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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW
PHILIP LADER AMERICAN AMBASSADOR TO BRITAIN OCTOBER 15TH, 2000

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST
Now the race for the Whitehouse, it's into its final furlong, two debates gone, one to go and still according to the pollsters all to play for. But three weeks before polling day the outgoing President is flying to the Middle East, and some suggest this may add a new dynamic to the whole election process as well. Philip Lader, the American Ambassador to Britain is here, welcome Philip, how are you?

PHILIP LADER
Good, good to be with you.

DAVID FROST
Good to have you here, is there any news on that tragedy in Aden with your ship, I mean one of the papers today says it's got the name of Bin Laden written all over it, what is, what news?

PHILIP LADER
There is much speculation but at this juncture we're simply trying to push forward the President's, the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's travel to Egypt, as you know, seeks only a truce, a restoration of trust, we're trying to get these other issues in perspective but to focus moving into that tomorrow.

DAVID FROST
What do you think has gone wrong in the Middle East, from that, maybe the missed opportunity of those last talks with President Clinton in Washington?

PHILIP LADER
Well as we're dealing with generations of difficulty of this sort I think what you've seen in the implosion of the peace process essentially is responsibility on both sides for this cycle of violence and so what we seek tomorrow is really to get back to dialogue to get back to negotiation, it's a time for leadership, it's not so much the clinical definition of what has happened as it is how do we move forward from this very grave and perilous point?

DAVID FROST
Because you feel President Clinton would like his, would love his last major initiative to be in the Middle East and to succeed?

PHILIP LADER
Well he's invested over these eight years such enormous energies in time, into the process and it's a demand of the world, not simply of his presidency or his own personal inclinations, now the challenge at this point of course is for him notwithstanding interests in the United States or elsewhere, to maintain the kind of balance that allows him to play an honest brokerage role and that's the position that he takes moving to Egypt now.

DAVID FROST
Do you think this would all have an effect, this crisis will have an effect on the subject obviously of your election?

PHILIP LADER
David it's hard to predict obviously but I think in at least two ways it does. One, it's raised the level of interest in foreign affairs which I think is healthy, however sad the context for that concern. You've seen in these debates for example, more questions about foreign policy than all the debates in the '92 and the '96 elections combined. But in addition to that there is a heightened sensitivity in America today about how perilous is the role of being a global peacekeeper. Both of those issues certainly will have some impact on the Presidential election.

DAVID FROST
Yes because usually something like the tragedy in Aden, you know does have that isolationist effect, doesn't it, in America on, on a, on the part of opinion?

PHILIP LADER
Well it makes people take very seriously, very viscerally, very personally the role that America is playing around the world and so this is not a set of abstract issues, this has been very much internalised by the American people.

DAVID FROST
The TV debates almost seem to have been more influential, more watched in terms of their effects than ever this time, don't they, those two so far, the third this week, but I mean it, there has been a great focus on those hasn't there?

PHILIP LADER
Well perhaps more watched but respectfully I suggest not necessarily more influential, they've certainly helped because there has been some question, whether it's accurate or not, about the competence of Governor Bush and he has performed so well in the debates that that has allayed concerns on the part of many Americans. But the number of people who were undecided has not changed a great deal and so we haven't seen a huge shift.

DAVID FROST
What about the turnout, everyone in America gets depressed when the turnout plummets yet lower, what do you predict for the turnout this time?

PHILIP LADER
Well I'm not going to get into the prediction business but that certainly is a problem, it's an interesting problem for all of us in democracies but this election though is really about two factors. On the one hand President Clinton has established a standard of likeability, on the other hand a standard of competence that both of these candidates are being measured against. And so you see in one candidate an individual who most people, according to the polls find very likeable, the other one who's not yet been seen as approachable, whether it's fair or not I'm not suggesting but that's the public opinion. As to the competence, the vice-president case is and is technically perhaps the best qualified person to be President and yet the technical qualifications in the American people's mind perhaps are not all that count. And so for that reason it's this balance between likeability and the perception of competence that is the real alchemy of this presidential election.

DAVID FROST
Absolutely and as you say people will, you're always helped, Saatchi's fourth law is that, that satisfaction equals performance minus anticipation and going into these debates, as you say, all the anticipation was with Gore and he had to try and live up to that and so Bush was able to surprise people by, by how well he did?

PHILIP LADER
That being said David, I must say a political scientist's recent book says that over the last 100 years with all the talk of slogans, personality and like, what has ultimately decided presidential elections in America has been the fact that they are all referenda on the performance of the incumbent party. If it comes out in that way the real question again is how do people react to the work that Bill Clinton has done?

DAVID FROST
Exactly, how do they see him as well, yes. Now of course you were an appointee of President Clinton over here and a very popular one, if in fact the Democrats were to win will you continue? Would you like to continue here?

PHILIP LADER
Only two things I can predict about this election, on January 20th of this coming year we'll have a new president to the United States by midday and later that day, as is the custom, I'll submit my resignation with very mixed emotions, in a reasonable time thereafter I'll step down from this post. My wife and I look forward to continuing a very active trans-Atlantic life.

DAVID FROST
And that's, and that's the case whichever side wins?

PHILIP LADER
Absolutely, that's the custom and it's, it's appropriate.

DAVID FROST
Philip thank you very much.

PHILIP LADER
It's always good to be here.

DAVID FROST
We shall miss you, but, but we, we're not going to lose you just yet anyway. Philip Lader there.

END

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