Wednesday, February 26
Saddam Hussein, Reporter: After Exclusive CBS Interview, Iraqi Leader Quizzed Dan Rather
Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, February 26, 2003When the cameras were turned off after more than an hour and a half, it was Saddam Hussein's turn to interview Dan Rather.
The Iraqi leader led the CBS anchor to the overstuffed leather chairs in his high-ceilinged Baghdad office and "had questions about American public opinion and President Bush," Rather recalled yesterday from the Jordanian desert. "I said, 'Mr. President, you asked me and I will try to answer you. A lot of these answers I don't think you're going to like.' [...]
Rather was surprised when Hussein challenged Bush to a debate, a gambit that was quickly dismissed by the White House. "I wasn't sure he was serious," the anchor explained. "I said to him, 'Mr. President, are you joking about this?' He said no, war is too serious to joke about."
Pressed further, Hussein dismissed the United Nations as a forum for the debate he wants. He said he would be in Baghdad and Bush in Washington, and suggested that Rather could moderate the televised face-off.
"I paused and said -- I'm not proud of this -- 'Mr. President, I have enough troubles already.' He chuckled at that."
The session was scheduled to last 35 to 40 minutes, but Hussein went on nearly three times as long. In one exchange at the round white table with microphones mounted in front of an Iraqi flag, Rather asked: "So you do not intend to destroy these missiles?"
"Which missiles? What do you mean?" said Hussein, who appeared animated and composed. "We have no missiles outside the specifications of the United Nations." He also said he is "ready to dialogue" with Bush out of "my respect for the American public opinion." [...]