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INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS

Coverage of Bush's Speech at Ft. Bragg

Aired July 2, 2005 - 21:00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney, in London. Welcome to CNN'S INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, where we examine how the media are covering the big stories of the moment.
And we begin this week with media coverage of U.S. President Bush's speech on Iraq. Mr. Bush delivered the primetime address Tuesday from the Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina. The speech came on the anniversary of Iraq's handover of power and was designed to stabilize support for the war.

During the 30-minute address, Mr. Bush stressed the need to stay the course in Iraq because of the September 11th attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are trying to shake our will in Iraq. Just as they tried to shake our will on September 11, 2001.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SWEENEY: The speech drew praise from fellow Republicans, but some lawmakers criticized the president for not offering any major changes in war strategy. The address drew 23 million U.S. viewers, the smallest television audience of his presidency.

Joining me now to discuss media coverage of the speech, Jennifer Eccleston, CNN correspondent, in Baghdad; John Aravosis, editor of AmericaBlog.com in Washington, D.C.; and Nick Fielding of the "Sunday Times."

Jennifer, in Baghdad, my first question to you. We know the speech was directed primarily at Americans, but did Iraqis see anything in it for them?

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, you know, first and foremost, Fionnuala, it must be pointed out that the reason the Iraqis didn't tune in is because the speech aired at 4:00 in the morning, an given the early timeframe it missed the following morning's printing deadline for the newspaper. So the first full newspaper article didn't print until a day later.

But they did hear excerpts of the speech on radio and on satellite television, but all in all the interest in this speech was muted, and this is because most Iraqis didn't think anything new would be presented by President Bush in his speech, and for the most part they were right.

SWEENEY: Nick Fielding, would you go along with that?

NICK FIELDING, "SUNDAY TIMES": I would. I think it was a fairly muted response to the speech, and I think probably part of that is also the background in a sense that within the administration itself there seems to be different voices speaking.

SWEENEY: John Aravosis, in Washington, D.C., what was your interpretation of the speech? And what do you make of this figure of 23 million in the viewing audience and reports that some networks are even considering not carrying it at all live?

JOHN ARAVOSIS, AMERICABLOG.COM: Right. Starting that morning, there was, I believe, only one or two networks that considered carrying the speech. By the evening, pretty much all of them had carried it, which I think is fine. There was probably some pressure from the White House, but also it was a big speech in the sense that the presidency was slipping. The polls were going very south on the war, but also on President Bush's approval ratings, so he had to do something to shore it up. So that is news.

But moving on to the speech itself, I think you have the same problems in America that your reporters are saying you had around the world. Even though it was during primetime, 8:00 at night here, the only viewers the president got really were either Republicans who are already bought in or Democrats who were so angry he wasn't going to convince them. I mean, basically, he got a majority Republican viewership and even so, that was only, as you said, 22 or 23 million people. Well, out of 300 million people, you're talking 8 percent. That's just not a lot of people.

SWEENEY: I mean, obviously, you're a blogger and there are those who say that blogging is not yet part of the mainstream in America, but do you sense overall any kind of sea change to covering this Bush presidency in its second administration, second term?

ARAVOSIS: I think it's beginning slowly. I think there's been a lot of concern from the blogs. And, again, I write for a liberal blog, so I would speak for the left, but there's been a lot of concern that the mainstream media since September 11th has not been nearly hard enough on the Bush administration, whether it's talking about the so-called Downing Street memos, you know, these British government memos that show that in effect our government intended to lie to us about the war, or whether it's just holding the president accountable about each step on the way.

This week, for example, during the speech. President Bush referenced September 11th five times. Well, Iraq had nothing to do with September 11th. At least it didn't when we invaded. It does now. As of two weeks ago, the CIA said that Iraq is now the number one training ground for al Qaeda. Well, before September 11th, there was barely an al Qaeda to be seen. So, I mean, it's holding him accountable on things like that, that I think the blogs on the left would like to see, is somebody just standing up and saying, "Mr. President, didn't you cause the problem in Iraq that you are trying to solve?" and make him answer the question.

SWEENEY: Nick Fielding, on this question of the rationale for the war, how much do you think Mr. Bush's justification for the war initially and his seeming lack of an exit strategy has to do with what many critics perceive as a changing rationale for the war since 9/11?

FIELDING: I think that is being -- has been a fundamental problem. I think the fact that the administration has never been clear, right from the beginning, at least with the public, about what the grounds for the war were and what were the grounds for coming out.

SWEENEY: What does the burgeoning, the fledgling Iraqi media make of U.S. involvement in Iraq these days, and is there anything, when it did get around to publishing excerpts of the speech or analysis of the speech, that was any different from anything we have heard before?

ECCLESTON: Well, It think a number of the media outlets were all quick to point out that there have been a number of achievements since the anniversary of the handing over of sovereignty and they made those points, you know, including several political landmarks -- the historic January election of the transitional assembly, the appointment of the government in April, and this summer and the fall the writing and adoption of the constitution, and also the election of a five-year government scheduled for December, and they also pointed out another very significant achievement in the last year and that, of course, was the establishment of the special tribunal to try former regime elements, including former President Saddam Hussein.

SWEENEY: And what, if anything, do they make of Donald Rumsfeld's admittance this weekend that there are talks ongoing with insurgent leaders?

ECCLESTON: Well, there has been speculation now for weeks about talks with insurgent groups, talks with fringe elements of the insurgents, those who might not necessarily have a tremendous amount of blood on their hands. And after those reports came out, that there were these clandestine meetings, not only with U.S. officials but also with a series of Iraqi officials, the Iraqi government and the Americans were quick to put out their own statement saying, look, you know, the Iraqis on their part saying we are willing to talk to everybody and anybody to get them involved in the political process.

SWEENEY: Nick Fielding, you've had a lot of experience with insurgencies, and you've written a lot, particularly post-9/11 about terrorism in general in the wider world. This admission with Donald Rumsfeld, that talks have been ongoing, what would the two sides have to talk about in terms of a common agenda? What is it that they both could probably agree on?

FIELDING: Well, very little is the bottom line on that. The real difficulty is that of course the insurgents will talk. The real problem is that there is only one thing on the agenda as far as most of them are concerned, and that is a date for full withdrawal. I think that is a very, very difficult thing for the administration to agree to, and yet there's not likely to be anything else. They're not going to be talking about water supply or electricity supply or anything else. It will be simply when are you going to leave.

SWEENEY: A final word from Jennifer Eccleston, who is in Baghdad and, of course, among the Iraqis. Do they have a sense at all that this thing is going to be turned around any time soon?

ECCLESTON: Regarding the insurgency? I don't think so. In fact, every day they're seeing the same news reports as we're seeing and what we're reporting, and while we have some days that are fairly calm, like today and yesterday, we'll have another day where there are five suicide car bombings and a number of people have been killed, not only here in the capital but across the country.

So for them, this idea of whether or not there is some political ramifications or delicacies involved in dealing with the insurgency. For them, it's a very real issue on the ground of stopping the day to day violence and not continuing to live their lives constantly looking over their shoulder, constantly worrying whether or not when they drive their children to school or walk their children to school or go down the road to the average shop and buy something they're going to be a victim of insurgent violence. To them, you know, whatever it takes, if it means talking to these guys, within reason, of course, then go for it is the general consensus here. It just needs to stop.

SWEENEY: All right, Jennifer Eccleston, in Baghdad, thanks indeed. John Aravosis, in Washington, D.C., and here in London, Nick Fielding.

Up next on INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, Prince William enters the public arena. Is he prepared for the full court press?

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SWEENEY: Welcome back.

This week, a major news organization did what no other has, at least in living memory. "Time" magazine said it will turn over to a Grand Jury documents relating to the confidential sources of one of its reporters, Matthew Cooper.

Mr. Cooper, along with Judith Miller of the "New York Times," faces jail for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury investigating who leaked the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame. We should mention at this point Time-Warner is the parent company of CNN.

With more, Frank Sesno.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For journalists, this is a nightmare: a reporter ordered to reveal his or her confidential sources.

Anonymity is sometimes the price reporters have to pay to get crucial information.

JUDITH MILLER, "NEW YORK TIMES": Confidential sources are the life's blood of what you and I do.

SESNO: Here is how Judith Miller, the "New York Times" reporter caught in the middle of all of this, put it last week.

MILLER: If we want something in this country, other than the packaged prepared statements of what the government or corporations want us to know, we need to have people, ordinary people, government employees, people who work in large corporations, come forward and talk to us about waste, about fraud, about abuse, about things that are going wrong.

SESNO: On the other hand, journalists are not above the law. That's the premise behind Time, Inc.'s decisions to release the subpoenaed records. Says editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine, "It may have a chilling effect on the free flow of information. It may encourage overzealous prosecutors. But the same constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts."

NORMAN PEARLSTINE, TIME, INC.: There is no argument for saying no once the Supreme Court has ruled on a decision. I think that we are a country of laws, not of individuals, and that as journalists who regularly point a finger at people who think they're above the law, I'm not comfortable being one of them myself.

SESNO: Clearly that's not how everyone sees it. The "New York Times," Judith Miller's paper, says it's deeply disappointed in the news mags decision to comply, and even before "Time's" decision, Matt Cooper, who works for the magazine and was ready to go to jail to protect his sources, made this distinction.

MATT COOPER, "TIME": A corporation is different than a citizen, has different obligations, I think.

SESNO: Raising more tough questions. Is there a corporate standard that's different from a journalistic standard? And if President Richard Nixon complied with the Supreme Court, handing over tapes that ultimately destroyed his presidency, should journalists play by different rules? And what will reporters tell their sources now?

Frank Sesno, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SWEENEY: Now to the third topic of this week's show. Prince William is a St. Andrew's graduate and along with his geography degree he steps squarely into the public arena. The gentleman's agreement concerning media coverage of his private life is over. So what should the prince expect now?

James Mates reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES MATES, ITV CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He has the looks. He has the glamour. He has the position. And from this moment on, everyone will want a piece of him.

Handsome and eligible, to the world's paparazzi he will now be the number one target, the most sought after royal face since, well, since his mother.

Princess Diana sold newspapers and magazines, made photographers fortunes like no one else on earth. Now that her son has stepped out of the protective embrace of university life, could he be about to suffer all that his mother went through?

ANDREW NEIL, FMR. NEWSPAPER EDITOR: He's been in a protective environment. Because of what happened to his mother, he is naturally wary of the press. He doesn't understand why they do the things that they do. And I think unless he gets good guidance and realizes he has moved into a different unprotected world, it could be pretty nasty for him.

MATES: Since the first outbreak of Will-mania in Canada more than seven years ago, it was clear Prince William would be no ordinary celebrity. For as long as he was in full-time education, such as here studying at Eaton, carefully arranged photo calls were offered in return for being other wise left alone. The arrangement lasted through his gap year, including his work on a community project in Chile. The one time the arrangement came under strain it was, ironically, his father who clashed with the media.

PRINCE CHARLES: (INAUDIBLE)

Whatever had upset Prince Charles, it was William who tried to keep the photo call on track.

PRINCE WILLIAM: As long as I don't lose the rings, I'm all right.

MATES: But his biographer believes one reason William is heading for the Army is to escape the press.

NICHOLAS DAVIES, ROYAL EXPERT: William wants to be out of the limelight. He doesn't want the limelight. He wants the opposite. And he knows in the army he can be hidden away.

MATES: But before then, he heads for New Zealand to follow the Lyon's Rugby Tour. He'll spend time working with a (INAUDIBLE) rescue team and then he does work experience in the city of London. Now free from years of self-restraint, expect the photographers to be following in every footstep.

James Mates, ITV News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SWEENEY: Well, joining me now to discuss how the press will be covering Prince William, Tom Bradby, U.K. editor of ITV News, and Sally Cartwright, publishing director of "Hello" magazine.

Tom Bradby, how is Prince William going to avoid the pitfalls of celebrity? Or is he?

TOM BRADBY, ITV NEWS: Well, I don't think, sadly, he is going to avoid the pitfalls of celebrity. I think he's pretty terrified about what the future holds for him in that regard, and he's right to be, because he's enjoyed a very positive life, frankly, at St. Andrew's, which he has clearly loved and is very grateful for, and now he's out there, he's going to be open season.

We've seen in the last couple of years the tabloids in particular have had huge teams on his trail and his brother's trail. Everywhere they go, everything they do, they've got people on their tail, looking for stories. And I think they're going to find that, both of them, but particularly William, very, very difficult.

SWEENEY: Sally Cartwright, do you think that he will have received but we've heard described as good guidance? Do you think he will be prepared for what he can expect in the years in come?

SALLY CARTWRIGHT, "HELLO": I think it's very difficult for anybody to be prepared for what is going to hit him. Clarence House have taken great care with him, great care with his future, putting him through a different balance of work experiences which no heir to the throne has ever done before.

But the trouble is that William is his mother's heir in that respect. He is a good-looking young man. He's got a girlfriend. He'll doubtless have other girlfriends in the future, and the press interest, and not just in the U.K., is going to be huge.

SWEENEY: Is there any kind of restraint on the press in this country -- that's before we talk about the paparazzi in other countries.

CARTWRIGHT: Only the bounds of their own good taste, which doesn't always go that far.

SWEENEY: And, of course, competition is going to be one of the main drivers behind all of it.

BRADBY: One of the interesting things about William is I think he's very much his own man and he knows better than anyone -- he can get all of the advise. There are people cueing up around the block, around the world, to give him advise on what he should do. But, actually, from quite a young age, and very unusually for a member of the royal family, he takes a very substantial interest in the media. I mean, he reads every newspaper every day, watches a lot of TV, has very defined opinions on things.

His father hasn't read a newspaper kind of in that sense for years. I mean, he gets briefed, but he's not interested in the media. William is. He wants to engage, and he knows he's got to make his own decisions about it, but at the end of the day you can give him all the advise you like, but what can you say? I mean, there is no way of dealing with it. It's just not easy. They're going to be interested in his private life and he's going to have to deal with it.

SWEENEY: But already it seems setup. I mean, he's very different from his brother. How much of that is because they are two very different characters and how much is that, Sally, because perhaps he avoids the pitfalls that his brother seems to or appears to slip into? And how much is he going to be setup?

CARTWRIGHT: I think they are two very different characters. Harry has never had that awesome sense of responsibility that William must have hanging right over him. And William is quite media savvy. At that very, very messed up press call in Klosters, where Prince Charles was heard to refer rudely to a member of the press, it was William who solved it, who smoothed it over, and did his best to calm the situation down.

But I think the press will be looking. They will be looking for snatched pictures of him kissing a girl. They will be looking for any opportunity. And whereas the U.K. press actually are relatively restrained in their coverage -- astonishing concept as that is -- the overseas, the continental press in particular, have absolutely no restraint at all.

SWEENEY: Do you have any thoughts on that?

BRADBY: I think one of the interesting things about William is that he is an incredibly assured individual, astonishingly so for his age.

The other day -- a year or so ago -- he was popping up, being interviewed live on television before beginning a charity run, as if he did that every day of his life. And he is amazingly competent really in the way he deals with the press.

I think the interesting thing is that he has never had any negative press at all, and, you know, he is different from his brother, but they basically got up to the same kind of things, and he's been kind of quite lucky to get away with it. And he's not going to like it. And I just hope that his kind of goodwill doesn't get eroded by the press writing all of this stuff, which frankly most of which won't be true.

SWEENEY: Do you get a sense that the press feels that they can have a field day now?

CARTWRIGHT: No, I don't think they're looking for a field day, because they know that William is immensely popular with the British public, and snagging him off actually might not be terribly good for sales. They went overboard with poor Prince Harry when he wore a Nazi uniform for a fancy dress party, which I'm afraid isn't that great a sin. But the "Daily Mail" had 13 pages on this.

SWEENEY: And, of course, it did cause an international outcry as well in certain parts of the world.

CARTWRIGHT: Yes, but it is out of all proportion.

BRADBY: It was a very stupid thing to do, I mean, absolutely, but it's not -- it was treated in this country as if he actually was a Nazi. I mean, we seem to have lost all subtlety. You know, we can't -- of course he's a complete moron to have done it but --

SWEENEY: But this is my point about, you know, how much is he being setup by the press to be this kind of character and how much is the press setting up William to be the responsible heir to the throne? And, you know, how fluid is it?

CARTWRIGHT: It's quite a nice balance for the press, I guess.

BRADBY: Good prince/bad prince.

CARTWRIGHT: Yes, it's a nice way of doing it, in which case William is likely to keep the good prince role for sometime to come.

BRADBY: I think the real difficulty is going to -- you know, it's girlfriends. I mean, they are so -- when Harry fell in love with Chelsy Davy and she was kind of outed as his girlfriend, I mean, I saw -- I was making a documentary with him, sort of just before anyone knew. And he was terrified. We were leaving the (INAUDIBLE) in Africa and he was going off down to Cape Town, and he was terrified the press were going to find out. Why? Because the moment they're on to him, they're on her parents' doorsteps, they're on her -- everyone she's ever been a friend with, every boyfriend she's ever had. And that's, you know, that's horrible. It's embarrassing. And they both find that. And I think William is going to -- should he ever split up with Kate Middleton, he's going to find that really difficult.

SWEENEY: I mean, there was a huge amount of introspection after the death of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, and the role of the press and the paparazzi. I mean, but, clearly, the press to a certain degree seems to have got over that, and have any lessons been learned, whatever the ins and outs, sort of?

CARTWRIGHT: Short-term I do think some lessons were learned. Short-term, especially with those boys, they backed off, and they've been allowed to have some measure of peace and privacy while they've been growing up. But now -- I think Diana died eight years ago, that the lessons have drifted away, that they're seen as adults out in the world and fair game.

SWEENEY: So the long and the short of it is, Sally Cartwright, can we expect Prince William to be doing any glossy interviews with "Hello"?

CARTWRIGHT: I would love to think he would, but I think, as Tom said, he's a big too savvy to start off by doing that.

SWEENEY: All right, Tom Bradby, there we must leave it. Thank you very much indeed. Sally Cartwright also.

And that is all for this edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. Tune in again next time for another look at how the media are handling the big issues.

END

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