Friday, January 9, 2009

Rudd attacks Howard

Yesterday David Schuster, on his show 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, mentioned that one reason why the Obamas were not given Blair House to live was that John Howard, the former PM of Australia was staying there while visiting W. Bush (who in turn will give the former PM a Medal of Freedom).

Now that the Obamas have been ensconced at the Hay-Adams Hotel in time for their daughters to start school, the White House has revealed why Blair House was not available early.

It turns out that John Howard, former prime minister of Australia and a longtime ally of President Bush, is spending the night there on Jan. 12, according to Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for Laura Bush.

The next day, Mr. Howard is receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Several receptions are also scheduled at Blair House over the next week.

Shuster remarked that Howard had attacked Obama in 2006 as the favoured candidate of Al Qaeda, a remark that his opponent, the leader of the Australian Labour Party, Kevin Rudd lambasted. "YouTube it," Shuster said (using the noun as a verb, as has become popular). I did. It makes for good watching.

For politicians, that is powerful. Well done.

Australians may find some irony in the news that their former prime minister bumped Mr. Obama from the coveted Blair House locale. Bruce Wolpe, an American publishing executive in Sydney who is about to join the staff of Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat, said in an e-mail message that the news is “rocking Australia this morning.’’

That’s because Mr. Obama and Mr. Howard have a history; when Mr. Obama announced his bid for the presidency in February 2007, Mr. Howard – a staunch ally of President Bush’s on the war in Iraq – attacked Mr. Obama’s plan to withdraw troops by March 2008.

“If I were running Al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory not only for Obama but also for the Democrats,’’ Mr. Howard said then. Mr. Obama fired back, saying Mr. Howard was engaging in “empty rhetoric.”

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