Ireland

Selling Out For No Reason Whatsoever

There's a weird but good line from Se7en (1995) when Detective Somerset asks Detective Mills:

"I wonder what exactly was the point of the conversation you were about to get into?"

I thought of that line when I saw Taoiseach Leo Varadkar publicly tell a story to Donald Trump in order to flatter the criminal, bigot president of the United States.

Just what was he thinking? Are Fine Gael ministers this bloody daft?

Selling out is one thing, but selling out for absolutely nothing, to a U.S. president who is universally loathed, is mind boggling.

Fine Gael need to be voted out of power. Just what will it take to motivate the Irish to vote differently at the polls?

How's That DUP Partnership Going?

Splendidly, I see. When a minority party member delivers that much burn, you see just how outdated and terrible the DUP is. If anyone believes that Northern Ireland, in 2017, is "Britain," then he's really living in the past.

When the Conservative Party won the flash general election this past June, it was obvious that it will be difficult to form a stable government. The Tories, desperate to remain in power, had no choice but to let the Unionist tail wag the UK's dog. This deal with the backward Irish Orangemen promised to produce a hideous government in Westminster.

But as you might have seen today, the chances of that government holding together became more difficult. How a party looks can be just as important as how a party performs. That rule used to be true in the US, but it holds in the UK. 

As you probably recall, back in the 1990's, peace was impossible in Northern Ireland because the British Tories were absolutely dependent on Ian Paisley's Unionist Party for their parliamentary majority. It was only when Labour won in 1997 that the Good Friday agreement became possible. Because Blair's government was not in need of Unionist votes, he could use Clinton's good offices to broker a deal in Belfast.  

Today's Required Viewing

You may have heard back in June 2004 that an Irish journalist, Carol Coleman, was inturruptive and unfair to President Bush in an RTE interview held in the White House library. It was so unfair, in fact, it was never broadcast in the US. The transcript and video have been available on the Internet since June 2004. But it made its way to You Tube in November, 2006. And it is even better than it was originally described.

It is an incredible look at a man who is either brainwashed by his handlers or certifiably insane. This is George W. Bush at the peak of his arrogance, just months before his narrow reelection.

Watch it. Oh, and let the man finish, please. Finish away.


John Nichols: Pampered Bush meets a real reporter
By John Nichols
June 29, 2004

On the eve of his recent sojourn in Europe, President Bush had an unpleasant run-in with a species of creature he had not previously encountered often: a journalist.

He did not react well to the experience.

Bush's minders usually leave him in the gentle care of the White House press corps, which can be counted on to ask him tough questions about when his summer vacation starts.

Apparently under the mistaken assumption that reporters in the rest of the world are as ill-informed and pliable as the stenographers who "cover" the White House, Bush's aides scheduled a sit-down interview with Carole Coleman, Washington correspondent for RTE, the Irish public television network.

Coleman is a mainstream European journalist who has conducted interviews with top officials from a number of countries - her January interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell was apparently solid enough to merit posting on the State Department's Web site.

Unfortunately, it appears that Coleman failed to receive the memo informing reporters that they are supposed to treat this president with kid gloves. Instead, she confronted him as any serious journalist would a world leader.

She asked tough questions about the mounting death toll in Iraq, the failure of U.S. planning, and European opposition to the invasion and occupation. And when the president offered the sort of empty and listless "answers" that satisfy the White House press corps - at one point, he mumbled, "My job is to do my job" - she tried to get him focused by asking precise follow-up questions.

The president complained five times during the course of the interview about the pointed nature of Coleman's questions and follow-ups - "Please, please, please, for a minute, OK?" the hapless Bush pleaded at one point, as he demanded his questioner go easy on him.

After the interview was done, a Bush aide told the Irish Independent newspaper that the White House was concerned that Coleman had "overstepped the bounds of politeness."

As punishment, the White House canceled an exclusive interview that had been arranged for RTE with first lady Laura Bush.

Did Coleman step out of line? Of course not. Watch the interview (it's available on the www.rte.ie Web site) and you will see that Coleman was neither impolite nor inappropriate. She was merely treating Bush as European and Canadian journalists do prominent political players. In Western democracies such as Ireland, reporters and politicians understand that it is the job of journalists to hold leaders accountable.

The trouble is that accountability is not a concept that resonates with our president. The chief executive who gleefully declares that he does not read newspapers cannot begin to grasp the notion that journalists might have an important role to play in a democracy. And, if anything, the hands-off approach of the White House press corps has reinforced Bush's conceits.

Bush would be well served by tougher questioning from American journalists, especially those who work for the television networks. And it goes without saying that more and better journalism would be a healthy corrective for our ailing democracy.

Come to think of it, maybe one of the American networks should hire Carole Coleman and make her its White House correspondent. It would be Ireland's loss and America's gain.