World

Canadian official called Bush 'a moron'

A senior official in the PMO has been quoted as calling President Bush 'a moron.'

An offhand comment by a senior member of the Chrtien government may have a lasting effect on relations between Ottawa and Washington. A top aide to the prime minister has been quoted as referring to U.S. President George W. Bush as "a moron."

The disparaging comment from Chrtien's inner circle has shaken the Prime Minister's Office. Prime Minister Jean Chrtien was forced to say on Thursday that President Bush is "a friend of mine. He's not a moron at all."

That the prime minister of Canada would have to say the president of the United States is not a moron is remarkable enough. That he has to defend a comment made by one of his closest advisors has sent shockwaves from Prague, where NATO leaders are meeting, to Parliament Hill to the White House.

It began when Bush made a speech in the Czech capital calling on NATO countries to spend more on defence.

Canadian officials saw that as a veiled criticism of Ottawa's military spending. The prime minister's director of communications, Francoise Ducros, said of Bush, "What a moron."

The comment apparently was made in the presence of at least two reporters.

In Ottawa, Canadian Alliance MP Jason Kenney wanted to know if the quote was accurate. And if it is, "Does it reflect the views of the Liberal government?"

Conservative leader Joe Clark said if such a statement was made the offending party "should be on a plane home right now."

The PMO issued a brief statement: "The Prime Minister's Office never comments on newspaper reports attributed to unnamed sources."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who is accompanying Bush in Prague, dismissed the comment as coming from "somebody who obviously doesn't speak for the Canadian government."

The problem is Ducros does speak for the Canadian government, usually on background and off the record. The quote first attributed to a government official was soon linked to Ducros and widely reported.

Whether the comment was on the record or not, the opposition says the comment was inappropriate, coming from an official representing the government of Canada.

Others say the comment will only further chill the dialogue between Washington and Ottawa.

The prime minister is now under pressure to take action against one of his most loyal advisers.