June 05, 2004


Beginning with the headline -- "I won't budge: Latham defies Bush on Iraq" -- this SMH piece is pure, maximum-rotation, vortex-creating spin:

The Opposition Leader, Mark Latham, has refused to give ground after an unprecedented attack by President George Bush over his pledge to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq, plunging Labor's relations with the US to a new low.

"Nothing President Bush has said today changes our hopes and expectations about the future," Mr Latham said after Mr Bush described Labor's proposed pull-out as "disastrous" and implied that he should not be elected prime minister.

Latham didnít say anything. These words are from a prepared statement released yesterday morning. Given the opportunity to actually say something, Latham declined.

Mr Latham issued a declaration on Iraq policy, repeating Labor's claims that the Government's policies were making Australia a bigger target and diverting resources from the "real" war on terrorism.

Everybody else thought Lathamís statement was simply a statement. At the SMH, Lathamís limp reaction carries the force of a "declaration".

A leading strategic analyst, Hugh White, said Mr Bush's comments were unprecedented and foreshadowed problems for the alliance if Mr Latham and Mr Bush won the elections.

Like Hugh White is someone we need to care about. The SMH should report what actually happened: Latham issued a brief statement and refused all requests for interviews. A negative spin on this might yield the headline: "Latham Dodges Bush Criticism, Hides Like Girl."

UPDATE. The Australian is as bad as the SMH. So is the Herald Sun. By contrast, The Age is relatively restrained.

Posted by Tim Blair at June 5, 2004 05:47 AM

I know I'm just a Sepo, but I'm confused as to why folks are all upset with Pres. Bush's remarks. Usually the U.S. gets criticized for not paying enough attention to what's going on in Australia. Now that GW has something to say about the importance of Australia to the world, he's reamed.

Posted by: Polly at June 5, 2004 at 06:42 AM

plunging Labor's relations with the US to a new low.

What, has Labor seceded from Australia and formed its own independent sovereign nation?

Posted by: R C Dean at June 5, 2004 at 07:22 AM

There's an easy way around this.

All we need to do is get Dubya to say "Australia? Like where they make the Vienna sausages? They sent troops? Well, barbie shrimps and all that, but I frankly don't think they're doing much to help. In fact, I think they're really just getting in our way over there. You know, whatever."

Muqtada al-Sader would be mainlining Foster's within a week.

Posted by: Steve in Houston at June 5, 2004 at 07:26 AM

down with nature.

Posted by: datsun at June 5, 2004 at 08:45 AM

Tour negative spin headline is an insult to girls. Replace with Emu.

Posted by: Chris Bradley at June 5, 2004 at 09:33 AM

What self indulgence of his promoters! He isn't defying Bush at all -
Do you really think GWB cares about him one bit. Other than reading up on the occasional briefing, it's doubtful that Latham's name even crossed GWB's sight. Defying him? With what? Adolescent, amateur, rhetoric?
He should be flattered that anyone in the US knows his name at all, let alone the President.

Posted by: Joe at June 5, 2004 at 09:49 AM

I agree Joe, is Latham thick-skinned or what?

He basically totally disses Bush as a person, ie dangerous incompetent, etc.

Then Bush goes,

"Hmm...that decision of his isn't that great."

OMIGOD! Interference! Oooh!

Posted by: Quentin George at June 5, 2004 at 09:53 AM

Strange logic:
The wise guys in the press are now saying that Howard has gotten Bush to diss Latham. How can a puppet, a poodle or a deputy-sheriff force the big bwana to do anything?
So Australia does have influence in Washington after all?

And by the same bizarre logic, Bob Brown et al can't stop criticizing the US administration in all its aspects but if the US President says anything about Austalian politics, that's unprecendented interference.

Posted by: Doug at June 5, 2004 at 10:49 AM

This whole "story" is simply pathetic. Do these "writers" at these "media outlets" understand the concept of "perspective" and "critical thinking"?

Posted by: Brent at June 5, 2004 at 11:51 AM

Bush was asked for his opinion by an Aussie journalist (if I recall correctly), and he gave it. He didn't even mention Latham by name, as far as I can tell.

Posted by: Andjam at June 5, 2004 at 12:10 PM

The comments made by Mr Bush have a similar sentiment as those made regarding the Spanish retreat from Iraq.

May I paraphrase - "Please don't go, I can't stop you going, but please don't go. We have the trash in a spot, and we do not need an ally(/) running away like a scaredy cat, because thats how the trash will see it".

Posted by: DaveACT at June 5, 2004 at 12:40 PM

I've seen the papers this morning. This is truly worrying. IMHO, this is the clincher, and there remains little doubt that a decision has been taken in various media boardrooms.

"The Libs have had their turn, Latham's our boy."

Latham's issued statement was a demurrer, pure and simple. They've run for the hills and kept their big guns shielded from the media while they worked out what to say about this.

They needn't have worried. As their media managers read the morning press, they'll be popping corks. The whole thing has been turned into a smashing success for them. The press are treating Latham as the bronzed Anzac standing up to the imperialist overseas bully.

Jesus wept.

Posted by: Al Bundy at June 5, 2004 at 12:58 PM

One day after Bush speaks, Labor heavyweight Laurie Brereton announces his retirement from politics.

Coincidence, or a rat/sinking-ship intereaction?

Posted by: EvilPundit at June 5, 2004 at 02:28 PM

Brereton.Rat. Ship.

Posted by: Pedro the Ignorant at June 5, 2004 at 02:33 PM

This could cost Bush the radical left Green Australian-American vote.

Both of them.

Karl Rove may have to come up with something.


Hmm, this has me thinking (ahem): Where do most Australian-Americans (to use the hyphenation) live? San Francisco? Must be west coast somewhere. Seattle?

Posted by: SteveMG at June 5, 2004 at 02:46 PM

SMG -- Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco. Those are the bastions of left wingerism.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at June 5, 2004 at 03:39 PM

Latham said what he had to, doesn't make any difference if it's in writing or a spoken interview.

Howard letting US interfere in Aus domestic politics is a disgrace!

Posted by: tony at June 5, 2004 at 03:56 PM

It ain't domestic politics, Tony. Latham may wish to treat it that way, but his attempts to feed the Islamofascist crocodile have international repercussions.

Posted by: Andjam at June 5, 2004 at 04:04 PM

Yet, tony, you presumably have no trouble with Mark Latham or Bob Brown interfering with US politics?

Grow up. Iraq is a more important issue than poor Mark's widdle feewings.

Posted by: Quentin George at June 5, 2004 at 04:14 PM

Someone I know used to have an secretary from Australia... she got fed up with the local dating scene and moved to San Diego. If she's typical (I dunno, really), I expect that's where the west-coast Aussie-Americans would be...

Posted by: rosignol at June 5, 2004 at 05:06 PM

Mark Latham and Bob Brown's comments don't get front page treatment in the New York Times.

Posted by: tony at June 5, 2004 at 05:31 PM

Latham's comments are particularly idiotic in the light of the isalmofascism that threatens us all.
For Autralians it is still a long distance threat but the recent massacres of Christians in Ambon and other parts of Indonesia should enlighten you on the situation a stone's throw from AUSSIE shores.
A good start would be Bat Ye'ors book Isalm and dhimitued which explains the history of Islamic domination and its treatment of Christian and jewish communities.
It is gruesome reading but necessary.
The treatment of black americans are mild compared to this.

When you have read this book you will start to understand the problems we face today and Mark Latham's remarks will be reveal as dangerous ignorance to you.

Posted by: davo at June 5, 2004 at 07:14 PM

To all you folks fretting about the prospect of Australia "cutting and running" from Iraq and "emboldening our enemies".

Australia currently has exactly one soldier in Afghanistan. That's right. One. Count him. Twice, if you have to. You guys remember Afghanistan? That's the place where Osama and his cronies were (and are) actually based, as opposed to Iraq, where I believe that someone who had met Mohammed Atta once went on holidays. It's also the place that has been steadily returning back to hell since we decided for some reason that the "front line in the war on terror" was somewhere else.

Australia actually cut and run from Afghanistan back in 2002. It would be interesting to ask someone in the Karzai government what they think of Howard as a staunch ally in the war on terror. (They actually protested vociferously to the Howard government at the time, though this was not widely publicised, even by the left-wing Howard-hating pinko media that we are supposedly enslaved by down here).

So for all our American friends, who are apparently willing to accept our beloved prime minister at face value, you might just consider the remote possibility that he's playing your President for a fool; getting credit for being a stalwart ally in the war on terror without, in reality, being much of a participant in said war, or even much of an ally. Think of Chalabi with an Australian accent, or a low-rent version of Prince Bandar.

On a more positive note, I understand our guy in Kabul is doing one hell of a job.

Posted by: tim g at June 6, 2004 at 12:50 AM

A member of Saddam's elite guard was/is a high ranking member of Al Quaeda. (forget the name I'll find it if you want)
The terrorists responsible for the 1993 World trade center attack took refuge in Iraq
Saddam paid families of suicide bombers 10,000 for their "services", but hey, the moonbat brigade still thinks he had nothing to do with terrorism
The vast majority of the military work has been completed in Afganistan I believe.
And yes, the Australian media has the ALP's dick in its pocket, and every once in a while it gives it a good stroke

Posted by: RhikoR at June 6, 2004 at 01:25 AM

Quentin: You're right on the mark. This media lunacy really doesn't have a thing to do with the US. It's a cudgel being used in the public face of Aus politics.

It might as well be about two opposing parties taking positions over, say, a Pineapple, a can of beans, and a spanner in the absence of anything else.

Embarassed people and causes need a straw man in the absense of a realistic position about something that matters to people. The left is making a few personalities representing the right that straw man.

Posted by: Joe at June 6, 2004 at 01:51 AM

C'mon Tim, you big sookie-la-la, you're just pissed cause Latham won't rise to the bait. Remember this bold prediction:

"Reaction to this locally will be something to see. Anticipate rage"?

Not from Latham - or me - we both shrugged, then laughed at the incompetent bugger for displaying his true disgust for freedom and democracy by saying that if the freely and democratically elected government of Australia decided to leave, it would mean the "Australian Government doesn't see the hope of a free and democratic society leading to a peaceful world".

BWAHAHHAHAHA! Stop it - no stop it, my sides are hurting!!

Posted by: liberal avenger at June 6, 2004 at 02:40 AM

You need to take your medication, LA. Maybe then you wouldn't laugh like an idiot. (You'd still be an idiot, but you wouldn't be laughing. Then no hurty sides. See?)

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 6, 2004 at 08:53 AM

Liberal Avenger's handle certainly does play right into Tim's post headline rather nicely, though.

Posted by: PW at June 6, 2004 at 09:42 AM

Andrea, his sides hurt from the jackboot of oppression.

Posted by: Sortelli at June 6, 2004 at 11:18 AM

No no -- his sides hurt from the truncheons of fascism. It's his ass that hurts from the Jackboot of Oppression™.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 6, 2004 at 11:19 AM

"Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco. Those are the bastions of left wingerism"

three of the best burgs in the USA - love 'em all! actually, would you agree on LA as well? that would give me the quadrella! four fine cities of the west.

and out of curiosity, where are the bastions of right wingerism in da USA?

Posted by: chico o'farrill at June 6, 2004 at 05:57 PM

"I know I'm just a Sepo, but I'm confused as to why folks are all upset with Pres. Bush's remarks. Usually the U.S. gets criticized for not paying enough attention to what's going on in Australia."

Completely agreed Polly. Bush gets a gazillion pieces of advice a minute from rest of the world, why shouldn't he throw some back?

Adds a bit of colour to the reportage at the least. Wouldn't say he was reamed by any stretch of the imagination though. as tim suggests, a few reporters got all giggly 'cause we were acknowledged - normal business resumed already.

Posted by: chico o'farrill at June 6, 2004 at 06:01 PM

"...and out of curiosity, where are the bastions of right wingerism in da USA?"

chico, I based my comment on the demographics of the 2000 presidential elections, backed by up www.fundrace.org maps. But I have to say, I was thinking only about the west coast. And at that, I should have included LA.

If you take "right wingers" = "republican" (not always true), as a rule that support comes from the rural parts of the nation. Urban areas tend to be democratic.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at June 7, 2004 at 12:24 AM


i guess my question was a reaction to "that's a lefty stronghold", a comment i hear regularly regarding towns i love in the USA.

it just struck me as curious as i read your messsage that i don't hear the reverse - i guess my query is then semi-rhetorical, and take your point re: non-right repubs.

Posted by: chico o'farrill at June 7, 2004 at 11:20 AM

JeffS and Chico,

I always find it interesting that people can label cities of 1 million plus people as Democratic or Republican. Is that because these cities form only one electorate? In Oz no city of that size votes in one bloc. Sydney for example, has about 30 seats in Federal Parliament. As a general rule, the richer areas vote conservative and the poorer areas vote for the ALP.

Posted by: Toryhere at June 7, 2004 at 01:43 PM