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Bush a byword

February 8th, 2007

Driving in Brisbane the other day, I noticed an ad for domain.com.au, claiming their website was so easy anyone could use it. This was illustrated by a picture of George W. Bush, looking mystified by a laptop.

It’s striking that the advertisers thought no potential customers (or not enough to matter) would be put off by the assumption that the leader of the free world is a byword for stupidity.* This in turn raises the question of why the Australian government remains so supinely obedient to this lame duck, over Iraq, Kyoto, the Hicks case and so on.

* Strictly speaking, Bush isn’t stupid. He’s shown himself to be quite sharp in the pursuit of his own short term interests and those of his backers. But he’s ignorant, narrow-minded, intellectually lazy and unwilling to learn from experience, a combination that produces reliably stupid policy decisions.

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  1. melanie
    February 8th, 2007 at 19:48 | #1

    1) Public opinion influences Howard only when it threatens his majority.
    2) The Alliance is more important than what the people think about any topic. The former = “the national interest”, the latter = “mob rule”.

  2. still working it out
    February 8th, 2007 at 22:56 | #2

    I wish the labour party would now have the guts to tie Howard and Bush together a bit. Its one area which would be very difficult for Howard to manouver out of. Bush is lame duck now so the costs of annoying the current Whitehouse are not that high, and I think if it was done carefully it would be possible to do it without coming off as anti-american. After all, Bush’s disapproval rating among Americans is now around over 60%.

  3. SJ
    February 8th, 2007 at 22:57 | #3

    Melanie is pretty much spot on.

    Bluster and bullshit can keep you going for a long time when corporate money is on your side.

  4. February 9th, 2007 at 00:11 | #4

    swio,
    The Americans do not mind criticizing their own president (or most things American – provided you make it clear you still love America) but get very pissed (off) if anyone else dares to.
    Rudd is smart enough to know this.

  5. February 9th, 2007 at 11:32 | #5

    I noticed this billboard yesterday and put a picture of it on my website. I’ve also contacted fairfax to find out what they have to say about it.

  6. February 9th, 2007 at 11:42 | #6

    Macchiavelli said, “The Prince will be known by the men he has around him”. Bush and his cronies have surrounded themselves with people who think and believe as he does. And John Howard has done the same. This helps explain why things have gone so wrong, why neocons now say they would not have recommended the invasion of Iraq had they known the Administration was so incompetent. Have a look at Australia and some of the States: the same thing is going on. Good leaders cherish difference and diversity and seek out opposing views. Anyone who does the oppposite should not exercise the powers of a leadership position, certainly not as a politician.

  7. Rogs
    February 9th, 2007 at 12:36 | #7

    bush has done what the democrats couldn’t. no one else could have brought the republicans to the disastrous state they are in. so much is coming out about iraq now that it really looks like wolfowitz-cheney-rumsfeld effectively stabbed the US army in back, so contemptuous were they of professional military advice and, well, reality.

    some US commentators are even wondering if the GOP will implode, the disillusionment is so great.

  8. h
    February 9th, 2007 at 13:33 | #8

    Well done John,
    It’s great to see public intellectuals say it out loud what is obvious to everyone. Wish our politicians where sometimes as blunt! Do they really think that saying it out loud would have severe repercussions on their careers or re-election prospects? Or are they just chickens trying to be ‘civil’ and polite? Saying it out loud every now and then does not hurt!

  9. rog
    February 9th, 2007 at 15:09 | #9

    You guys are so easily influenced, even by a Fairfax ad for real estate.

  10. jquiggin
    February 9th, 2007 at 15:31 | #10

    Umm, Rog, I don’t think the ad has led anyone here to change their view of Bush, just implied that our views of Bush are shared by most Australians (and, of course, by most Americans). Having stated my view of Bush pretty clearly, I’d be interested to see yours.

  11. Mike Pepperday
    February 9th, 2007 at 15:39 | #11

    Is Bush a lame duck? I see him as a loose cannon.

  12. Sean
    February 9th, 2007 at 16:11 | #12

    H asked:

    “Wish our politicians where sometimes as blunt! Do they really think that saying it out loud would have severe repercussions on their careers or re-election prospects?”

    Mark Latham called him “the most incompetent and dangerous President in living memory”. This was of course entirely accurate. It is also now pundit CW that the accurate straight talk indicated mental ill-health on Latham’s part.

  13. rog
    February 9th, 2007 at 17:47 | #13

    Using Latham as an expert witness must be an exciting adventure.

  14. derrida derider
    February 9th, 2007 at 18:18 | #14

    Umm, rog, name a more incompetent and dangerous President in the last, say, 70 years (ie “living memory”).

    It’s amazing how no politician is allowed to speak obvious truths – we truly get the pollies we deserve.

  15. melanie
    February 9th, 2007 at 19:24 | #15

    Sean # 12
    Mark Latham called him “the most incompetent and dangerous President in living memory�.

    The way to be a successful politician in Australia is not to say what is true unless the media already agrees with you. The media won’t agree until a substantial proportion of the big end of town already agrees. This explains why Rudd currently has it all over Howard.

  16. MP
    February 9th, 2007 at 21:00 | #16

    I don’t think there is a lot of evidence that the Government is “supinely obedient” to Bush over Hicks and Kyoto.

    Howard has recently said that he is very disappointed with the lack of charges against Hicks, that doesn’t sound like being supinely obedient.

    On Kyoto, a much more reasonable argument is that the Government is being responsive to representations made by Australian business rather than a foreign country. I don’t think the US cares that much about whether Australia ratifies Kyoto or not.

    In relation to Iraq, I don’t really know – we could have been “supinely obedient”, but I don’t think there is adequate evidence either way. Just because people assert that we did something only because the US asked us to, doesn’t mean that argument is correct. Just because we do the same thing as the US doesn’t mean that we did it solely because the US wanted us to.

    The only way to know for sure is to have participated in the Cabinet discussions themselves, which only the participants can reveal to us (but they won’t). Everthing else is pure speculation.

  17. February 9th, 2007 at 21:11 | #17

    We are allies with America not George W Bush.

  18. jquiggin
    February 9th, 2007 at 21:14 | #18

    MP, this is very unconvincing stuff

    Every other US ally with nationals in Guantanamo bay, including even Britain, has got them released.

    As regards Kyoto, Australia was going to sign until Bush was elected and announced that the US was out. Then we reversed course.

    On Iraq, there are heaps of public statements to the government that make it clear that we are there because the US asked us. This is even clearer with the second commitment of troops, which came from a US request after the government had clearly indicated it had no intention of keeping troops in Iraq for more than a few months, and withdrew them in line with that policy.

  19. MP
    February 10th, 2007 at 08:16 | #19

    JQ, you are confusing correlation with causation. Because you used the term “supinely obedient� you have to prove that it was causation. Until then, all we have is correlation.

    On Iraq, you have to convince us that the only reason was because the US asked us to. I thought it was pretty clear that Howard et al named WMD as the main reason.

    I return to my earlier point that I think it is impossible to prove causation unless you were present for the discussions in Cabinet.

  20. Katz
    February 10th, 2007 at 09:15 | #20

    MP has a point about “supinely obedient”.

    It is clear that Australian policy over a range of issues is in lock-step with policy of the Bush administration.

    And it is clear that since the course of events took an unfavourable turn in Iraq for Bush, Australian government spokespeople have framed their defence of continued commitment of troops to Iraq not only in terms of the outcome for Iraq but also in terms of Australia’s loyalty to the US, irrespective of that outcome. The implication is that, unlike in Vietnam, the Australian government is determined that Australians will be aboard the last helicopter to take off from the roof of the US embassy in Baghdad.

    The question arises as to why the government has elected to follow that line.

    Clearly Howard et al. have decided that Australian interests are best served by going all the way with the US, even into flaming disaster.

    Thus, they refuse to conceive of Australian interests being served outside the US ambit.

    What we have here, therefore, isn’t a failure of will, which is the hallmark of the craven, whipped cur. Rather we have a failure of intellect which refuses to perceive the distinction between loyalties and interests.

    In brief, as MP suggests, the Howard government aren’t moral cowards. Rather, they are intellectual cowards frightened of their own freedom.

  21. observa
    February 10th, 2007 at 14:40 | #21

    Actually the Bush blillboard is just a classic case of tall poppy syndrome which disgruntled academe/chattering classes can indulge in internationally, just as much as the bogan/little bloke does nationally or locally. Basically we impotent are always so pure, while our leadership are such obvious dickheads and all over the shop. Never mind that it’s us that cause these contradictions electorally and politically. Let me illustrate the point.

    Suppose for a moment South Australia is the centre of the universe and Mike Rann is the leader of my and your free world. What does President Rann look like out there? Is he a God-botherer, because he asks Catholic Monsignor Cappo to deal with his local out of control aboriginal problem? You know, ditching all the intelligent designers, the sociologists, shrinks, social workers, legal-judiciary and police for a bit of good old fashioned creationism? Should he really be consulting the local Mufti and Rabbi too?

    Now in good old South of Australia, it’s been folk lore that if only the Murray were controlled by a national body with teeth, all sorts of manna would flow from heaven, that is until it was going to happen without Premier Rann’s say so and then it’s obfuscating spoiler for him. Not so for GG emissions as he meets with the like minded Premiers to cooperatively implement a carbon trading scheme of their own, if other certain stealers of mother’s milk won’t. Always thinking of the planet’s future and the kiddies, not to mention the needs of big kiddies and their V8 gas guzzling toys
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,21191886-1246,00.html?from=public_rss
    Ah yes Adelaide home of the V8 Supercars race after the evil Big V snatched the GP away. Ah well you can’t have it all and sacrifices must be made, just like his proposal to build a new grandstand at Victoria Park in Colonel Light’s parklands legacy. Trot out the architect’s sketches complete with copious shrubbery and the little people meandering about their new edifice. That is until someone stands up and asks if it’s true the ground floor will really be for all the pit crews and paparazzi, the next level corporates and ‘government’ boxes, all stunningly crowned with the ‘Premiers’ Suite’. Ah well when you’re working so hard to save the planet, yo’all know how it is. Just like staying the course to save Afghanis from the evil clutches of the terrorists, but not Iraqis because clearly Saddam was the best option for those no hopers. Kinda puts GWB to shame now don’t he?

  22. observa
    February 10th, 2007 at 14:59 | #22

    Here at Ranndom we have a balanced approach to life. The ying and the yang of the morally and intellectually concerned. We mine uranium and flog it but of course wouldn’t dream of using the nasty stuff. And it’s oh so easy to balance the ill effects of a V8 Supercar race. You simply have a Downunder pushbike race too. You know it makes sense.

  23. Dave Surls
    February 10th, 2007 at 16:54 | #23

    “Clearly Howard et al. have decided that Australian interests are best served by going all the way with the US, even into flaming disaster.”

    Yeah, quite a disaster all right. So far the campaign has cost Australia two KIAs. One poor bastard shot himself in the head while cleaning his rifle, and another guy got killed in a traffic accident in Kuwait.

    I figure that’s pretty much it for Australia.

  24. February 10th, 2007 at 23:16 | #24

    I’m with you Melanie.

    Still waiting on Fairfax to respond to my email to them about their billboard in Waterworks Road.

    Here’s what I’ve received so far:

    Dear Customer,
    Thank you for visiting domain.com.au, which is a part of the Fairfax Digital
    Network. A member of the Fairfax Digital team will respond by email to your
    query within the next business day.
    To find out more about the Fairfax Digital network of over 30 sites, visit:
    http://www.fairfaxdigital.com.au/
    For Frequently Asked Questions and help on Fairfax Digital membership, visit:
    http://www.fairfax.com.au/whymember.ac
    To update your personal details and eNewsletter subscriptions, visit:
    http://www.fairfax.com.au/index.ac
    To subscribe to any Fairfax newspaper or magazine delivered to your work or
    home, visit:
    http://www.fairfax.com.au/subscriptions/index.htm
    —– Megan Yarrow Wrote —–
    Media Enquiry Re: President George W. Bush lookalike billboard in Brisbane

    Hi,

    I noticed your billboard “So Easy Anyone Can Find A New Home” today while
    travelling into Brisbanes CBD along Waterworks Road, Red Hill.

    It caught my eye because it features a picture of a gentleman (with an uncanny
    resemblance to President George W. Bush) looking at something on a laptop and
    the text: “So Easy Anyone Can Find A New Home”?.

    I presume you are implying that President George W. Bush has a somewhat
    diminished intellect.

    Are you able to confirm that this is the message you are trying to convey by
    juxtaposing a lookalike of President George W. Bush against the text, “So Easy
    Anyone Can Find A New Home”?

    Are you worried that Vice President Dick Cheney might see one of these
    billboards on his visit to Australia in the next couple of weeks and get cross?

    Thanks,

  25. Katz
    February 11th, 2007 at 06:43 | #25

    “I figure that’s pretty much it for Australia.”

    Can’t disagree with this.

    Howard is saying, “Why risk my own political future when those dumb-bunny Americans seem to be so keen to die? I get the best photo-ops and I never have to stand on a taxi-way watching body bags being unloaded from a Hercules. It’s a win-win situation!”

  26. February 11th, 2007 at 11:37 | #26

    Although Bush is going to have to find a new home within two years (when he leaves office), I think he might use “the Google” instead of domain.com.au.

  27. rog
    February 11th, 2007 at 19:52 | #27

    Bush already has a home, why would he need another?

    What seems to escapes most people is that Bush was elected to do a job, and relected by an clear majority to continue that work.

    The charge that he deceived the USA is a lie.

  28. pseudonym (econowit)
    February 11th, 2007 at 22:40 | #28

    “What seems to escapes most people is that Bush was elected to do a job”

    Was he? I thought he got in because the voting machine punch holes malfunctioned in Florida and the US supreme court discountinued re-counts.

    “it cannot be said who actually won the popular vote in 2000.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._presidential_election,_2000#National_results

  29. Bill Pritchard
    February 12th, 2007 at 08:42 | #29

    Vaguely on this line discussion… the consensus seems to be that Howard will call an election straight after APEC in September. But I reckon Bush is so unpopular that Howard might call the eletion beforehand, in order to ensure he doesn’t have photos of him hugging Bush that can be used against him during the campaign. (…and both wearing, of course, whatever silly costumes the organisers come up with for the photo shoot).

  30. Katz
    February 12th, 2007 at 09:21 | #30

    ‘Howard is saying, “Why risk my own political future when those dumb-bunny Americans seem to be so keen to die? I get the best photo-ops and I never have to stand on a taxi-way watching body bags being unloaded from a Hercules. It’s a win-win situation!â€?’

    And as if by magic, nature imitates art!

    Barack Obama’s spokesman Robert Gibbs, nailing Howard on his heartless exploitation of the so-called GWOT for his own political advantage:

    “If Prime Minister Howard truly believes what he says, perhaps his country should find its way to contribute more than just 1,400 troops so some American troops can come home. … It’s easy to talk tough when it’s not your country or your troops making the sacrifices.â€?

    The jig’s up, Ratty.

  31. milano803
    February 15th, 2007 at 15:24 | #31

    “it cannot be said who actually won the popular vote in 2000.�

    The US doesn’t elect the president based on the popular vote.

    “As regards Kyoto, Australia was going to sign until Bush was elected and announced that the US was out.”

    The US Congress voted unanimously to keep the US was out before Bush was even elected.

  32. February 16th, 2007 at 00:31 | #32

    Still waiting for Fairfax to get back to me about the President George W. Bush billboard on Waterworks Road.

    http://www.springhillvoice.com/media.html

    They said someone would get back to me within 24 hours, and it’s been a week now!

  33. pseudonym (econowit)
    February 16th, 2007 at 09:52 | #33

    The dead line Howard set to his crony Bush for charges to be laid against Hicks; the 14th of February has come gone.

    To get a result, maybe ‘the rodent’ should quit channelling his ultimatums through Bush and the Republicans and direct all requests to the Democrats, just like Bush now has to do.

    MAJOR MICHAEL MORI:
    “I think that’s the whole thing. With David Hicks, no-one is saying David actually did anything wrong or hurt anybody, just he was on the wrong side. When you say he’s accused of being on the other side, so because he was on the other side we can go ahead and take away those fundamental rights and protections that we give to our murderers and our child molesters and our rapists, and to our corrupt politicians. They get it. Why doesn’t David Hicks rate the basic fundamental human values that we give everyone? If he’s violated the law and you try him in a fair system, fine. They don’t want to give him that fair shake, unfortunately because I think his case has become political and the politics of it don’t want to – the first Military Commissions can’t be acquittals. They couldn’t afford that.”

  34. Katz
    February 16th, 2007 at 10:30 | #34

    “The US doesn’t elect the president based on the popular vote.”

    No, but individual states do, or at least have legislation in place that ostensibly seeks to favour the candidate with the highest number of votes.

    Which candidate did achieve the highest number of votes in Florida in 2000?

    However, Bush did win a 5-4 victory where it counted — in the US Supreme Court.

    As the Chief Justice said at the time: “The US is a republic, not a democracy.”

    Can’t disagree with that assertion.

  35. pseudonym (econowit)
    February 16th, 2007 at 10:47 | #35

    OK rog is technically correct @27

    “Bush was ‘originally’ elected to do a job” except it was by the judiciary.

  36. guthrie
    February 17th, 2007 at 08:46 | #36

    “What seems to escapes most people is that Bush was elected to do a job, and relected by an clear majority to continue that work.

    The charge that he deceived the USA is a lie.”

    I don’t see that the second statement follows from the first. As long as sufficient people still believe the lie, you can get re-elected. This of course is the same for all politicians.

  37. milano803
    February 19th, 2007 at 11:10 | #37

    “No, but individual states do”

    Still, that isn’t how the President is elected.

    “Which candidate did achieve the highest number of votes in Florida in 2000?”

    Bush

    “However, Bush did win a 5-4 victory where it counted — in the US Supreme Court.”

    The case concerned vote counting.

  38. Katz
    February 19th, 2007 at 12:11 | #38

    The case concerned not counting the votes.

  39. kotika
    February 21st, 2007 at 14:04 | #39

    Two people who i personally know and went to see Bush at his request to consult on what need to be done to ensure continued US leadership in the field of technology. (both of them normally vote democratic). One of them is a Nobel prize winner in physics.

    We asked them specifically if Bush were dumb. The answer was that on the contrary he is sharp, alert and at the very least appears to listen carefully. They were under impression the “dumb” image was cultivated to appeal to a country which has come to resent the elitist politicians (Bush is of course one of them).

    In retrospect it is clear that Bush not only listened but heeded their advice to strengthen the teaching of technical sciences in schools. (typically a leftwing policy by the way)

    As to the charge that he has surrounded himself with incompetent cronies, this is patently not true. His first secretary of state was Colin Powell, second Condoleeza Rice. He appointed John Roberts to the Supreme Court. And dont forget he has Carl Rove as a genius political adviser. Rumsfeld, the disgusting figure who is rightly blamed for all the abuses of the “terror on war” is neither incompetent nor a crony.

    Moreover it is the right, indeed responsibility, of a leader to appoint people who agree with his ideas otherwise a country simply cannot be governed. This is the nature of representative democracy: once elected the leader has a mandate to carry out his job without regard to public opinion. The only reason they sometimes listen to polls, is because they are thinking of the next election. This is true in every country and every president and prime-minister left or right, not just Bush or Howard.

  40. singe
    February 25th, 2007 at 14:43 | #40

    Strange that the Iraqi expatriates that met with Bush in the run up to the war reported that he didn’t know what the terms Shite and Sunni meant, him being such a with it bloke and all…but I will give you this kotika, here in New York we are certain Bush is much more mean spirited and crooked than dumb.

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