ABC's World News Sunday featured a report about the upcoming meeting between President Bush and recently elected British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which included speculation about how Bush's relationship with Brown will compare to that with Tony Blair. Between anchor Dan Harris and correspondent John Cochran, the derogatory charge by Blair critics that he was Bush's "poodle" was mentioned three times. While Cochran described the label as "perhaps unfair," when the report concluded, Harris, after having already mentioned the "poodle" insult once as he introduced the story, followed up by remarking, "Potentially no more poodle." (Transcript follows)
Although Cochran laughed slightly, it is unclear whether Harris meant his "potentially no more poodle" remark as a joke or as serious commentary. The "poodle" label was not mentioned on the CBS Evening News as it covered the upcoming meeting between Bush and Gordon, while the NBC Nightly News showed the front page of an issue of The Mirror which displayed the "poodle" insult underneath a Bush/Blair political cartoon.
Below is a complete transcript of Cochran's story from ABC's World News Sunday from July 29, followed by a relevant portion of the July 29 NBC Nightly News:
From the July 29 World News Sunday:
DAN HARRIS: The new British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, just arrived here in the U.S. for a meeting with President Bush. Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, was lampooned by critics as Bush's "poodle." But the U.S./British relationship could now be changing. There is growing speculation that Britain may pull its troops out of Iraq. ABC's John Cochran is in Washington for us tonight.
JOHN COCHRAN: Before leaving London, the new Prime Minister promised to strengthen what he called Britain's most important, bilateral relationship.
GORDON BROWN, British Prime Minister: I believe the relationships between the British Prime Minister and the American prosecute will be as strong, should be strong, and I believe will be strengthened in the months and years to come.
COCHRAN: But another British official says Bush and Brown will not be "joined at the hip." That was a slap at the close relationship between Bush and Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair. The British press ridiculed Blair, perhaps unfairly, as Bush's "poodle" on the Iraq war. Bush and the war are deeply unpopular in Britain -- 85 percent in a recent poll disapproved of how Bush is handling the war.
DAVID GERGEN, Former presidential advisor: Gordon Brown's under enormous pressure at home to distance himself from Blair on the war. The war has been Tony Blair's real albatross in British politics.
COCHRAN: Brown has installed anti-war ministers in his Cabinet. And today's London Times reports he is considering an early British withdrawal from Iraq. The Prime Minister's office downplayed the report. But there are already plans to withdraw Bitish troops from the southern city of Basra to a safer location outside the city. The British military also believes it is more important for their troops to be in Afghanistan than Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH, to Tony Blair: Thanks for coming.
COCHRAN: With Tony Blair, President Bush not only had a strong ally on Iraq, he also liked Blair's energetic, outgoing personality. But Brown is more reserved.
ROBERT MCGEEHAN, University of London: The present Prime Minister is a very serious fellow. And he would like to have, what many people have called, a business-like relationship with President Bush.
COCHRAN: Dan, the White House has refused to predict whether the President's relationship with Gordon Brown will be as close as his relationship was with Tony Blair. When asked about that, the President's spokesman said, "Well, we'll find out."
HARRIS: Potentially no more poodle. John Cochran reporting from Washington tonight. John, thank you.
From the July 29 NBC Nightly News:
JOHN YANG: A reality that might lead Brown to carve out a more independent, more business-like relationship with Mr. Bush than his predecessor Tony Blair. At last year's G-8 Summit, an open mike captured the President thanking Blair for a personal gift, a sweater.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I know you picked it out yourself.
TONY BLAIR: Oh, absolutely. In fact, I knitted it!
YANG: Blair payed a political price for that relationship, one that Brown is eager to avoid.
ANTHONY HOWARD, British political commentator: The Prime Minister did suffer by being seen, I think wrongly myself, as a kind of errand boy for the President of the United States.