Hoisting a Foster’s for Australian-rules politics

by Ogi Overman

Now here’s a guy I could get behind. Honestly, I’d never heard of him before last week, but he sure knows how to make a good first impression. And I have a feeling we’ll be getting to know him rather well in the coming months.

His name is Kevin Rudd and on Nov. 24 he was elected prime minister of Australia. Rudd, a member of the Labor Party, handily defeated the incumbent, John Howard, of the Liberal Party. Liberal obviously means something different Down Under than it does here, as Howard was known on the global stage as the second-biggest Bush toadie, behind Tony Blair, of all the world leaders. Rudd made it clear on the very first day after being elected that he would be anything but a Bush suck-up like his predecessor.

God bless his little Aussie heart.

For starters, the guy actually went to work the day after the election, on a Sunday no less. That in itself stands in stark contrast to Bush, who never let a little thing like starting a war interfere with his down time and is on pace to break the elusive 500-vacation-day barrier, heretofore thought unapproachable. (Reagan held the previous two-term record with 436.) After going to church, Rudd convened a series of meetings with government officials with the express purpose of setting in motion his country’s ratification of the Kyoto Protocols, which set limits on greenhouse gasses and carbon dioxide emissions in order to slow down global warming.

This is significant on a couple of levels. It sends a message to the world that Australia takes the threat seriously, that time is of the essence in the battle to save the planet. And it signals the Baron of Brinksmanship that he’s lost another sycophantic ally. Once Australia ratifies the accords, that will leave exactly one industrialized nation that refuses to accept the truth, one world “leader” who remains in full flight from reality. And it happens to be the one country that, under normal circumstances and with a rational leader, would be leading the fight against global warming.

(For the record, when I first called for Bush’s impeachment in August 2001, it was soon after his proclamation that he would not sign any agreement that might cost the US jobs and that the scientific community was still divided over global warming. To me that constituted malfeasance, incompetence, dishonesty, dereliction of duty and/or just plain ignorance, all of which could be argued as grounds for an impeachment hearing. I further called for Al Gore to re-challenge the Supreme Court ruling that gave Bush the presidency, if for no other reason than to hamstring the cabal from doing any further damage. But then 9-11 happened and we know the rest of the story.)

Now, if that weren’t enough to endear Rudd to me and the rest of the cognizant world, he also said that Australia would be withdrawing its combat troops from Iraq. Granted, they only have 550 there, but the symbolic gesture was a thing of beauty, another classic “up yours, buddy” moment directed at Ol’ What’s-his-sneer.

Another encouraging sign is that Rudd has stated that Australia will not sell uranium to any country that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That statement was directed both toward India, which has not signed the pact, and Bush, who has been urging Congress to resume the transfer of nuclear technology and fuel to India, which was suspended by the Clinton administration.

But if there were ever a clear distinction between Rudd and that guy who has 411 days left in office (assuming he doesn’t suspend the Constitution and declare himself His Duhness in perpetuity), it is this: Rudd was once a diplomat in Beijing and speaks fluent Mandarin. When the president of China visited Australia a few months ago, the two conversed… in Chinese. Now, contrast this with the stumbling, bumbling embarrassment last week when Bush couldn’t even get a photo op right, garbling the names of the leaders of both Israel and Palestine while the whole world shook its collective head. Criminy, can’t somebody get this guy a copy of “Hooked on Phonics”?

Malaprops aside, as was mentioned above, Rudd was a diplomat, which illustrates how little the two have in common. Of all his character failings, Duh’s inability to understand that international relations are built on diplomacy, statesmanship and negotiations may be his greatest. His refusal to even open a dialogue or seek some commonality with divergent nations is the primary reason we find ourselves at war and at odds with the rest of the world.

With both Tony Blair and John Howard gone, Bush is left to crawl alone in the solitary web of deceit that he wove for himself.

Unless Rove could rig an election somewhere and get himself elected Chief Turdblossom.

E-mail Ogi Overman at