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Robert Tuttle interview transcript

On the Politics Show, Sunday 18 January 2009, Jon Sopel interviewed Robert Tuttle, American Ambassador to London,

Interview transcript...

JON SOPEL: I'm joined now by Ambassador Tuttle, thank you very much for being with us. When some of those things happened, him kind of trying to get out of the door, the kind of odd quotations, did they make you laugh, or did you just wince.?

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: Sure, they made me laugh. I think that's one of the great things about American politicians and politicians in a democracy in general. They learn to laugh at themselves and that's I think, I was also fortunate enough to work for Ronald Reagan, and that was one of his great qualities.

JON SOPEL: Okay, do you think that with George W Bush, you have to laugh at him more than most.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: Well, I don't know about that but I think there have been some very funny moments in this administration, as there have been very serious moments.

JON SOPEL: And you've effectively been his PR person here in London, trying to sell George W to a British audience. It must have been an impossibly hard sell, I just wonder what was the hardest thing to sell or policy to sell.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: I think that the biggest disagreement that we found was with the Iraq War, but I'm very proud to say I've been - taken sixty trips throughout your country, given a lot of speeches, done a lot of TV, radio and press. Tough questions, disagreements, but always great respect and great interest and curiosity about America.

JON SOPEL: You say Iraq. Six years on, is it any easier to defend.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: Absolutely. Violence is down to the lowest level since the beginning of the war. We've seen the emergence, Jon, of a semi-democratic, multi-ethnic state. Certainly, the last chapter hasn't been written but there's been huge change in Iraq.

JON SOPEL: But what do you see in terms of the British attitude there. Did you see something that was a rise of anti-Americanism or was it anti-Bush.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: I think it was anti our policy in Iraq. I think there's no question about that, from the beginning and I think some of it spilled over to some, to sometimes a dislike or disrespect of the President. But certainly, I never experienced that in my many trips around the country.

JON SOPEL: But you know, you see things like Kyoto, Guantanamo Bay, not the same things, very different things as well but they sort of spoke of an American arrogance if you like. That we don't need to worry about what the international community thinks. Don't you think that was one of the hallmarks of the Bush years.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: No and I think you've seen the most important thing, one of the most important things the President did was after he was re-elected in 2004, the first place he came was to Brussels and gave a speech and really reached out. So he's really tried to be an international President, certainly during the time that I've been here as Ambassador to the United Kingdom. He's been to the United Kingdom three times during his administration. The Secretary of State has been here seven times during my three and a half year tenure here in London.

JON SOPEL: Much is made of this so-called thing called the Special Relationship, which I, I don't know whether you use the phrase yourself. I mean, I'm just struck that I don't hear American politicians using it much and I hear a lot of British politicians talking about it.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: I think, I've come to think of it Jon as the essential relationship because here are two countries who are willing to put their time and resources and unfortunately on too many occasions, their lives on the line to make the world safer, more democratic, better health- what the President has accomplished in Africa, in terms of - there were fifty thousand people being treated via America, prior to his term for AIDS, today that's over two million people.

JON SOPEL: Is it a phrase you use.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: Yes, it is a phrase I use. I, I've sort of adopted the essential relationship. I think it's the most important though, bi-lateral relationship of any two countries in the world.

JON SOPEL: Do you think that will change when Barack Obama comes in. I was just listening to Hillary Clinton's news conference she gave, not news conference, when she was up before Senate this week. She didn't talk about Britain, while she talked about an awful lot of other countries around the world, but Britain didn't get a mention at all.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: No, it won't change. As you know, Senator Obama came here in the fall of '05, he came here last summer. He met with the Prime Minister, he's met with leaders of the opposition. He is committed to the Special Relationship, and I think you'll see that even grow as he is… during his term in office.

JON SOPEL: You've met him I know, cos you obviously introduced him a couple of times here. Impressions - I mean I know you're a Republican, it's a different system than we have in appointing Ambassadors.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: I took him in to see then Prime Minister Blair, in the fall of '05 and he really - he had a quiet dignity. He had an interest in foreign affairs that he really, really impressed me and he, and he impressed me when he was here in June. I think that he has a chance to be an excellent President.

JON SOPEL: What advice would you have for your successor. Pay the congestion charge, so you don't get accused of being - what was it that Ken Livingstone said, a chiselling, little crook, I think he charmingly dubbed you.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: Well, there are now about a hundred and twenty countries not paying the congestion charge. No, I would say to my successor, Enjoy yourself, this is a great country, people are vitally interested and curious about America. Get out, go all over the country. My, my sixty trips I'll remember every single one of them. It's been a great, great experience.

JON SOPEL: Even representing George W.

AMBASSADOR TUTTLE: Yes, I'm very proud to have represented a President, a man of principle and a man who believed in democracy and wanted to spread it around the world.

JON SOPEL: Ambassador Tuttle, I'm grateful to you for joining us here on the Politics Show. Thanks very much for being with us.


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NB:These transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

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