Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Meeting Tony Blair and Dealing With The Secret Service!- Live from Los Angeles, California

Hello to all of my friends and students around the world,

This morning, I am writing to you from the great city of Los Angeles, California.

This week we are training in California, and it just so happens that the hotel that I am in is the same hotel that Tony Blair, the Prime Minister of England is in for a different event.

I have never seen so many Secret Service Agents in my life. I will be posting photos so that you can see!

There was a huge protest across the street and I was permitted to go behind the police lines to watch this mass of humanity fightng for their cause.

Here are some of the questions that Mr. Blair was asked during a news conference that I attended at the Westin Bonaventure, as reported by my associate Michelle Keller at the Los Angeles Times:

Tony Blair popped by the Times Tuesday on his first-ever visit to Los Angeles, and we peppered him. During his hour-long conversation with Times editors, the prime minister spoke about Iraq, Israel-Lebanon violence, and the lockstep U.S.-British relationship. Blair touched on climate change, troubled global trade talks, and Bush's off-the-cuff "Yo, Blair!" shout out and impromptu backrub to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. ("He's never massaged me," Blair quipped.)

Our online call for questions last weekend brought a torrent of tirades, quips, and searching queries. We picked a unique one about African aid. But the Middle East dominated the discussion — and readers' concerns — and a subdued Blair couldn't escape the maelstrom. — Michelle Keller

Featured question

Why do you continually focus so much on increasing economic aid to Africa instead of corruption, when you know, and if you don't you certainly need to find out the reality, especially here in Nigeria, that the VAST majority of it never reaches the poor people for which it is intended?

— Adisa, Lagos, Nigeria
Blair's response

"We've got a peer review process, which the African governments are going through, which is actually quite robust, where they have to come up to certain benchmarks on democratic process.
"We've also got the agreement on the extractive industries, which I'm trying to get everybody to agree to, but which will basically mean that there is transparency in all the exploitation of the metal resources of Africa so that people see what's actually being paid and why.
"The only way of dealing with Africa is a partnership. We have got to put immense pressure on African countries and African leadership to stop practices of corruption, to get proper judicial systems, we are prepared to help and support them in that, but it was actually a very important moment when President [Olusegun] Obasanjo put forward his proposal to stand for a third term, they said no, and now he's leaving office. That's important. There have been African countries changing hands for the first time democratically. But then you get a situation like Zimbabwe where you kind of despair because the pressure for change there should be coming from within Africa, not from outside Africa.


On Middle East violence: "My argument is that the immediate crisis in the Lebanon is indicative of some far deeper crisis, which is basically a struggle about global values.... The most important thing is that we show that our values are based not just on freedom but also on fairness."

On Hezbollah: "From [Iran and Syria's] perspective what you've got is the possibility of tying together a whole series of disputes in the region and radicalizing Islamic opinion.... That's the purpose of the whole action from the Hezbollah."

On Israeli bombing of Lebanon: What happened at Qana was terrible and tragic, but the fact is you're not going to get a cease-fire unless it's on both sides as part of an agreement.... Short term — there's no point in being absurd about it — there's a lot of damage to the cause of moderation done amongst the Arab and Muslim countries, but what's Israel supposed to do when it comes under attack like that?"

On Iraq's future: "It has evolved into a different type of conflict ... and we will judge whether we have succeeded or not when the democratically elected Iraqi government is predominantly in charge of its country.... You cannot say we have succeeded if in Baghdad actually you've got militias running the streets rather then the Iraqi army and security forces. So that's the test."

"What it is now, as I keep saying, is an existential struggle for the very values that will govern the Middle East."

On the U.S.-British relationship: "You've basically got a very strong U.S. view of the world, which we share in terms of values, and I would say Europe predominantly shares."

On Israel-Palestinian relations: "We should be supporting the Palestinian Authority to make its institutions capable of proper democratic government, and we should be actually locating the people who are prepared to accept a two-state solution on the Palestinian side, we should be isolating those who aren't prepared to accept it.... What we have to do the whole time is to manage it [and] always have a process not a vacuum."

On global trade: "The world trade talks [are] not a big deal in America, is it? For a lot of countries, it is a big issue, because for some of these poorest countries, they are desperate to get a development package that allows them start trading effectively."

On climate change: "America should always be in the lead on every major issue.... You could take the view if America led on climate change the rest of the world would resent it, but actually they wouldn't. The rest of the world would say, 'Well, that's great, America's caring about an issue we care about.'... A climate change deal without America, China and India is, how can I put it, not entirely effective."

On use of force: "Sudan is a classic example in which once again we are not intervening as strongly as we should be.... I'm basically an interventionist. Afghanistan shows you what happens when you're not. We let that place go."

On Bush: "Any world leader who deals with President Bush will tell you that whatever disagreement some of them may have with his policy, he is always a charming and courteous person to deal with."

On terror since 9/11: "When we look back, it was a momentous thing to decide to fight this not on the basis of security simply but on the basis of values.... In our own countries there is better security. They're further behind in the sense that in Iraq and Afghanistan for all the difficulties there is a foothold there for democracy. But they're obviously not further behind in their ability to radicalize the Islamic world."


Note: We did not verify readers' identities or fix their grammar or punctuation.

Many on the political left here in the US seem to constantly call for the immediate withdrawl of coalition forces from Iraq. I have worked with many Brits in Kuwait and Iraq. It seems to me that ANY talk of withdrawl is pointless and counterproductive. What are your thoughts on the issue?

— Joshua,
Fayetteville, North Carolina
How could you attach your future to George Bush's vision for a war when even your intelligence services knew the war was fabricated?

— Eric, Long Beach
Do you honestly see any end to Iraq war?

— Rajan Radhakrishnan,
Alta Loma
Why have you sacrificed your honor your prestige and the lives of your soldiers by following George Bush's illegal war?

— Luis Gonzalez, Marietta, Georgia
Having the experience of the british army fighting the IRA for years without ever winning ,how did you send british troops out to Iraq and feel confident that you were not repeating past mistakes?

— Michelle Rogers, New York
We in America have a great deal of respect for people who admit to their mistakes. So, can you finally tell us your true reason for invading Iraq? Really.

— Sergio Eguiguren, El Segundo
It is obvious now to any serious observer that President Bush was bent on invading Iraq from the moment he took office and that the intelligence was intentionally distorted to make his case for war. How could an otherwise intelligent world leader such as yourself fall for such an obvious trap and do you accept that lending your support to the war is waht made it inevitable?

— Raouf Elbeleidy, Los Angeles
Do you think intelligence leading up to the war in Iraq was politicized?

— Stephen Warren, Coppell, Texas
I'm so glad the U.S. spent 300 billion on Iraq instead of on something really crazy like, you know curing cancer, or eradicating poverty. Because if we spent 300 billion on that who knows? I'm much happier we shocked and awed Baghdad. What say you?

— Chris, Rancho Palos Verdes
The Bush-Blair Connection

Why don't you end your unholly "marriage" of codependency with the egomaniac, compulsive-obsessive, sociopath, with his divine religious mandate, being the messenger of his god, George Bush and for the survivial of your Island nation, fully intergrade in every aspect wih the EC for the best interest of Britain and it's future. After all, over 70% of British Citizens disagree with you for backing the conservative republican prevesre ideology of inequality and rights only of their kind.

— Mohinder L. Jerath, Alameda
As an ex-pat Brit living in L.A. - or as I like to think of myself, a refugee from Blair's Britain - is Tony Blair comfortable with the fact that his much heralded "legacy" will be viewed, in Britain at least, as of his presiding over the most appalling degeneration of public and political standards in living memory? He will also forever be associated with dragging the U.K. into the Iraq war on spurious and concocted evidence, being George Bush's poodle, plummetting education standards, uncontrolled mass immigration, and the dismantling of Britain's historical and cultural heritage. Mr. Blair is a personable man and a fine public speaker - but he is surely kidding himself if he thinks that his legacy will be regarded as anything but a complete disaster for Britain.

— Phil Swinburne, Los Angeles
Anything you can do to help teach George not to talk with his mouth full?

— Howard Ibach, Minneapolis
You are more intelligent and articulate than George W. Bush. Why do you follow Bush policies that are not only bankrupt but immoral: An Iraqi war that have led to a quagmire, Israeli-Hezbollah policies that breed suffering, and other policies that slight humanitrarian aid?

— Jim Hoover, Huntington Beach
If George Bush were running for political office in the UK, would you vote for him?

— Mike McNew, Marina
How come you appear to be the charlie mc carthy to george bush's edgar bergen, apology to mr. bergen?

— G.W. Moore, Los Angeles
There was a time when you were saying that by allying closely with Geroge W. Bush, you could privately influence him on Climate changes and the Palestinian conflict. What are your achievements in this respect and don't you feel that, at the end of the day, it turned out to be the other way around onj both issues, namely you aligned yourself on Bush's policies both on environment and on the Palestinian issue?

— Olivier Da Lage, Paris, France
I am very impressed with Mr. Blair. Why has he not attempted to confront the Bush Administration on its mistakes? We all count on good friends to point out our mistakes on a personal level, and the same thing needs to occur at the national level, in my opinion.

— Jeffrey W Wallace, San Diego
Your esteem & reputation in the UK has unfortunately fallen each time you have supported President Bush after Afghanistan. Do you have regrets or reflect upon the support you have shown to the US current administration, rather than differentiating support & solace to the American people, which you did do so admirably under President Clinton?

— Judi Anderson, Seattle
Could you please ask Mr. Bush to stop saying we're "fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here"?

— Chris, Rancho Palos Verdes
U.S.-British Relations

How do you see yourself in the context of the Anglo-American partnership begun by Churchill?

— Brian Stewart, Cincinnati
Americans are often accused of being myopic when it comes to affairs and cultures beyond its shores. It must be a British goal to have influence and impact on America's mindset.... Why is Great Britain so extremely hesitant in exporting its BBC tv and radio and news channels to American cable & satellite systems... in, to phrase a term from a hit British movie, in lock, stock, and all smoking barrels fashion? (BBC America is NOT an acceptable answer as it is a mere parody compared to, i.e., BBC1 or 2 offerings.) How many channels & stations do the BBC tout and would they be benefical in exposing to Americans? What are your thoughts on a trans-atlantic cultural exchange legacy, seeing through the exporting - importing of one another's public broadcasters, PBS/NPR available across the UK, and the BBC's offerings all available here in the US? While we're at it, when will Charlie Rose, on PBS, get his long awaited interview with you? ;-)

— Kenny Waters, Phoenix
British Politics

With your foreign policy, you have consistantly stuck to your guns even if it was an unpopular point of view. Why have you not done the same with your domestic policies when you had a majority so large you could have passed any radical change? Why instead have you relied on short term gimics and soundbites?<

— James Berry, Burbank
Many Britons feel you abandoned them in exchange for pleasing President Bush. There is grumbling within Labour that you will bring your party down to defeat in the next elections. Do you plan to step down as Labour Party leader anytime soon?

— Andrew Gallagher, Phoenix
Tony, when you came into office you said that a Labour Government was going to be "whiter than white". With the Ecclestone, Hinduja, Mandelson, Jowell, Blunkett, cash for honours and now Prescott scandals in mind, do you still think this is the case?

— Kerry Livermore, London, England
Hadn't you better come back home, love? There is a cabinet revolt going on in your absence because of your despicable approval of the Israeli bombing of Lebanon.

— Kathleen Beenham, Swansea, Wales
In the context of emerging Islamist movement in Britain, as we are witnessing in recent years, what is Your most important and benevolent advice to Your successors as a compatriot and experienced ruler, and how to increase bargaining power of Britain at an international arena?

— Ravi, Manama, Bahrain
Throughout history public opinion has never been an absolute moral basis. How do you deal with making the tough decisions against public opinion when you know it is the right thing to do?

— Thomas Borden, Raleigh, North Carolina
Middle East

1) Why are British and American troops dying in support of a Shi'ite dominated Iraqi regime that hates Israel?
2) How will lasting peace in the Middle East come from Israel using American bombs to kill Muslim children?

— George Yarbrough, Portland, Oregon
Like President Bush, I believe you subscribe to the theory that by democratizing the Middle East, violence will decrease and peace will eventually reign. Following elections in Iraq and the Palestinian Territories and with the present situation in Lebanon, do you still believe this is the best course to follow?

— Marisa Pickar, Lake Forest
After the next Lebanese election, will the presence of Hezbollah in the government be stronger or weaker ias a consequence of Israeli actions?

— Philip Koplin, Santa Barbara
What is the most effective means to keep Iram from developing a nuclear bomb?

— Roy Krausen, Oakland
Why only for 2 Israeli soldiers is the whole of Lebanon and the Middle East under threat??!!!

— Malika, Pakistan
If everybody in the Arab World hates our guts, how will we ever make any progress there? Will the wars never end?

— Clifton Goodwin, Fayetteville, North Carolina
How is it possible for lebanes army to disarm hisbolla when it itself does not have the capacity and does not trust israel of US? How does Bliar justify targeting Red cross ambulance and buses full of refugees by Isreli aircraft?

— Kim Pael, Duncan, British Columbia
After looking at [pictures of Qana bombing] can you tell me that is action is alright to support?

— Michael, Van Nuys
Prime Minister, what's your opinion about these missile-carrying US planes bound for Israel re-fueling in the UK? Did you ask President Bush to call the Israeli PM to ask for a cease-fire?

— Teddy Partridge, San Francisco
We've witnessed decades of violence in the Middle East w/ little accomplished in regardsto peaceful relationships w/ Irag,Iran,Syria, and others. When will the West begin to seek direct talks, with those in the Muslim countries, which are designed specifically to secure a dialog centering on mutual respect for live and cultural understanding of peoples right of property?

— Arthur Acevedo, Denver
Did you ever think the Middle East would have this much fighting at this stage of the war when you first supported President Bush?

— George Vreeland Hill, Hollywood
Why are Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush so keen on enforcing UN resolution 1559 and are forgeting about all the past resolutions such as 242 and 338, and all other resolutions against Israel?

— Burt Jabri, Burlington, Ontario
Is there any thought as you and Mr. Bush envision a "new middle east" of the folly earlier P.M.s, notably Lloyd George had, in creating the present national boundaries?

— Clinton Vickers, Washington, D.C.
Since Great Britain was the most important player in the creation of the state of Israel, do you think that the British feel a special responsibility (more so than countries like France or even the United States) towards the ongoing conflict in the Middle East?

— Berta Graciano-Buchman, Beverly Hills
Lebanon foiling [sic] in the hands of Israel, Innocent people crushing under crude Israeli bomb, Arabs boiling in anger on U.K through U.S to Israel. Do you have any blossoming idea to set amicably this middleast drumbeats right now ? If so what are those ?

— Ravi Vattathode, Manama, Bahrain
How long will Americans and Brits be willing to pay a premium for gasoline, caused by Bush and Blair's support for Israel?

— Gregory Tangonan, Oxnard
Does Mr Blair agree with Chaim Weizmann, the leading engineer and first president of Israel, wrote: "I am certain that the world will judge the Jewish State by what it will do to the Arabs." (Trial and Error, Harper, 1949, p. 462).

— Dr. John, New York
Does Britain have any intention to extend finnacial aid to Isreal in view of the enoromus financial and material cost isreal incurred fighting Hizuallah on your behalf and that ofUSA?

— Yassin Hadi, Den Haag, Holland
Why does Blair's British government -- home to John Locke and John Stuart Mill -- reject the liberal foundations of tolerance, democratic engagement, and decentralization to advance such a monolithic cultural agenda in the Middle East?

— Bruce Fuller, Berkeley
Between continued violence or a cease-fire, which do you prefer in the latest Lebannon/Israel conflict? If cease-fire, how can side with Bush's position that a cease-fire can not happen until underlying causes are addressed, something that has not happened in 40 years?

— Sudeep Sharma, Los Angeles
What, precisely and in concrete detail, did the UK and the USA do, as opposed to urge, in the period between the adoption of UN resolution 1559 and the start of this conflict, to help foster Jordan's democratic transition and to forestall the Hezbollah build-up in south Lebanon? In other words, didn't you see this coming?

— Walter Edwin Thomas, Oakland
Isn't it essentially inevitable that Israel's punishing bombing campaign will engender far more terrorists than it eliminates?

— Steve Jensen, Palmerton, Pennsylvania
A lasting solution to the problems with Hezbollah and Hamas depends on a lasting solution to Palestine. Do you agree that now is the time to urge Israel to begin negotiations with the Palestinians over the terms of a final settlement?

— Victor Reilly, Aiken, South Carolina

With all the wisdom of hindsight, what do you think the best U.S. response to 9/11 could have been?

— Doreen Freeman, Los Angeles

If we are going to engage in an open market with countries like China, and Russia and empower them, then aren't we selling the rope to them that they will hang us with. Will the probable China lead world be a world without the freedoms we now have.

— Jerry, Hollywood
Laugh Lines

what's your favorite treat from president bush...milk bones or something more exotic? (sorry, couldn't resist)

— Charles Trentelman, Ogden, Utah
Date last visit to your dentist????????

— Jaime Carr, Downey
I would be interested to know your views on the Pet Shop Boys' new song "I'm With Stupid." How vehemently do you disagree with their characterization of your "special" relationship with President Bush?

— Matthew Bliss, Houston
Do you think you could teach Bush how to pronounce "nuclear"? ;-)

— Joanie Stewart, Sarasota
Um, Sorry, It Didn't Come Up

Being a Labour Party Leader and a supposed champion of working and middle class values, what do you think of the fact that Bush's economic policies are eliminating the middle class, by merely pampering to corporations and the supe rich?

— Alan Edwards, Los Angeles
Immediately after 9/11 Prime Minister Blair told the British public they were only 45 minutes away form missile attacks. Nothing new when the cold war was being conducted. Why did he intentionally make this inflamatory statement as if the arab world had the capability to launch such an attack when no evidence existed. They had no subs,long range missliles, or jet fighters to deliver that threat.

— George Sepetjain, Fresno
Why is he still in office when caught "blaiing," [sic] and BBC reporter who said it was dismissed?

— Pentti Jarvinen, Denmark
Isn't it true that you were promised the Olympics by Pres George Bush in return for your support of the Iraq war?

— Peggy Bishop, Glendale, Arizona
Is Mr.Blair's stance on support for the US,despite overwhelming opposition at home,due to the lucrative income he will receive on the speech circuit in the US after he leaves office?

— Colin Macdonald, London, Ontario
Why do you continue, despite outcries from your countrymen and your party, to support failed and failing US policy? What evidence is there that it has in any way improved matters in the world? Are you, too, a religious fanatic, albeit a closetd one?

— Ron Di Costanzo, Santa Monica
In the 1950s, the British gevernment sought the asistance of the US to overthrow the Iranian government, reinstate the Shah and thereby regain control of the Iranian oil resources. Is your support of the US regime change in Iraq a "payback" to the US for the Iranian coup?

— Roger Kathman, Carlsbad
Why you shift the great britan to a dog following bosh

— Jasem, Kuwait
Mr. Blair once said of the people doubting the presence of WMD in Iraq that "they will eat their words." Moral courage implies that he too eats his words and confess that he misled the public into a war of aggression and therefore a crime war by the Nuremberg principles.

— Mounif El-Youssef, Rochester, Minnesota
Will you join the Carylie Group, after leaving the PM job?

— Richard, Mt. Shasta
You and Bush are destroying the Free World. What are you smoking?

— Donald Clugston, Phoenix
Do you believe that our MSM and the BCC are engaged in "sexing up" news stories. And do you believe that there is a "left-wing" basis by journlists worldwide?

— Allen Ridge, Annapolis
Was Tony Blair paid to talk to Rupert Murdoch's senior management before he returned home???

— Joyce McManus, Gainesville, Florida
1. As a hypocrite and a toadyn,how does he bear to even look at himself in the mirror every day?
2. One of the best features of parliamentary system is the ability to get rid of liars like him through a no-confidence motion. What sort of control that he is using against his opponents in the parliament that prevent them from throwing him out for lying to the public and sacrificing lives of young people?
3. If Iraq war is so great, why his able bodied son is not fighting in Iraq for his father's cause?

— Bhagirathi. Los Angeles
Would you eat a live toad if George Bush said that it was necessary in order to sell his foreign policy?

— Jim Fredricksen, Charlotte, North Carolina
Do you feel that Bush is getting a free pass by the American press on Rupert Murdoch's influence while the British press are hammering you?

— Jack Blackwell, Santa Barbara
What do you say to critics who call you "George Bush's poodle" for your lock-step views with the White House on Iraq and the Middle East?

— Craig Robin, Los Angeles
How much have you received from oil companies or their representatives each year while you were in office?

— Phillip Good, Huntington Beach
Tell me, what were you thinking when Mr. Bush uncorked his doozy: Just get Syria to tell Hezbollah to cut that shit out. Be honest.

— Chris, Rancho Palos Verdes
Do u agree with the general notion that u r Bush's 'Poodle'..? Have u set any specific date for your exit..? Or, u just want to keep the whole world guessing..? I sincerely doubt, the Britons r tired of u..

— Mathew, Bombay
How in God's name do you sleep at night?

— Chris, Rancho Palos Verdes

Well, Now, you see that dealing with the media is a way of life, and this is about the best example I have ever been involved with!

To your Success,

Robert Paisola
Western Capital


Robert Paisola is driven by a passion for people--motivating them to reach for the highest standards of success. As founder and president of many International Corporations, Robert trains sales and marketing professionals who want to strive to get to the top...and stay there.

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