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27/03/2017
BBC Radio 4

    In London it was 3.14 pm and drizzling a cold wet rain. In Austin Texas it was 10.14am and sizzling with a bone dry heat. A radio line connected KVET Austin and Broadcasting House. An empty line which clicked and rattled.

    Everything was set up for the centrepiece interview of Radio 4's The Men with the Ear of the President. Weeks of emailing and planning had come to fruition. We had secured an interview with Karl Rove.

    Karl Rove, the man who had spotted the Presidential potential of George W. Bush while they were both still in their twenties. Karl Rove who had planned and executed George W. Bush's successive election victories. Karl Rove, probably the most famed and feared political strategist of the last century, had agreed to record a rare - dammit - an almost unprecedented on-the-record interview for my documentary.

    And I had lost him somewhere between his car and the microphone.

    He had been spotted by the receptionist at the Radio Station parking his car. Her colleague had seen him coming into reception. Someone in promotions thought she had seen him walking down the corridor but she couldn't be entirely sure.

    The line squeaked slightly. In the studio everyone leaned forward expectantly.

    Nothing.

    I pictured the line which led from Texas to London. A line which stretched across parched deserts, spanned baking highways, dived into the Gulf of Mexico. A line which, fingers crossed, would soon be carrying the voice of the man once dubbed 'Bush's Brain' into our studio. Where he could be recorded and put into our radio programme.

    The engineers in Austin were relaxed and charming.

    In London Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's Chief of Staff, was unflappable. It was chilly in the studio but a bead of sweat the size of a tangerine rolled down my back.

    The second hand of the studio clock swung lazily into place. 3.15pm.

    'Hello, Jonathan?'

    My inability to cope with the uncertainty of a man walking from his car into a radio studio underlined my utter unsuitability for the role of Presidential Aide. As revealed in the programme, the men who have the ear of the most powerful man in the world need to plan in four dimensions simultaneously. They need to be cool, calm and collected when all around them lose the plot, and they need to be able to look the President of the United States in the eye and tell him when he is wrong.

    But as you'll hear, Karl Rove puts it much better than I do...

    David Stenhouse is Senior Producer Features Scotland.

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