Has this every happened to you? You're having dinner or at a party and the subject of George W. Bush comes up and you decide to stand up for him and ... huh ... oh did I lose you there? Oh well, maybe it's just me then. Well anyway, I announce that I think Bush is a good president and that I'm happy to defend his overall record and before ten seconds has elapsed someone says it. Someone always says it. I've heard this at least three times in the last year, probably more and believe me, I don't get into this conversation all that often so it might be 100 per cent reliable. But I know someone will always say:
"How can you respect a man who says 'The problem with the French is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur'?"
I wait a couple of seconds to see whether there's an ironic smirk coming. But it never does. They sit there stony faced and I realise that they really believe it. They really, really think that this happened. I'm not suggesting that the only criticism of Bush one can make is that he doesn't know French (though he can speak Spanish - can you?) but this is often the first line of argument that his oh-so-smart detractors chose to make. I tell them that it's a joke - possibly one that he made, but more likely one that was made about him. It almost certainly never ever happened. They won't accept it.
I finally decided to refer to Snopes last week and check out its authenticity. Snopes is a great site for debunking or verifying urban legends. In the section on quotes I find this:
which informs us that the story started in Britain in 2002 and the original source was Shirley Williams. Snopes says it's false, but unfortunately the source for the denial is one Alastair Campbell. The people behind Snopes probably don't know about Campbell's reputation in the UK, so it's a shame they don't supply a second source for the denial. Nevertheless, now that he's no longer working for the prime minister, it would be interesting to hear him deny it again. His son plays poker at the Vic so if he ever comes in to see how junior is getting on in the £100 hold'em game, maybe I'll get my chance.
Talking of the Vic, I know that some readers are put off playing there because it's so full of Greeks. They fear that the Greeks are unfriendly to non-Greeks. I can honestly say that it's totally untrue. In fact I have it on good authority that they don't even have a word for Xenophobia.