Monday, February 12, 2007

Starting to Crack?

UPDATE: Alexander Downer, ABC interview, 2004 (emphasis added):

Look, in the end this isn't a matter for Australia. We don't have a vote in the American presidential election, we just have to deal with whoever wins the election. And whatever John Howard or I, or anybody else may think privately, we'd never say anything publicly about the elections of a foreign country.



I find this fascinating: Howard taking it upon himself to deliver the sort of shrieking hysteria over possible US troop withdrawl from Iraq that he usually leaves to his lackeys - Lackey Downer in particular.

I've heard the 'Osama loves the Democrats and hopes they get elected' BS - or 'cowboy rhetoric', as Barack Obama aptly calls it - before from the Libs, but never Howard himself; he's usually too smart for it.

Just last week, J-Ho claimed he 'misheard' Rudd when responding to a question on climate change in which he expressed cynicism regarding the link between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. It's the sort of mistake for which Kim Beazley would have been crucified.

And the assault against Obama is uncharacteristically foolish and pointless by Howard's standards. The Republicans will be able to beat the 'vote for Obama is a vote for Osama' drum just fine without Howard's help, and it's not as though Americans - the few that actually know both a/ that Australia exists and b/ that he's our PM - will have their opinions swayed by some short bloke from the arse end of the earth.

So you have to wonder - is age finally taking its toll on the old war horse?

Or is he genuinely rattled by the latest opinion polls - both Fairfax and Murdoch - that suggest even when the honeymoon period's over, Rudd will be a genuine contender come election time? Howard must know by now Rudd does not come with the Latham liabilities. He won't shoot his mouth off, he's staying painstakingly on point and the point on which he's saying is resonating with a growing number of voters. His (thus far) inability to put any serious stoppers on the speeding Rudd freight train must be frustrating for a man who clearly has his eyes on the prize of longest-serving PM ever.

(And speaking of Latham: Remember how savaged he was by the Libs for calling Bush 'the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory'? Threat to that nice US-Oz alliance, indicative of a future leader with no diplomatic skills, un-Ostrayan, etc? You reckon they're going to be as critical with J-Ho? Nah, me neither.)

Perhaps Howard's so confident that Hillary Clinton will be the 2008 Democrat president and not Obama, that he feels free to to fire cheap personal attacks without anticipating the need to be diplomatically conciliatory after the US election. Or perhaps - just perhaps - he doesn't see himself around in 2008, regardless of who's in charge in the US.

Wishful thinking I know, but as I've said many times before, one can but hope. The Latham debacle is still etched in my mind such that I immediately qualify any visceral enthusiasm about encouraging poll results - Latham had impressive figures when he first began, too.

Put it this way: If the final Newspoll (not AC Nielsen - history shows it's simply too skewed to the Labor side ever to be taken seriously) taken the day before the election has Labor's 2PP at 56%, I might just feel a little tinge of excitement that I won't immediately quash.

Until then, I'm Alert but not Alarmed.


At 12/2/07 6:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Sam this was a serious misstep by Howard. Not the fact that he disagreed with Obama (which is a given) but the inflammatory and hysterical way he put it. It was almost like he was reading from a Republican Party press-release (then again perhaps he was).

Whilst it may earn him brownie points with the good ol' boys in the U.S. I dont think its going to do him any favours here. With the vast majority of voters thinking the war was a disaster and "staying the course" at best, a necessary evil, and at worst, a continuation of said disaster is it really a good idea to appear to be on the cheer squad (or worse, an attack dog) for Bush and Co? It doesnt exactly lend credence to Howard's promises re: his sway over the David Hicks situation either.

As much as people rave about Howard being able to read the public mood I do think he has been enormously lucky that the political times have suited his particular views. Nowadadys though with pesky left wing causes like the environment becoming major election issues he might just find himself swimming upstream. The funny thing is when Johnny starts to feel the heat he can make some collossal blunders (anyone remember the 80s). Would be great to see him completely self-destruct in the last year of his Prime Minister-ship.

Having said that I agree with you that a change of government is ultimately unlikely but hey, its a nice thought. Chris

At 12/2/07 8:34 pm, Blogger comicstriphero said...

16 seats...

That's all I have to say to myself for a reality check.

At 12/2/07 10:34 pm, Blogger "AK" Adam said...

I like this; it makes us seem more important than we actually are.

Let's face it, any Euro-loser can bag the actual US PRESIDENT to the dickens -- hidden among blue-state blandishments as their offensive insults may be -- until the cows come home and get no attention at all from the US media or political class.

Our PM says one thing about the US Dems latest Deano-destructo -- before he has even lost the Iowa Primary and engaged in a suicidal screaming-match -- and it goes coast-to-coast? What a statesman!

Furthermore, what a sad polity the US has become. If Obama's sad, Nixonesque "Madman Theory" Mk 2 can be taken seriously, maybe the Yanks truly believe those disgusting rogue-states who have been declaring the US a paper-tiger actually love the star-spangled banner!

At 12/2/07 11:10 pm, Blogger Sam said...

The difference being Adam, that far as I am aware none of the 'Euro-loser' leaders (do you include Angela Merkel in that list by the way, or is it just a Left generalisation?) have ever made such a personal attack against a US presidential candidate as Howard effectively has.

Also, I don't know who you've been watching, but Obama strikes me as a very reasoned, classy performer - response to Howard an excellent case in- oint. You might want to hold you tongue on calling him a 'Deano-destructo' long enough to give him a fighting chance.

At 13/2/07 9:47 am, Blogger Sam said...

I knew that Gerard had written this just from its headline. Shocking that he would back Howard.

At 13/2/07 4:50 pm, Blogger Not so Single Guy said...

hey are invited to the first ever sydney bloggers meet up on Sunday 18 Feb at 6:30 pm at the Tilbury Hotel, Woollomollo! A great end to Fair day! Hope to see you there!

At 13/2/07 11:26 pm, Blogger GoAwayPlease said...

oh Pengy, 'Lackey Downer' is such a great name ... for a racehorse, or greyhound, or blogger ...

Has anyone else ever thought that the entire career of JWH has merely been an exercise to impress Jannette ?
It's all about looking good in her eyes.

At 14/2/07 9:03 am, Blogger Sam said...

Dunno it's Jannette, brownie. From what I've heard J-Ho's always far more keen to impress Pru Goward...

At 14/2/07 2:21 pm, Anonymous Adrian said...

Laurie Oakes basically painted Howard into a corner here. Howard was having a go at Rudd on TV. Oakes made the obvious parallel between Rudd and US presidential candidate, Obama. So Howard had to have a go at Obama, too. The transatlantic media did the rest, baiting Howard and Obama into an (un)diplomatic tit-for-tat.

I don't think this was a serious misstep for Howard. But I rejoice in the fact that it's becoming increasingly difficult for him to entrap the Opposition without some of his own web sticking to him. It's been a while, a long while, since the old spider looked scared.

I agree with you, Sam, that Rudd has a long way to go to win the election. But I guess it's just nice to see the Opposition putting up a fight.

At 14/2/07 4:34 pm, Anonymous Jacob said...

Perhaps Howard's so confident that Hillary Clinton will be the 2008 Democrat president and not Obama, that he feels free to to fire cheap personal attacks without anticipating the need to be diplomatically conciliatory after the US election.

It's worth noting that after his attack on Obama, he dug himself further in by broadening the criticism to include the entire Democratic Party. It's probably most likely that the reason he took such a cavalier attitude toward jeopardising the Australian-US alliance was because of his misguided view that the Democrats are sure to lose in 08, thereby negating the need to adopt a concilatory attitude.

I think it's interesting also that Howard never really had this sort of attitude towards the Democrats during the Clinton years. At least, not that I can remember. Maybe he's just too accustomed to having Bush in office that he's somehow swallowed the line that Democrats are actually aligned with terrorist groups (despite all other factors pointing to opposite conclusion).

At 15/2/07 10:24 pm, Blogger "AK" Adam said...

Sam, no, Angela gets no special treatment: the Euro grandees of both the left and "right" -- a term which means anything only on the most technical basis on the continent -- are essentially all the same.

Obama has very little shot at the Dem nom, let alone the US Presidency. His policies are of the tritest liberal kind, his appeal is, not to put too fine a point on it, totally reliant on his background. Yes, the media love him for this, his telegenic appearance and his aformentioned doctrinaire liberalism, but the US media are not the electoral college.

At 15/2/07 11:33 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Well Adam, if you say it, it must be true.

Points for waiting five days before getting in the last word too - your patience is impressive.


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