MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, it's Day to Day. A little-known fact about Ambassador Paul Bremer - he's a painter. You may remember that Paul Bremer was the controversial diplomat who ran Iraq shortly after the invasion, a challenging task to say the least, and Paul Bremer has his share of critics. But we called him up to hear about his other aspect of his life, his painterly life. And if you want to see the paintings as we talk, go to our Web site, npr.org/daydreaming. Ambassador Bremer, welcome to the program.
Ambassador PAUL BREMER (Former Head, Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraq): Thank you. Nice to be with you.
BRAND: If you would describe your style, what do your paintings look like?
Ambassador BREMER: My paintings are landscapes, very often in Vermont where I spend about half of the year, and often of buildings in Vermont, particularly barns and old buildings in Vermont that I think are very appealing and sort of very American.
BRAND: And what got you interested in oil painting?
Ambassador BREMER: Well, I studied history and history of art at university and, of course, I then went in the diplomatic service for a long time in business, and I haven't had a chance to get back to my interest. I always was interested in it. I just decided to start in learning how to do it, and I'm still obviously learning as you can see by looking at my paintings.
BRAND: Well, they do look innocent, let's put it that way.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ambassador BREMER: American realist, I think, would be a more highfalutin way to call it.
BRAND: (Laughing) Right. No, they're very refreshing. Do you have anyone that you are - I want to say, imitating but that you paint in the style of?
Ambassador BREMER: Not really. I mean, my favorite artists or painters are actually the French impressionists particularly Paul Cezanne. Obviously, I don't have any reflection of him in my paintings. But I am at least inspired by the beauty of the French and American impressionists and also about the Hudson School, the American painters in the middle of the 19th century.
BRAND: Right. And are you putting them up for sale?
Ambassador BREMER: Yeah, except for the ones that are already sold, that are on my Web site. The proceeds of my - the paintings that go into my exhibits are donated to not-for-profit historical societies in Vermont.
BRAND: Now, you also are a classically trained French chef?
Ambassador BREMER: Yes. That's right.
BRAND: Do you think that you - I don't know, maybe missed your calling and you should have followed that career path?
Ambassador BREMER: (Laughing) I have no regrets at all about the path I followed. But a balanced life ought to have more than just a, you know, a central focus of a career. I think it's healthy to have other interests.
BRAND: So, it's therapy in a way.
Ambassador BREMER: Yeah, it's sort of stress management, I guess. It's difficult for me because I'm a beginner, so it's frustrating and humiliating. But at the same time, when a painting comes out good, you feel pretty good about it. So, it's - yeah it's good.
BRAND: Now, as I said at the outset, you were controversial during your tenure at the CPA running Iraq basically right after the war ended. And I'm just wondering - I don't want to go back and forth through the allegations, but I'm just wondering, you know, it's been several years since you've returned and I'm wondering, do you have any regrets or would you do anything differently?
Ambassador BREMER: I've said that I think the process of the policy of the debathification, getting rid of the very small number or the top one percent of the Bath Party was the correct decision. The mistake I made was turning the implementation of that policy over to Iraqi politicians. I should have turned it over instead to some of the Iraqi judges rather than to Iraqi politicians.
BRAND: All right, I'm back on your Web site now looking at your paintings. Is there a painting in particular? Is there one that you like the most?
Ambassador BREMER: Well, I think one of the ones on my homepage which is a barn in Cavendish which I just completed in Vermont about a month ago, according to my severest critic, who is my wife, is my best painting. (Laughing) So, I will take her judgment.
BRAND: OK, that is right on the homepage of...
Ambassador BREMER: Yeah, it is.
BRAND: The bremerenterprises.com. Well, Ambassador Paul Bremer, thank you very much.
Ambassador BREMER: Thank you. Good to talk to you.
BRAND: Day to Day returns in a moment.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.