Can you believe this:
It is a question that has dogged Tony Blair and he seemed to cringe as President Bush had a stab at answering it.
“The prime minister is sometimes, perhaps unfairly, characterised in Britain as your poodle,” began the questioner. “I was wondering if that’s the way you may see your relationship? And perhaps, more seriously, do you feel for the …”
Mr Blair broke in: “Don’t answer ‘yes’ to that question,” he urged, prompting laughter.
The president, however, had already decided such a serious charge required a stern response from him.
“Plenty capable of making his own mind. He’s a strong, capable man,” he barked. “When times get tough he doesn’t wilt. You know, when the criticism starts to come his way – I suspect that might be happening on occasion – he stands for what he believes in.”
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we had a question from the press to two of the most powerful men in the world over whether or not one was accurately portrayed as a “poodle.”
Here’s a more sane piece regarding the relationship between PM Blair and the President:
There is no longer any question as to who is America’s strongest ally. Although successive US administrations have described Britain this way, they used to have ways of making other countries feel just as special: Canada was “our closest friend”, Mexico “our closest partner”, France “our oldest ally”. There is no such ambiguity now. George W Bush could not have been more helpful to Tony Blair yesterday. That is not to say that he was gushing – the Prime Minister would not have thanked him for that – rather, that he was calculatedly supportive of a partner whom he wants to keep in office.
It is to Mr Blair’s credit that he is as popular beyond the Beltway as in the White House. Americans consistently rate him as their favourite foreign leader and, to the extent that this rubs off on his country, the rest of us have cause to be grateful. He has his critics, of course. Some on the Left feel that Mr Blair has no business backing an unapologetically conservative administration. Some on the Right feel that Mr Bush ought not to have frozen out Michael Howard in order to bolster his friend, and complain about the one-sidedness of our extradition arrangements. Such critics unite in claiming that the special relationship is unbalanced, that Britain ought to have got more in return for its loyalty on the battlefield.