12 takeaways from the newly released conversations between Clinton and Blair

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Transcripts Reveal Clinton Talks with Tony Blair

Everyone knows that Britain and the United States have what diplomats call a "special relationship. But until you've read a transcript of the American president bro-ishly assuring the British prime minister that he still has that "choirboy look," you haven't appreciated just how special that connection can be.

On Friday, the BBC published three years' worth of conversations between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, after obtaining the transcripts via a FOIA request. The dialogues, which date from 1997 to 2000, provide insight into how the two founders of "third way" politics viewed domestic and world affairs during their tenures in power. They also shed light on Bill Clinton's fondness for babysitting and brown bananas.

1. Clinton thought George W. Bush was a smart politician, but unfit for the presidency.
"Bush is a skilled politician, but he is not ready to be president, maybe not ever, certainly not now," Clinton told Blair. "But they want it real bad and they've got lots of money and lots of media access and they are not freshly discredited."

Nonetheless, Clinton told his ally that he expected Gore to win — an assessment he backed away from several weeks later.

"I am just so afraid that all the benefits will be squandered if Bush wins the elections," the president confided. "I still think we have a 50 percent or better chance to win."

"Quite close, isn't it?" Blair asked.

"It shouldn't be. White married Protestants don't think they should be voting for Democrats, partly because of the gun issue that Al and I are taking on," Clinton said, before expressing the paradoxes of American gun politics that would still bedevil his Democratic successor more than a decade later.

"All the specifics people agree with ... It is crazy. You can take a poll about loopholes. Sixty-five percent to 30 percent say yes, but even in New York where it is more liberal than the rest of the country, if Hillary were endorsed by this group that did the Million Mom March, it's like 40 to 40 percent. A lot of the country likes it when we are in, but they have a hard time admitting it."

Clinton went on to express a kind of admiration for the cunning of Bush's smear campaign against John McCain in the South Carolina primary.

"Bush is really smart. The campaign against McCain was the most vicious in modern memory. He has these right-wing foot soldiers do his dirty work, so he can be nice."

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12 takeaways from the newly released conversations between Clinton and Blair
Bill Clinton reacts with his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton during the 3rd night of the Democratic National Convention in New York City in 1992. (AP Photo)
President-elect Bill Clinton gets a kiss from a supporter as he worked the crowd during a rally at City Hall in Macon, Ga., Nov. 23, 1992 for the re-election bid of Sen. Wyche Fowler (D-Georgia). Fowler is in a tight run-off race with Republican challenger Paul Coverdell. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary dance on stage during a "Get-Out-The-Vote" rally at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. Sunday night, Nov. 1, 1992. (AP Photo/Susan Ragan)
**FILE** In this Sept. 6, 1992, file photo, then Presidential candidate Bill Clinton talks with his daughter Chelsea, 12, before a rally in Hot Springs, Ark. Chelsea was only a couple years older than Malia Obama, daughter of President-elect Barack Obama, when she moved into the White House. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)
Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Bill Clinton gets a warm welcome from two young unidentified Hurricane Andrew victims in Florida City Thursday, Sept. 3, 1992, when he toured the devastation caused by the storm in Florida City and Homestead, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton gives a thumbs-up sign to a crowd that gathered after he had addressed the American Legion convention in Chicago, Tuesday, August 25, 1992. (AP Photo/Mark Elias)
Hillary Clinton, right, joins her husband Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton on bicycle run in Little Rock, Arkansas on August 25, 1992. (AP Photo/Chris Ocken)
FILE WASHINGTON, DC - JAN 6, 1994: President Bill Clinton is escorted by Hillary to a waiting helicopter. The president was leaving for Arkansas after learning of the death of his mother. (Photo by Margaret Thomas/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Former presidents Bill Clinton, left, and George H.W. Bush enjoy a boat ride down the Kennebunk River in Kennebunkport, Maine, on Monday, June 27, 2005. Clinton was in the state for a book signing of his book, "My Life." The 1992 election rivals became good friends when they led fund-raising as part of the relief effort for victims of the Asian tsunami. Bush extended the invitation after learning that Clinton would be in Maine for the book signing. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, left, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, listen as President Barack Obama makes a statement to the media before a meeting with his cabinet in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) and US President barack Obama (R) are greeted by Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi (C) at her residence in Yangon on November 19, 2012 . Obama arrived in Myanmar for a historic visit aimed at encouraging a string of dramatic political reforms in the former pariah state. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) looks on as US President Barack Obama (2nd L) speaks during a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda (2nd R) on the sidelines of the East Asian Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh on November 20, 2012. During the two-day East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, Obama was scheduled to hold talks with the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) along with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Japan's Yoshihiko Noda. AFP PHOTO / Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton board Air Force One at the airport in Yangon on November 19, 2012. Huge crowds greeted Barack Obama in Myanmar on the first visit by a serving US president to the former pariah state to encourage a string of startling political reforms. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
In this image provided by the United Nations The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, right, meets with Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State of the USA at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Wednesday morning Nov. 21, 2012. Clinton will try on Wednesday to wring an elusive truce deal from Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers after earlier efforts to end more than a week of fighting broke down amid a furious spasm of violence. (AP Photo/United Nations, Evan Schneider)
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the media after he "doused eleven flames" as he tours the Shwedagon Pagoda with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Yangon, Myanmar, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. This is the first visit to Myanmar by a sitting U.S. president. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama smiles in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, while making a statement to the media before his cabinet meeting. From left are, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the president Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
FILE - In this Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, file photo, former President Bill Clinton speaks at a CGI Clinton Global Initiative Latin America event at the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro. During Jay Leno’s two-decade tenure as NBC’s “Tonight” show host, the comic has cracked a total of 4,607 jokes at the expense of President Clinton. The Washington-based Center for Media and Public Affairs counted and catalogued nearly 44,000 jokes Leno made about politics and public affairs during his time at “Tonight,” which ends Thursday. (AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo, File)
US President Barack Obama(2nd-L), First Lady Michelle Obama(L) along with former president Bill Clinton(3rd-L) and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton(4th-L) take part in a wreath-laying ceremony in honour of the late 35th president of the US John F. Kennedy at Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery on November 20, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts to host Jon Stewart during a taping of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 06: Copies of the German translation of the book 'Hard Choices' ('Entscheidungen' in German) by Hillary Rodham Clinton, former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and First Lady of the United States, stand on display at the Staatsoper in the Schiller Theater on July 6, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 06: Hillary Rodham Clinton, former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and First Lady of the United States, speaks during the presentation of the German translation of her book 'Hard Choices' ('Entscheidungen' in German) at the Staatsoper in the Schiller Theater on July 6, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - JUNE 20: Hillary Rodham Clinton appears on stage during 'A Conversation With Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton' at the Long Center on June 20, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Gary Miller/Getty Images)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton signs copies of her new book "Hard Choices," her recounting of her time as President Barack Obama’s top diplomat, at a book signing event at Barnes & Noble at The Grove in Los Angeles Thursday, June 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Former Secretary of State HiIlary Rodham Clinton speaks with people while signing copies of her new book "Hard Choices," at Harvard Book Store, Monday, June 16, 2014, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at an event to discuss her new book in Washington, Friday, June 13, 2014. Clinton discussed choices and challenges she faced during her four years as America's 67th Secretary of State, and how these experiences drive her view of the future. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton answers a question from the crowd during an appearance to promote her new book, Wednesday, June 11, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Stacy Thacker)
BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 06: Hillary Rodham Clinton, former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and First Lady of the United States (R), speaks next to Christoph Amend, editor in chief of Zeit Magazin, during the presentation of the German translation of her book 'Hard Choices' ('Entscheidungen' in German) at the Staatsoper in the Schiller Theater on July 6, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton waves to the media after a meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Tuesday, July 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrives with France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at the Quai d'Orsay, in Paris, Monday, July 7, 2014. The former U.S. secretary of state was in Paris or the publication in France of her book “Hard Choices” which recounts her four years running American diplomacy. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius offered a reception in her honor. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, joins U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., left, and Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., during a get out the vote rally center, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014 in Nashua, NH (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, talks to voters with U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., right, and Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., at the Puritan Backroom Restaurant, Sunday, Nov. 2, 2014 in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Former President Bill Clinton speaks during U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Dick Furinash, of Liberty Center, Iowa, walks with cutouts of former Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton during U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Dick Furinash, of Liberty Center, Iowa, stands with cutouts of former Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former President Bill Clinton during U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Former Sec. of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin work the grill during Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton waves as she walks with U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, left, former President Bill Clinton and Ruth Harkin, right, as they arrive at Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to questions from Lissa Muscatine, proprietor of the Politics and Prose bookstore during a discussion on the empowerment of women and girls at the Ford Foundation, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014, in New York. The discussion was part of a two-day conference assessing the progress of women's empowerment since a similar conference took place in Beijing in 1995.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, greets members of the audience after a discussion on the empowerment of women and girls at the Ford Foundation, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014, in New York. The discussion was part of a two-day conference assessing the progress of women's empowerment since a similar conference took place in Beijing in 1995.(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
EAST HAMPTON, NY - AUGUST 16: Hillary Rodham Clinton signs copies of her book 'Hard Choices' at BookHampton on August 16, 2014 in East Hampton, New York. (Photo by Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JULY 23: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a during a round table event to launch the 'Talking is Teaching: Talk Read Sing' campaign at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute on July 23, 2014 in Oakland, California. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the 'Talking is Teaching; Talk Read Sing' campaign in partnership withToo Small to Fail and the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Foundation that encourages parents and caregivers to close the word gap by talking, singing and reading to children every day from the birth. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Former President Bill Clinton, right, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, second from right, wave to the media as Marc Mezvinsky and Chelsea Clinton pose for photographers with their newborn baby, Charlotte, after the family leaves Manhattan's Lenox Hill hospital in New York, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/William Regan)
This photo provided by Clinton spokesman Kamyl Bazbaz shows former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, and former President Bill Clinton, right with their granddaughter Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. The Clintons's daughter, Chelsea, gave birth Friday night to her first child, Charlotte. (AP Photo/Office of President Clinton, Jon Davidson)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR HULT PRIZE - Former President Bill Clinton announces the Hult Prize winner onstage during The Hult Prize Finals and Awards Dinner 2014 at the 10th Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York on Sept. 23, 2014. (Jonathan Fickies/AP Images for Hult Prize)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former U.S. President Bill Clinton appear together on stage during a plenary session at the Clinton Global Initiative, Monday, Sept. 22, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Former President Bill Clinton speaks during U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin's annual fundraising Steak Fry, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Former President Bill Clinton speaks during a public memorial service for Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz Wednesday, June 4, 2014, at Temple University in Philadelphia. Katz and six others died when his private jet crashed during takeoff on Saturday, May 31, 2014, in Massachusetts. He was 72. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Former Presidents Bill Clinton, left, and George W. Bush, laugh while participating in the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program Launch, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, at The Newseum in Washington. The two are launching a new scholars program at four presidential libraries, aiming to help academics and business leaders learn more about presidential leadership. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
With five days left to campaign in Kentucky's combative Senate race, Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes gets an assist from former President Bill Clinton in Ashland, Ky., Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, a region where the coal industry provides job. Her opponent, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., a 30-year incumbent, calls Grimes "anti-coal" and has tried to link her to President Barack Obama's energy policies putting restrictions on coal-fired power plants, which generate about 90 percent of Kentucky's electricity. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Bill Clinton and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo talk during a news conference as Lieutenant Governor candidate Kathy Hochul speaks to supporters Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Former President Bill Clinton speaks as Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Michelle Nunn looks on during a rally in Atlanta Friday, Oct. 31, 2014. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Former President Bill Clinton, left, and Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist wave to supporters at a campaign event, Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. Crist, a former Florida Republican governor, is running against Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 06: Former president of United States (US) Bill Clinton (R) and his wife, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L), leave St. Ignatius Loyola Church after the funeral of former three-term governor Mario Cuomo on January 6, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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2. Blair was already concerned with mobilizing support for confronting Saddam in 1998.
During a conversation in February 1998, Clinton expressed concerns over both Hussein's weapons program and the potential political costs of failing to confront the Iraqi dictator.

"If people knew how many weapons Unscom inspectors have exposed they would understand why this is so important." Clinton said.

"We are getting new pressures, especially from Capitol Hill, to go after Saddam's head," Vice-President Al Gore told Blair.

Blair said later, "Our public opinion is not the same as yours, but we are working hard to educate the public. We put out a white paper yesterday on Iraq's WMD programs."

3. Clinton likened stateless terrorists to James Bond villains.
In another foreshadowing of the war on terror that lay ahead, Clinton predicted that the West would "increasingly have to deal with terrorists with no ties to any nation-state, including Iran ... In the case of a lot of Middle East and African countries, we could be dealing with these people, like in those old James Bond movies with SPECTRE and Dr. No. We're going to have a twenty-first century version of those."

4. Blair and Clinton shared a moment after the death of Princess Diana.
One day after Princess Di was killed in a Paris car crash, the two leaders commiserated over the phone. Clinton lamented that Diana was "just getting a hold of her life," while Blair expressed concerns for the royal children.

5. Clinton can believe that Blair was once a choirboy.

6. Clinton couldn't get a read on Gerry Adams.
Many of the leaders' conversations focused on the Northern Ireland peace process. Clinton repeatedly assured Blair that he'd do whatever the prime minister asked to help facilitate an agreement.

At one point in June 1999, Chelsea Clinton, then at Stanford, was writing a paper on Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams — a school assignment that prompted her father to question the MP's relationship with the IRA.

"I've been reading about it all through this, because my daughter just happens to be doing a paper on Adams," Clinton told Blair. "I don't know what the real deal is between him and the IRA. It's hard to put pressure on him when you don't know what's going on. It's just bizarre."

7. Blair thinks Africa is a "fascinating continent"
Blair's fascination with Africa — both as a continent and moneymaking opportunity — proved to be sincere.

8. Boris Yeltsin introduced Clinton to nose-to-tail cooking before it was fashionable.
"
When I had lunch with Boris, he served roast pig and told me real men hack off the ears and eat them," Clinton divulged. "And once he served 24 courses, including moose lips."

9. Trump isn't the only American political figure who fell for Putin's wiles.
Shortly after Vladimir Putin's election to the Russian presidency, Clinton told Blair that he had high hopes for the new leader.

"Putin has enormous potential," Clinton said. "I think he's very smart and thoughtful. I think we can do a lot of good with him."

10. Blair put Bill on his babysitter's list.

11. Blair may have ordered the extrajudicial execution of a telephone operator.

12. Clinton preferred to talk to Blair while keeping one hand on a big brown banana.
"My staff won't let me talk to you unless I have a banana at hand," the leader of the free world confessed. "I'm sitting here with a banana; it's a big, ugly, brownish one."

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