Sunday, October 04, 2009
Interviewing Pervez Musharraf
I wasn't born in Iowa. I grew up in the border state of Illinois. But one of the most incredible things about living in Iowa, professionally speaking, is the access I get to the country's leaders. I interviewed all the major political candidates the last two cycles (except for President George W Bush, whose people kept making me think we would get time with him, but never did. No. I'm not bitter). It doesn't come without hard work and preparation and numerous calls at times to get those interviews. But I must say, this last interview was quite different. Who knew former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would ever step foot in Iowa? Who knew I would ever have a chance to talk with him? But it happened, thanks to the Iowa family who helped host his visit in Clive.
When my photographer and I arrived, we were greeted by at least 15 agents from various agencies. They checked through our camera gear before we entered the house. Aside from drug-sniffing dogs, it seemed very similar to the experiences I've had with some of the visits from presidential nominees from the United States.
I could see Musharraf enjoying a smoke in the sitting room inside the house with another man. I never got to find out who that was. A short while later, they cleared the room, so we could set up. I'll attach the video from the interviews once they get posted on-line, so you can watch. But I wanted to share a few things when the camera wasn't rolling.
Musharraf's people wanted us to know how damaging the war on terror has been on Pakistan. They estimate the country has lost about $35 billion in trade with Afghanistan alone.
Musharraf talked about the young presidency of Barack Obama. He said it's been a "good start" for Obama so far. But he also said Obama is learning the difference between being a candidate and being the president. He said it's one thing to say as a candidate, you would end the war. But he said, it's another thing when you have intelligence officials handing you confidential memos as president that show the imminent dangers your enemies threaten.
Musharraf said he might be interested in becoming president again, if his country is "suffering" (he did say Pakistan is already suffering). He said he would have to measure his support in the country. He doesn't want to "overassess" or "underassess" his support, he said.
For now, he is living in London. He is currently touring the U.S., where he is doing about 20 speeches. Musharraf told me he plays a lot of golf and bridge with his new free time. He also surprised me with his use of American sayings. He talked about "playing that ballgame" and "hullabaloo"...and, yes, I had to look up how to spell that word.