Tony Blair gets ‘cheeky’ on late-night

Tony Blair appeared on “The Late Show” yesterday to discuss topics ranging from his relationship with Bush to driving on the left side of the road.
Tony Blair appeared on “The Late Show” yesterday to discuss topics ranging from his relationship with Bush to driving on the left side of the road. Photo by Paul Needham.

NEW YORK — Tony Blair’s travels to Yale keep bringing him to late-night television studios.

Last year, just before the former British prime minister began teaching a course on faith and globalization at Yale, he stopped by the set of “The Daily Show,” where Jon Stewart asked, “Faith and globalization: which side is winning?”

Blair sidestepped that question, but he couldn’t avoid other, more pointed questions from Stewart about the war in Iraq and his relationship with former president George W. Bush ’68.

The conversation was similar on the set of the Ed Sullivan Theater yesterday, where Blair found himself back in the hot seat for his first appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman.”

Before Blair came out on stage, Letterman quipped in his monologue that “President Bush and Tony Blair were kind of like colleagues, friends, partners, buddies.”

“Bush learned a great deal, a lot of things, from Tony Blair,” he added. “Learned about cheeky, learned the word ‘fortnight,’ learned bangers and mash. And Blair learned some things from George W. Bush. ‘Whoops’ and ‘uh-oh,’ ‘dang.’ Those are the kind of things he learned from him.”

For his part, Blair defended some of the decisions that Letterman might consider worthy of an “uh-oh” or two. After Letterman pressed him on the ongoing conflict in Iraq, Blair responded that “if you had left Saddam [Hussein] in power, given the history, given the wars that he started, given the history he had of using chemical weapons even on his own people, my view is that the world is safer without him.”

There were more laughs, of course, when Letterman was riffing on differences between life in Britain and America.

“We’ve never had, I don’t think we’ve had a prime minister, current or former, on the show ever. Plenty to talk about: for example, are [the British] still driving on the other side of the street? That’s crazy.”

The news that drivers in Samoa, the small South Pacific country, switched from driving on the right side of the road to the left side this week was almost too good to be true for Letterman.

“The other thing about having Tony Blair here … I have nothing to ask him,” he joked early in the show. “I don’t know, what am I going to say? I got the driving thing and that’s it.”

Letterman was prepared, though, and soon after Blair entered to a rendition of “Rule Britannia,” the host asked him how life was different after his time at 10 Downing St.

Blair explained that the day after he left office two years ago he got his first cell phone and sent a text message to a friend.

“Hi, how are you, please get in touch,” was the gist of the text, according to Blair, who added that “because I’m technologically illiterate really I didn’t realize that my name didn’t come up on the text I sent him. So he sent me back a text that said, ‘Sorry, but who are you?’ And I was kind of sitting there thinking: it’s been 24 hours.”

Perhaps preying on that insecurity, Letterman arranged for six shirtless men to sit in the studio audience yesterday, each with a letter painted on his chest. Together they spelled out MAGGIE, and one of them asked when “Margaret Thatcher’s coming out,” referring to the 84-year-old former British prime minister.

But it was most definitely Blair in the studio yesterday. As the show neared an end, and as the time came for Blair to hop in a car for the ride to the President’s House on Hillhouse Avenue, Yale’s most famous professor explained that his course at the University teaches students “about religion and its place in the world.”

Letterman would not let his guest out of the beige chair, though, before he exhorted him to “do something about that mess in Samoa.”


  • Erika Salzeck

    Tony Blair has shown him self to be shallow, corrupt, self serving and vain. He possesses neither principles nor integrity, even delaying changing his religion in case it affected his position. He presided over the dismantling of the British economy with disastrous and far reaching effects and he invaded Iraq against the wishes of the United Nations again with horrific effect. There have been an estimated 133,977,1 civilian deaths in Iraq since the invasion began (& that’s just the bodies they have been able to count). He has lied to and stolen from the British people – shredding large quantities of documents “accidentally” weeks before he left office. He is closely implicated in the deaths of inconvenient critics and he must bear with Bush responsibility for making the world an infinitely more dangerous place for our children.
    He and his wife will go down in the history books as dangerous, grasping buffoons along with Mr & Mrs Marcos.
    If any more reason is needed not to commit the folly of making him President – he has failed abysmally in his position as Middle East Envoy – having been rebuked for failing to report on his progress. He was no doubt too busy holding court in Jerusalem where he occupies an entire floor of the best hotel in town at a cost of £400,000 per year to the British Taxpayer.
    Blair for President? Not if we have a vestige of sanity left.

  • bob

    why is he not in prison?

  • anon

    Letterman > Stewart > Conan > Leno

  • BlairSupporter

    Erika Salzek is wrong on so much on Tony Blair.

    I’ll explain why:

    The reason he did not change his denomination while in office (NOT his religion actually – he’s still a Christian) is that unlike the USA religion and politics do not generally mix. It is the way things are here in Britain. An overtly religious leader would likely NEVER be elected in Britain, whereas in America an overtly open atheist would not be acceptable. But from long before he became prime minister Mr Blair attended mass with his family. Converting to catholicism while still PM might well have been embarrasing for the Queen, who is figurative head of the Church of England. Mr Blair waited until he was out of it to move over. It was because he WAS thinking of others that he waited.

    Gordon Brown, Blair’s Finance Minister for 10 years ran the economy, NOT Blair. Brown was as secretive about economic policy as he possibly could be, even to the extent of refusing to inform Blair of financial inititiatives. Blair seriously considered sacking Brown for his selfish attitude to his own power in that important area. This despite Brown having done a generally considered GOOD job as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Don’t forget we had almost 10 years of a GOOD economy – all through Blair’s time, as it happens.

    Britain’s economy, like the rest of the world’s economies, colllapsed following the American collapse. It was not Blair’s doing nor even Brown’s.

    Tony Blair supported America’s attack on Iraq for reasons which I believe were justified and RIGHT. But I do not believe it was an easy decision. We private citizens can criticise those who have to make the decisions ALL we like. WE never had to decide.

    Most of Iraq’s dead were killed NOT by foreign troops but by Iraqis and other foreign insurgents. What the deaths in Iraq have shown the world is that there are many, MANY fundamentalists in the Middle East that will kill their own, daily and without pity. WHY? Because they realise that western liberals will blame western leaders and not the REAL killers.

    Blair did not lie to the British people. Nor did he shred documents “accidentally” weeks before he left office. This is nonsense and put about by his Daily Mail enemies. Those on the Conservative right who never came to terms with the fact that he wasn’t one of them AND that they could never defeat him in the polls.

    Mr Blair supplied all the expenses asked for by the authorities.

    Blair is NOT “closely implicated in the deaths of inconvenient critics”!!!

    This is libellous and this writer should be charged, imho.

  • BlairSupporter

    Second part of my comment. (Sorry it was longer than I thought.)

    Reference the comment by Erika Salzeck on Tony Blair:

    The world is NOT a more dangerous place for our children. We have had no serious or devastating terrorist attacks in Britain since 2005 and none in America since 9/11. It is actually SAFER. It is only NOW that we understand what we are faced with. For that understanding we can thank Mr Blair and Mr Bush.

    As for the ‘grasping nonsense’ …oh, please grow up and get your nose out of the envious Daily Mail propaganda.

    Nor has he failed in the Middle East. It has been a region 60 years unsettled. Is Superman Blair supposed to FIX it in TWO? Especially when he is not in a decision-making or action-taking position?

    Europe could do NO better than have Mr Balir as EU President. If it does happen at last we in Britain will start to understand WHY Europe is important, as will the rest of the world under the presidency of Tony Blair.

    This commenter has taken all her cues from the British press. Some of us in Britain are not so easily brainwashed. There is an online petition pushing for a fair hearing for Mr Blair at the Iraq war Inquiry, which has just started.

    It is called ‘Ban Blair-Baiting’.

    This is NOT the Trial of Tony Blair. He hardly needs one. He has already been found ‘guilty’ by press & public opinion. It is shameful.

    Please sign.

  • Erika Salzeck

    Blair Supporter should really check his facts. Blair was not afraid to embarrass the UK in front of the whole world by allying himself with Bush against the advice of Europe and the UN – he spoke incessantly of his convictions. I am sure that the Queen would have coped far better with a declaration that he was a Catholic than of war.
    Blair was PM not Brown – the responsibility for stewardship was his as was his failure to intervene if he was aware of problems. He supported the move to de regulate the Banks in one of the worlds major financial centres. The government encouraged banks to make riskier loans & were delighted to have the tax revenues they yielded. The Labour Party received a lot of contributions from financiers.
    Under the Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, by occupying Iraq Bush and Blair assumed a duty of care for every Iraqi civilian. By occupying Iraq, Bush and Blair took on the responsibility for protecting civilians against “all acts of violence or threats thereof” from whatever source, and they have signally failed to do so.
    It would have taken Saddam Hussein’s regime hundreds of years to match the carnage produced by Bush and Blair in a few years.
    What is absolutely certain is that tens of thousands of Iraqis who are now dead would have been alive if Bush and Blair had left Iraq alone. What is more, the rate of killing has accelerated in recent times. And there is no end in sight.

    Blairs expenses files were destroyed by Commons officials after they rejected The Sunday Times’s FOI request in January 2005 to see his claims for £43,029 of public money covering a three-year period.
    Blair has been implicated by members of his own cabinet in the death of David Kelly. Indeed recently a group of 13 doctors who believe that Kelly did not commit suicide, but was murdered, are launching a legal campaign to demand an inquest.
    Blair was reprimanded formally last year by the UN for his failure to report on his progress as Middle East Envoy. It took him almost 2 years to visit Palestine!
    That this man should have been the leader of the the UK should be a source of deep shame.

  • bytheway

    After reading the comments by Ms. Salzeck and by Blairsupporter, I would have to say the facts and opinion presented by Blairsupporter are much more persuasive. One thing I am sick of hearing about is the number of dead since the Iraq war. “Good ole Saddam” murdered ten times the number while he was in power. They are still uncovering mass graves filled with women, babies and men, killed by the one the Iraqi’s themselves, have hung. The other thing that really upsets me is the FACT that President Bush and PM Blair did not go into this decision ALONE. The entire Parliament and the entire Congress said GO and so we went. These two men are not dictators and could not go into a war without the approval of their own governing bodies and the approval of several other countries. Take off the blindfold. Conspiracy theories abound where men of power are concerned (the silly Kelly thing). I would like to thank Blairsupporter for the enlightening comment. Well done!

  • bytheway

    By the way, I was happy to sign the petition presented by Blairsupporter
    There are some well-known British journalists who have signed the petition and many people from all over the world, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, to name a few. Interesting comments, too.
    Yes, I do believe my signature is in good company.

  • Erika Salzeck

    Bytheway:I am sure you are not as sick at heart, “of hearing about is the number of dead since the Iraq war.” as the Iraqis are. Your comment is self centred ans callous. The Senate and the UK governments said “Go” on the basis of proven lies & deception, against the wishes of the UN & incidentally most of the rest of the world. The US is not the centre of the universe. Saying it is so does not make it so. “The silly Kelly thing” is a matter of great concern to many people in the UK if not in the US.
    But if it makes you happy stick that head right back in the sand and keep sucking at that bottle

  • TopSarge

    Poor child. You say that the UN and most of the rest of the world did not want to attack Iraq. Your information is sadly lacking as the UN and others placed several sanctions against Saddam for their understanding that he possessed WMD’s, which incidentally he used on his own people. And, since you are so concerned about the poor people of Iraq did you cry for the poor people of Kuwait when Saddam ruthlessly attacked them raped their women, killed their children and occupied the country. No, of course you didn’t, because your kind always have your minds made up and are undeterred by the facts. I suggest, my dear that you remove your head from the sand and realize that the world is at war, whether you understand it or not. As for the US being the center of the world. Well, you’re right there. But, isn’t it ironic that when trouble arises in other countries the first to the rescue is the US? And, make sure that the bottle you’re drinking from is not filled with kool-aid.

  • bytheway

    Tomorrow is September 11, 2009. I remember where I was and how I felt. When I hear conspiracy theories like the one spewed out by Charlie Sheen, that our government paid for the destruction of the Towers and the murders of over 3,000 men, women and children, I am angry and appalled by it. There will always be conspiracy theorists. Why? I know not. What does it do to the survivors and the families of the victims? It hurts them deeply. I need proof, not guesswork and opinion when it comes to theories such as the one about Mr. Kelly. What does it do to his family? Does it help them? Does it hurt them? Do you even care?
    God Bless America.

  • BlairSupporter

    It is clear that those who scream loudest for justice for some insist on being the black-hooded (hanging) judges when it comes to Tony Blair. They know NOTHING except what they think they understand from the tales of others, often others with their own agendas, prejudices or distorted tales to tell. But these “hanging judges” forget about that little weakness in their armoury. As far as Mr Blair is concerned they ‘KNOW’!!!

    They (you) are shameless, arrogant, deceitful individuals, in my humble opinion. It is not their (your) right, Ms Salzek, to state as FACT that they (you) ‘KNOW’ that “proven” deception or “evil” was perpetrated upon anyone by anyone who made political decisions over questions of war and peace. THEY were elected for such decision-making, above all else – defence of their peoples.

    The “deceptive” and “evil” ones are such as you, Ms Salzeck, who LIE blatantly in order to pursue their own agendas.

    Read these comments from Iraqis at the Ban Blair-Baiting petition site:

    “I am an Iraqi and I will always be grateful for the help that TB and the British people provided to my country when we needed it the most. Saddam Hussein was an evil man. Many of my friends and family were killed by his regime.Horror, intimidation, murder of our families before our eyes. And he used chemical weapons on us too. That is NOT a lie!”


    “When Saddam’s people came to our village a nightmare became reality. Today,my country is a changed place. But please do not leave us to the mercy of the suicide bombers. They are not true Iraqis or true Muslims. We are not ready for you to go yet. Not yet.”

    Then go to the petition and sign it yourself. You’ll feel better for being on the right side of history.

    Mr Blair will probably forgive you and your ilk for pre-judging him before we “KNOW” all there is to know. I most certainly will NOT for your constant, scurrilous traducement of a good man.

  • Logos

    Ms Salzeck is talking absolute tosh. Deaths caused by Saddam far outnumber deaths caused by the Coalition, taking into account the millions of casualties in the war against Iran and the fact that most civilian killings in post-invasion Iraq were perpetrated by Saddam’s supporters and al-Qaeda who deliberately targeted schools, market places,, mosques, remote villages, people queueing for jobs, football supporters etc etc which are almost impossible to defend.

    That is why poll after poll in Iraq has found a majority of Iraqis suppportig the invasion despite all the hardships.

    And that is why Blair was heroically right to join in the invasion.

    Sign the Ban Blair-baiting petition.