Corridors of Power: G-8 Gaffes, Iran Relations, Saudi Texts, and More

Corridors of Power: G-8 Gaffes, Iran Relations, Saudi Texts, and More

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE . . . -- That four-page biography of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi distributed to reporters traveling with President Bush to the G-8 summit in Japan earlier this month apparently wasn't the only White House snafu in the background material compiled for the trip. As was reported, the specially prepared press kit described Italy as "a country known for governmental corruption and vice," and called Berlusconi an opportunist who bought his way to political power. An Italian correspondent covering the summit read it and immediately telephoned an Italian official who, in turn, took it up with the White House.

Before Bush reached Rome from Tokyo, the administration had issued an apology and e-mailed it to all the Italian media. This lessened the impact of the slight, but it still made several Italian papers. It turns out that a junior White House aide had based the material on research from a Web encyclopedia, and the text had not been screened higher up.

Did the same aide compile the president's background paper on Italy as well? There was an error in that too, according to a European source, though it went unreported: The country's prime minister was listed as Romano Prodi. Somehow, nobody in the White House remembered that Italy had elections on April 14 in which Prodi lost to Bush's friend, Silvio Berlusconi.

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