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2000-03-07

G.W. Bush Endorsed by Imaginary Canadian Prime Minister

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George W. Bush has gotten into trouble again over the name of a world leader. After a rally in Canton, Michigan, two weeks ago, a man posing as a Canadian television reporter told Mr. Bush that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Poutine had endorsed him for his presidential run. Bush beamed and responded excitedly to the endorsement. [includes rush transcript]

But unfortunately for Bush, Canada’s prime minister is Jean Chrétien, not Poutine. Poutine is a popular French-Canadian dish made of French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy.

The man posing as the journalist was Canadian comedian Rick Mercer. Mercer hosts a program on the CBC network called This Hour Has 22 Minutes. The show often lampoons American ignorance of Canadian culture and politics. Last season, he had the governor of Arkansas convinced that Canada was building an igloo to protect its parliament building.

Guest:

  • Rick Mercer, host of This Hour has 22 Minutes on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Television.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today is the 35th anniversary of the Alabama state trooper and sheriff deputy attack on more than 600 black protesters who marched over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965. In a little while we’ll talk more about that. But first, this:

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: The people of this state are going to the polls today. And I like our chances.

RICK MERCER: Excuse me, Secretary, a question from Canada, from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

SECRETARY OF STATE CANDICE MILLER: How are you?

RICK MERCER: Prime Minister Jean Poutine said that he wouldn’t endorse any candidate in this race.

SECRETARY OF STATE CANDICE MILLER: Who?

RICK MERCER: The prime minister of Canada.

SECRETARY OF STATE CANDICE MILLER: Oh.

RICK MERCER: Jean Poutine said that he would not endorse any candidate in this race, and today he said that he believed that George W. Bush should be the man to lead the free world into the 21st century. How important is this endorsement?

SECRETARY OF STATE CANDICE MILLER: I think he’s a very smart man to make that endorsement, because he’s exactly right.

RICK MERCER: Governor Engler, a question from Canada. A question from Canada.

GOV. JOHN ENGLER: Yeah.

RICK MERCER: Prime Minister Jean Poutine said that he wouldn’t endorse any candidate in this election. Now he said that he believes George W. Bush is the man to lead the free world into the 21st century. Is this an important endorsement?

GOV. JOHN ENGLER: I certainly think he’s got very good judgment in making that kind of a statement about George W. Bush.

RICK MERCER: Do you believe Mr. Bush would be happy to hear about Mr. Poutine’s endorsement?

SECRETARY OF STATE CANDICE MILLER: I think he’ll be very, very ecstatic to hear that. I know he thinks very highly of him and regards him very highly. So —

RICK MERCER: Thanks very much.

SECRETARY OF STATE CANDICE MILLER: — he would be very happy to hear that.

RICK MERCER: Governor Bush, a question from Canada. A question from Canada.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: What about it?

RICK MERCER: Prime Minister Jean Poutine said that he wouldn’t endorse any candidate. He says that you look like the man who should lead the free world into the 21st century.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I’m honored. Thank you.

RICK MERCER: Yeah, so what do you think about that? How’s his endorsement?

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I appreciate his strong statement. He understands I believe in free trade. He understands I want to make sure our relations with our most important neighbor to the north of us, the Canadians, is strong. And we’ll work closely together.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it seems that George W. Bush has gotten into trouble again over the name of a world leader. After a rally in Canton, Michigan, two weeks ago, a man posing as a Canadian television reporter told Bush that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Poutine had endorsed him for his presidential bid. Bush beamed. But unfortunately for Bush, Canada’s prime minister is Jean Chrétien, not Poutine. Poutine is a popular French-Canadian concoction of French fries and cheese curds smothered in gravy.

The man posing as the journalist was Canadian comedian Rick Mercer. He hosts a program on CBC network called This Hour Has 22 Minutes. The show often lampoons American ignorance of Canadian culture and politics. Last season he had the governor of Arkansas convinced that Canada was building an igloo to protect its parliament building. And Rick Mercer joins us now from Canada.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

RICK MERCER: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: So, any fallout from the French fry endorsement of George W. Bush?

RICK MERCER: Well, the prime minister’s office here released a statement a couple of days ago saying that, clearly, Canada was not in the Bush leagues. Our prime minister does have a sense of humor, luckily.

AMY GOODMAN: So tell us about that scene two weeks ago.

RICK MERCER: Well, we — with 22 Minutes, our show is a political satire show, so we like to go out to various political events. We never know what we’re going to get. Generally they just create a backdrop for us. And I always wanted to go to a primary. I’m a bit of a political junkie, so — and of course, your primary system baffles me entirely. You know, I did read Primaries for Idiots, and I still can’t really figure it out. But I really wanted to go to one and, you know, hear the man speak. And I was lucky enough to get close enough to fire off a question to Governor Bush, Governor Engler and the Secretary of State there.

AMY GOODMAN: So that was Governor Engler we first heard, the governor of Michigan?

RICK MERCER: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And the campaign chief?

RICK MERCER: And the first one was actually Candice Miller, who’s a Secretary of State and a state historian for Michigan.

AMY GOODMAN: Which borders Canada.

RICK MERCER: I thought for sure she would know. I mean, she lives in a border state. They do about $56 million worth of trade a day between Michigan and Canada. So I thought that perhaps the Secretary of State and official state historian might have some inkling who the prime minister of Canada was. But no chance.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the igloo.

RICK MERCER: I’m sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the igloo.

RICK MERCER: Well, that was — sometimes I do a piece. I just wander around. I talk to, you know, the average man on the street type interviews. And I just tell them things about Canada, you know, that we’re now experiencing nine months of darkness or what have you. And I happened to be Arkansas. And I wanted to go to Arkansas, your president being from there. And I was just wandering around telling people that we were doing a story because their state capitol buildings are miniatures of the buildings in Washington, and ours are actually miniatures of the Arkansas State Capitol building, the National Parliament buildings of Canada, except, of course, ours is an igloo, and it’s melting because of global warming. So we’re trying to build a big dome over it to protect it from the hole in the ozone, and what did people think about that. And I was interviewing people on the street, and of course people thought this was, you know, entirely possible, of course being in Canada, that we would have a national igloo.

And then we saw the governor going into the State Capitol building, so we wandered in and followed him in and told him that the people of Canada would be so honored if he would just say a few words about our national igloo and preventing it from melting. So he said — he asked me — he pulled me aside and said, “Is this national igloo controversial at all?” I said, “No, sir, it’s not controversial.” He said, “I’ll do it.” And he looked into the camera and said, “Hello, Canada, I’m Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, congratulating you on preserving your national igloo,” and then gave us a big thumbs up.

AMY GOODMAN: You sound a little, Rick Mercer, like Michael Moore here in the United States.

RICK MERCER: We just like to go around and get up to no good, basically. I mean, we do it all the time in Canada. I don’t travel to the States that often and do it. But we had been on the air for seven years, and of course generally we’ve been going to our own capital, Ottawa, and we’ve been kind of goofing around there for so long that we just had to broaden our horizons a little bit. And so, that’s just one of the things we like to do. We like to get up to no good, you know, and say the bad thing.

You know, in Canada, we’re — we live next to the United States, and we’re inundated with American culture and American television. And so, we just know so much about America. Now, when we stop and think about it, we hardly expect Americans to know as much about Canada as we do about you, because, of course, we’re not beaming, you know, 1,700 channels down there every day. And we’re not — we just don’t have the size. But, of course, Canadians always get a kick out of traveling in the States and having Americans say things like, you know, "So, do you have any sunlight up there these days?" or "I guess you go to school on skidoos." So, we just get a kick out of that.

AMY GOODMAN: How does your system work in terms of voting for a prime minister?

RICK MERCER: Well, of course, we don’t have primaries. You know, like I say, that’s where my ignorance kicks in. I can’t figure out the primaries, you know, at all. But we don’t have primaries. You know, obviously, we’re a democracy. We have no term limits. We have a prime minister of Canada. We’re also kind of a monarchy up here, so it’s a bit wonky that way.

AMY GOODMAN: And you also don’t have term limits?

RICK MERCER: We don’t have term limits. That’s something that’s kind of exciting or interesting that we’ve been following lately, because — it’s not that term limits are an issue. They’re not an issue up here at all. We just don’t have them. And, you know, the prime minister of Canada has always indicated he’s going to leave after his second term. And generally, that’s what most prime ministers do.

But now he’s planning on sticking around for a third term, because he’s wildly popular, and of course the economy is just chugging along, like it is in the States, and so there’s lots of money and stuff, so why would he leave? And, of course, this is causing some consternation among his cabinet, because a number of these guys and girls have been lining themselves up to replace him. And so, now we’re starting to watch that unofficial leadership campaign and lots of backstabbing going on. And so [inaudible].

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of money, I understand your government is missing a lot of it lately, about what, a million dollars?

RICK MERCER: Yeah, there was like a couple of billion dollars —

AMY GOODMAN: Billion.

RICK MERCER: — went missing there a little while ago, in something called the Department of Human Rights and — Human Resources and Development. And that’s, you know, just one of those gigantic departments that gives away grants to, you know, everything. That’s where the employment grants come from. That’s where like, you know, anything — you know, that’s where job creation grants come from, all sorts of different grants. So, I guess it’s mainly the accounting procedures are so abysmal that no one knows where it is. And so, that’s been an ongoing story up here for a number of months now, with people screaming for Jane Stewart’s head, who happens to be the minister. But, you know, she’s handling it well, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us, Rick Mercer. Maybe she could find some comfort in that French-Canadian dish made of French fries and cheese curds.

RICK MERCER: I’m sure she will. It’s a heart attack on a plate. You should all try it.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s called poutine.

RICK MERCER: Prime Minister Jean Poutine said that he wouldn’t endorse any candidate. He says that you look like the man who should lead the free world into the 21st century.

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I’m honored. Thank you.

RICK MERCER: Yeah, so what do you think about that? How’s his endorsement?

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, I appreciate his strong statement. He understands I believe in free trade. He understands I want to make sure our relations with our most important neighbor to the north of us, the Canadians, is strong. And we’ll work closely together.

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