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BLAIR’S PROJECT: Tony Blair is the highest paid public speaker in the world now, receiving approximately $400,000 a pop, but he sat down with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter on Tuesday evening free of charge to talk about everything from his relationship with former President George W. Bush, to Iraq and his work in the Middle East, to the memoir he is writing, for which he is reportedly being paid $9 million and will be published in 2011. In front of a crowd that included Barbara Walters, Brian Williams, Matt Lauer, Diane von Furstenburg and Barry Diller, Ben Bradlee, Katie Couric, Oscar de la Renta, David Lauren, Vivienne Westwood and Christopher Hitchens, the former British prime minister said he hasn’t yet adjusted to his higher income bracket and hasn’t made any big purchases. “But ask me in a few years,” he added.
Blair stood his ground on Bush, adding they exchanged e-mails a few weeks ago. “I’ve never been a fair-weather friend,” noted Blair. “I’m still friends with him.” And he defended invading Iraq, saying, “If you can intervene to save people from brutal dictatorships, you should do it.” Blair’s also in regular contact with his other presidential buddy, Bill Clinton, to which Carter said there is a film in the works about their relationship. Peter Morgan, who wrote “The Queen,” is behind the new movie, but Blair didn’t have much to say, adding he hasn’t even seen “The Queen.” When the film debuted, Blair said he sat down for his weekly meeting with Queen Elizabeth II. “I gather there’s a film,” said the Queen. “I’d just like you to know that I’m not going to watch it — are you?” Blair told her he wouldn’t see it, and he’s stayed true to his word.
Blair juggles several jobs these days, including his work as adviser to JP Morgan Chase; founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which seeks interfaith understanding and respect, and working as U.N. special envoy to the Middle East. Blair said it is “hard to overstate the impact” of President Obama’s speech in Cairo earlier this month.
The audience also was invited to ask Blair a few questions. “Having done a few interviews, I’ve found this exchange tonight one of the most fascinating I’ve ever seen,” Walters said. Blair then looked at Carter and said, “Actually, you’re very good in fact.” Carter, looking a little uneasy, said, “Thanks. I’ll keep my day job.”
— Amy Wicks