Alastair Campbell, the former spokesman for Tony Blair, stopped by to promote his new book The Blair Years. Some might know Campbell from the hilarious portrayal of him in The Queen. He personally welcomes how “devoid of emotion” the U.S. media are in covering his book, and even compliments American journalists for having a better record at sticking to facts instead of opinion in covering the news. In his view, even the Financial Times has blurred the lines at this point.
In the U.K., Campbell is a polarizing figure, a famously foul-mouthed tabloid journalist who became one of the architects of New Labour and a close friend of Blair.
Campbell says he tried to focus on the good side of people in editing the diaries. Of vice-president Dick Cheney, he says, “It’s amazing that he manages to remain so inscrutable.”
As for President Bush, Campbell says: “I quite like him. He’s not the things that people say he is. There’s more to him. He’s sometimes a bit cocky, a bit hyper and very self-deprecating in meetings. Bush was so not status conscious in meetings. … Bush is better in private than in public.”
But Campbell saves most of his praise for Bill Clinton. The guy knows how to work a room and “has his own strategic flightpath”, mixing charisma and people skills with the detail-oriented mind of a policy wonk. While he didn’t notice Hillary much when she was first lady, he thinks “she has many of the same skills.”
Campbell also thinks Prime Minister Gordon Brown is off to a great start, Iraq will work out, and the broadcast media worldwide have become so homogenized and similar in format that TV news is often boring to watch.
How can you manage smarter? Bloomberg Businessweek contributors synthesize insights from the brightest business thinkers, critique the latest management trends, and comment on leaders in the news.