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The Liberal Legacy on Obama: an Embarrassment for Abbott

November 14, 2011

President Obama’s visit to Australia this week spurs memories of a most extraordinary intervention in American politics by an Australian Prime Minister, that of John Howard in February 2007. The former Liberal PM said that a victory for Obama would be a victory for al-Qaeda.

I remember being astonished by the fiercely partisan nature of Prime Minister Howard’s comments.

I think all of Australia was shocked. It was an extraordinary intervention in a US election.

The attack was made just after Barack Obama formally launched his bid for the Democratic candidacy. It was presumably based on Obama’s opposition to the war in Iraq.

Howard said:

If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats.

Senator Obama defended himself against the attack from Down Under, accusing Mr Howard of “cowboy rhetoric”. He used the killer fact: that America had 140,000 troops in Iraq and Mr Howard had deployed 1,400. He said:

So if he is…to fight the good fight in Iraq, I would suggest that he calls up another 20,000 Australians and send them to Iraq, otherwise its just a bunch of empty rhetoric.

FOX News ran the banner: “Australian PM: Terrorists will hope for Obama victory”. It probably gave Australian Liberals the impression they were helping their Republican friends.

Tony Abbott of course was a member of the cabinet of John Howard and the Prime Minister’s pin-up boy. Safe bet that he was urging him on during this little episode of foreign policy flamboyance. Of course Abbott would have an even more pronounced identification with the right of American politics, with Bachmann, Perry, Cain and Gingrich. Obama – distasteful in the extreme to the Abbott view of the world.

  1. Nick Andrew permalink
    November 14, 2011 11:59 am

    I’ll be a strong critic of Tony Abbott anywhere. And it was good to read about Howard’s bluster and blunder again. But linking it with Abbott based on “Safe bet he was urging him on”? Assumes facts not in evidence.

    Please roast Tony on his stated positions, such as opposition to abortion, his distrust of homosexuals and his denial of climate science. No need to assume his involvement in this little gaffe of Howard.

  2. November 15, 2011 2:05 am

    Ha. Thanks for bringing back the memories. In the end we all know now that there was no change between the Bush / Obama foreign policy. You can add to that the Howard / Rudd / Gillard foreign policy.
    Also not sure why Tony Abbott is relevant. Not a fan of many of his positions although respect for life should not be looked down upon. Personal liberty and a free society also advocates respecting the God-given right to life — for those born and unborn.

  3. Rosalind Day permalink
    November 17, 2011 6:36 am

    We need to be reminded of the Howard years more often. This was an extraorindary outburst from a man who knew his days as PM were numbered who was lashing out wildly to shore up what he thought would be support for his cause. A Nasty, malicious, weak, sneaky, devisive man, who was unfit to lead this country. Lying and defaming your opposition to get out of trouble is not leadership. He committed us to an unwinnable war that is still not over, but for some bizzare reason he was elected again. The effects of his 11.5 years in power is reflected in the behaviour of the shock jocks & their followers outrageously contemptuous treatment of PM Julia Gillard.

    Tony Abbott, his protege is continuing to lead his party with this contemptable behaviour of which he and his shadow front bench should be ashamed. They have not made one positive policy statement since the election, but have relied on a biased media at all levels to run their hate campaign against a government who is getting things done against all odds.

    I believe though, that the tide of hate and vilification against the Labor Party is beginning to turn and Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party is being seen for what they are: charlatans and wreckers who live in a policy vacuum.

  4. Catching up permalink
    November 17, 2011 11:04 am

    It was embarrassing watching Mr. Abbott today.

  5. November 18, 2011 10:37 pm

    Tony ”Chicken little” Abbott.! I rest my case.!

    When i was a kid feverishly watching the daily news, i distinctly remember thinking, why are these politicians (the liberals) forever bleating their mantra NO? Correct me if I’m wrong here? but wasn’t it an Australian designer who asked the Menzies government for support with a newfangled device called the electric computer? And what did the Menzies government say? ”There’s no future in computers? these people are embarrassing, intellectually inept. and NOTHING has changed in the minds of these dinosaurs.

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