Tuesday, June 12, 2007
YouTube gets Bush scoop
FIAT, Italy’s largest car maker, is known by many in the U.S. as "Fix It Again Tony" because of the performance of its cars over the years.
So you can imagine how Italians reacted when they saw President Bush’s multi-million-dollar gigantic armored Cadillac stalling in the streets of downtown Rome, as he was being driven to the American embassy after meeting the pope at the Vatican.
I first read about it on Italian Web sites on Saturday, and immediately sought clarification with the U.S. TV Pool, the group of reporters following the president every step of the way.
The incident produced a flurry of e-mails between the traveling press, with direct access to U.S. officials, and the reporters back at the workspace, trying to figure out what had really happened.
First we heard the car did stall, but that it started right back and kept moving, and that the president didn’t get out. Then rumors began circulating that he briefly got out, but got right back in. Finally we were told: "It stalled, and then started back again."
A CNN cameraman travelling with the president eventually got a shot of a mechanic working on the car once it arrived at the embassy.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, because White House officials tried to play down the length of the "incident," minimizing the risk of a stalled presidential limousine in the streets of downtown Rome. But the car actually stood there motionless for several minutes, the driver unable to restart it.
It turned out that a tourist who happened to be right there filmed the entire sequence with a mini-cam, and posted the video on YouTube. Take a look at it, because it’s the sort of stuff you usually see in movies. But this is actually the real thing.
The secret service agents protecting the president did exactly what they were supposed to do (they created a ring around the president’s car while the back-up limousine pulled up along side.)
The president DID briefly come out, and you can hear bystanders cheering him, while dozens of nervous Italian police officers were yelling: “Indietro, indietro” (“stay back, stay back.”)
Nothing happened of course, but there are two lessons to be learned from this episode.
First, cars, even the most expensive ones, do break down and it always happen at the wrong time.
And secondly, when the president of the United States travels he is followed by dozens of crews and hundreds of reporters. But they couldn’t figure out what happened until a tourist decided to post his seven-minute video on the Web.
I hope my bosses don’t read this blog too carefully.
-- From Alessio Vinci, CNN Rome Bureau Chief
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