BROOKE GLADSTONE: As we heard, President Bush was on his state visit to London when truck bombs exploded near British targets in Istanbul. On Friday, we spoke to reporter Michael Goldfarb from London about the reaction of the British press to the American president.
MICHAEL GOLDFARB: You know, here people, you know, think of him as his cartoonists depict him -- as, you know, a kind of cowboy who doesn't really know what goes on in the world and is kind of led around by his advisors, and he delivered a keynote address on Wednesday that was -- first of all the speech was incredibly well-written by his speech-writing team; he delivered it at State of the Union level -- I mean he had to hit this one out of the park -- and he won some converts -- at least presentationally. John Snow, who is the host of the 7 p.m. news on Channel Four and most journalists would acknowledge is the real media opinion setter in broadcasting in this country, wrote a very interesting intro to his evening news broadcast.
JOHN SNOW: Good evening. Perhaps his lampoonists have had the better of him, but today George Bush has proved more assured and a better speaker than many had cracked him down to be. The content was the same. In amongst the state flummery today, he managed to weave a message of Methodist zeal, conjuring Tyndale, Wesley and Locke -- tonight Bush preaches an American-led cure for all the world's ills.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So was, then, Mr. Snow typical of the reaction after the president gave the keynote address?
MICHAEL GOLDFARB:Yeah, his response was actually echoed later that evening by Gavin Essler who is the host of Newsnight which is the BBC's equivalent program to Nightline.
GAVIN ESSLER: Good evening. Whoever wrote George Bush's big speech in London today knew exactly which buttons to push for a British audience: common sacrifice, shared values, strong praise for British valor and the grand alliance of the Second World War, plus at least two good jokes.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:But then Thursday happened. Clearly Britain was targeted by terrorists in Istanbul and suffered a lot of casualties. Did the tenor of the coverage change?
MICHAEL GOLDFARB: I mean this trip is very neatly divided: Before Istanbul. After Istanbul. Because British interests were targeted. Because Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw actually had to attend to the business of government. They had to pay attention to what was happening. They were taking in reports that included news of the death of Britain's Consul General in Istanbul. So in the middle of all of this was what we in the press were looking forward to most which was the joint press conference between Tony Blair and George Bush, and we had anticipated that this might be the moment when the protective bubble that surrounds the president, his media handlers, we know keep him on a disciplined program in terms of how often he speaks to reporters -- completely different from Tony Blair. But after you hear of events like what happened in Istanbul, when 27 people lose their lives, it would be churlish of the press to take the kind of approach that it often does, and so it ended up being a, a slightly different kind of press conference.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:But there was at least some churlishness. In the left-leaning Guardian newspaper, columnist Polly Toynbee tied the bombing and the Bush visit together. She wrote: "Bombs in Istanbul are the only outcome from this presidential visit. George Bush brought no gifts to thank his ally for taking so much damage to support this politically alien president." And she goes on to cite the lack of concessions on tariffs, and the lack of attention to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the lack of assurance that the U.S. won't cut and run from Iraq. And she concludes: "This visit has been all down side for our prime minister." So, was she a lone voice?
MICHAEL GOLDFARB: It is very much a part of the left-leaning press. You have to remember, 40 percent of the press is owned by Rupert Murdoch. It's conservative. You have the part of the press that was owned by Conrad Black until this week. The Daily Telegraph which is the largest circulation broadsheet newspaper, very conservative. You have other less well-known in America tabloids like the Daily Mail --extraordinarily conservative. They were saying today how can protestors go out in the street when something like this has happened, and have they no shame saying George Bush is the greatest terrorist on the face of the earth when 27 people were murdered in Istanbul by Al Qaeda. So that is actually the more general view, and the more general opinion that people read.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay. Thank you very much, Michael.
MICHAEL GOLDFARB: Thank you, Brooke.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Michael Goldfarb is a senior correspondent based in London for WBUR Public Radio in Boston.