Clift Raises Ire of Canadian Journalist When She Calls Bush 'Dictator Who's Ineffective'

When, on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift charged that President Bush is “a dictator who's ineffective,” an incensed Chrystia Freeland, a Canadian native who is the Managing Editor in the U.S. of London's Financial Times, scolded Clift for using the dictator label “so loosely” and inaccurately.

Clift opined that of those attending the G-8 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin is “the only one of those leaders who goes in there with a commanding popularity among his own people, because he is perceived to be an effective dictator. What we have in this country is a dictator who's ineffective." Freeland, shouting over panelists who were trying to move on to other points, retorted: "But he's not a dictator! I mean we can't use, no we can't use these terms so loosely." Clift backtracked a bit: “Well we have an authoritarian President who is ineffective." But Freeland stood her ground, pointing out: "You guys can elect your Presidents and there can be a free choice. That's not the case in Russia."

Video clip (53 seconds): Real (1.6 MB) or Windows Media (1.8 MB), plus MP3 audio (320 KB).

A November press release last fall announcing Freeland's promotion, recounted: “A Canadian national, Ms. Freeland has held a number of senior positions at the Financial Times, including Weekend FT Editor, and Editor of FT.com. She was also Deputy Editor of The Globe & Mail, Toronto, and from 1994 to 1999 she worked at the FT as UK News Editor, Moscow Bureau Chief and Eastern Europe Correspondent.” Amazon's page for her book, Sale of the Century: The Inside Story of the Second Russian Revolution.

A transcript of the exchange on the July 15/16 McLaughlin Group taped on Friday afternoon:
John McLaughlin: “You wrote a book on Russia, right?”

Chrystia Freeland, Financial Times: “I did.”

McLaughlin: “Did you get into very much of Putin's administration?”

Freeland: “Well, I'm actually pleased to say that-”

McLaughlin: “You writing a book now?”

Freeland: “No, I wrote about Putin at the very end and I predicted that although some people thought he was going to turn out to be benign, he would actually turn out to be an authoritarian leader -- which I think is the case.”

McLaughlin: “Alright, I think that-”

Eleanor Clift: “He's the only one of those leaders who goes in there with a commanding popularity among his own people, because he is perceived to be an effective dictator. What we have in this country is a dictator who's ineffective.”

Freeland, shouting over others: “But he's not a dictator! I mean we can't use, no we can't use these terms so loosely.”

Clift: “So don't use that so loosely? Well we have an authoritarian President who is ineffective.”

Freeland: “No he's not authoritarian.”

Tony Blankley: “-small d.”

Freeland: “You guys, you guys can elect your Presidents and there can be a free choice. That's not the case in Russia.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center