See Update below--the open mike is not on the Hu side of Bush, it's on the Putin side. Thanks to EasyRider for checking my work and seeing the funkiness with the video.
Remember those slights Hu Jintao suffered when he visited the United States? The Taiwanese anthem, the Falun Gong protestor? I thought then that might be revenge for the way Bush was made to look like an idiot when he visited Beijing.
You'll notice that the order is different, in the video than in the WaPo transcript. For the moment, let's use the video for placement and the transcript for chronology. The transcript (so, presumably, the accidental taping) starts with Bush being distracted by an aide.
Someone, probably an aide, asks Bush something, evidently whether he wants prepared closing remarks for the end of the summit:
Bush: No. Just gonna make it up. I'm not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.
Then someone who lives in "the neighborhood" yet 8 hours away--the WaPo speculates that it is Hu Jintao--gives Bush a little geography lesson.
The camera is focused elsewhere and it is not clear whom Bush is talking to, but possibly Chinese President Hu Jintao, a guest at the summit.
Bush : Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home. How about you? Where are you going? Home?
Bush : This is your neighborhood. It doesn't take you long to get home. How long does it take you to get home?
Reply is inaudible.
Bush : "Eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country."
At this point, the president seems to bring someone else into the conversation.
Bush : It takes him eight hours to fly home.
He turns his attention to a server.
Bush : No, Diet Coke, Diet Coke.
He turns back to whomever he was talking with.
Bush : It takes him eight hours to fly home. Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China.
In this video, he appears to be pointing first to the chair to the right, then he looks to the right, sees it is empty, then he corrects his pointing finger to indicate the Asian man now standing to his right, looking as if he is walking away. That sure does look like Hu.
Then, according to the WaPo transcript, Blair comes up and Bush teaches little boys and girls everywhere how to talk with their mouth full. The taped part of their conversation ends with a discussion of the Middle East.
Bush : See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over.
Blair : Who, Syria?
Bush : Right.
Blair : I think this is all part of the same thing. What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's [inaudible ] . That's what this whole thing's about. It's the same with Iran.
Bush : I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel. We're not blaming the Lebanese government."
At this point, Blair notices the microphone and turns it off.
Blair notices that a microphone, just in front of the chair to Bush's right, is on, and he leans over and turns it off. This is the microphone that has taped the entire conversation.
Assuming the WaPo transcript has the order right, the taping starts while Bush is talking to an aide. At that point, the microphone is turned on and immediately after the aide leaves, Bush engages (presumably) Hu. Who was sitting or standing to Bush's right. Precisely where the microphone was.
Update: Fixed a syntax problem above and added these thoughts.
I'm not sure that the Asian mad on Bush's right is Hu (though it might make sense, given protocol at events like this, that the Heads of State would sit together, and it sure looks like it could be him). And we certainly don't know that Hu (if it is Hu) turned on the microphone. Here's what I think we can conclude:
- The microphone was in front of the seat where (presumably) Hu had been sitting, accessible to Bush, Hu, or whoever sat to Hu's right
- Blair clearly turns the microphone off, so it's clear the microphone was operable locally
- The microphone clearly gave some visual indication it was on (presumably a light?), since Blair realized it was taping
- Hu (presumably) got up and left just shortly after recording started, leaving Putin and Bush in a conversation with a microphone capturing their conversation
I raise the possibility that Hu turned on the microphone not just because it adds to the humor of the situation (though it does suggest Hu and Bush have now plotted embarrassing jokes on each other on three continents). Think about what it says about our relationship with the largest country in the world. Every time these guys get together, they undercut goodwill by embarrassing the other, badly and publicly. In this case, Hu didn't excuse himself. He just walked away while Bush was still babbling to Putin about Hu's eight hour flight home. And think of the damage that taping private conversations between heads of state might have. As it is, the microphone captured:
- Bush's reluctance about the plan presented by Kofi Annan and Blair
- Blair explaining to Bush that Condi had to succeed because he, Blair, could only talk, he had no authority to (presumably) get the Israelis to back off
- Bush claiming the Syrians could just fix all the problems
Hu (if he did turn the microphone on) managed to expose Bush's real approach to the Middle East crisis, undercutting the public presentation Blair had made earlier in the day, and complicating Blair and Condi's diplomatic considerably.
If Hu turned on the micropohne, it's really funny. But it's also deadly serious.
Update: EasyRider has a diary at DKos where he argues, compellingly, that the open mike is on the Putin side of Bush, not the Hu side of Bush. I'm convinced he's right, though the video has been altered in some way to make it appear like the open mike is on the Hu side of Bush.
Here's how to tell. In the scene where Bush is speaking to Putin, pointing at (presumably) Hu, his lapel pins are on the Putin side of his suit. Now, note that the Russian video, Blair appears first on Bush's left, then on his right. But it's clear--when he leans over to turn off the mike, he's leaning in the same direction of Bush's lapel pins, toward the front of where Putin was sitting. I've blown up the pictures above, showing where his lapel pins are in both. Either Bush switched his lapel pins mid-conversation with Tony. Or the mike is where Putin had just been sitting.