS: But not always. Cameron, whose wife was in New York on 9/11, gave a speech in '06 criticizing the Iraq war, in which he said, "Democracy cannot quickly be imposed from the outside. Liberty grows from the ground. It cannot be dropped from the air by an unmanned drone." And not unlike the plot of the movie, the real-life Cameron has privately telegraphed the fact that on some issues there will be more distance between the U.S. and the UK, which was not the case a few years back.

You'll concede, Prime Minister Blair may never recover from that label that was attached to him. Someone used the word "poodle" to describe his relationship with President Bush as the march to war continued. You don't get to pick the American president who you serve with. The American president doesn't get to pick the British prime minister. Ideally, the relationship works. And world events go along.

CAMERON: The British people want their prime minister to mean something and work with others on the world stage and get things done. So I don't buy the theory that the British people somehow want their prime minister to be standoffish with the Americans. Yes, they want you to stand up for what matters for your country, if you have differences and you have disagreements. Air them, discuss them. That's exactly what Barack and I would do. But people don't want you to be standoffish. They want this relationship to be living, breathing and close.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC