It wasn’t meant to be overheard. Private luncheon conversations among world leaders, picked up by a microphone, provided a rare window into both banter and substance — including President Bush cursing Hezbollah’s attacks against Israel.
Bush expressed his frustration with the United Nations and his disgust with the militant Islamic group and its backers in Syria as he talked to British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the closing lunch at the Group of Eight summit.
“See the irony is that what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this s--- and it’s over,” Bush told Blair as he chewed on a buttered roll.
He told Blair he felt like telling U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who visited the gathered leaders, to get on the phone with Syrian President Bashar Assad to “make something happen.” He suggested Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice might visit the region soon.
Raw and unscripted
The unscripted comments came during a photo opportunity at the lunch. The leaders clearly did not realize that a live microphone was picking up their discussion.
Bush also spoke to other leaders, and his unscripted comments ranged from the serious topic of escalating violence in the Mideast to light banter about his preference for Diet Coke and a gift he received from another leader.
Blair, whose remarks were not as clearly heard, appeared to be pressing Bush about the importance of getting international peacekeepers into the region.
As he chats with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bush expresses amazement that it will take Putin and an unidentified leader just as long to fly home to Moscow as it will take him to fly back to Washington. Putin’s reply could not be heard.
“You eight hours? Me too. Russia’s a big country and you’re a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. ... Russia’s big and so is China. Yo Blair, what’re you doing? Are you leaving,” Bush said.
Bush thanked Blair for a gift of a sweater and joked that he knew Blair had picked it out personally. “Absolutely,” Blair responded, with a laugh.
Bush, a stickler for keeping to his schedule, could also be heard telling Putin, “We’ve got to keep this thing moving. I have to leave at 2:15. They want me out of town so to free up your security forces.”
Bush also remarked that some of the speakers at the meeting had the tendency to talk too long.