“Sorry” Or Not, Trump Was Justified In Reaming Turnbull

AS YOU SOW, so shall you reap: these words should ring in Malcolm Turnbull’s ears like a klaxon siren after his entirely justified international humiliation by Donald Trump; having barracked for Hillary Clinton and made no secret of his disgust at her defeat, Turnbull’s refugee deal with Barack Obama, after that defeat, was tantamount to a poke in the eye of the new US President. “Sorry” he may now be, but Trump was within his rights to lash out.

There is one angle to the fracas over Malcolm Turnbull’s fraught telephone call with Donald Trump this week — over the equally contentious prospect of carting asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island off to the United States for resettlement — that every mainstream media commentator I’ve seen or read has missed, and it is an instructive one.

I should apologise to readers for my disappearance over the past few days; three days interstate and a heavy day yesterday back in Melbourne conspired to disrupt the renewed conversation we have been having here, and whilst I have stayed abreast of political goings-on, it has been a little frustrating to be unable to find the time to comment.

But I have followed, with interest, the increasingly embarrassing debacle that was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s first telephone conversation with the new US President; to say Turnbull has come off second best is something of an understatement, and whilst some — like Daily Telegraph columnist Laurie Oakes — are trying to pump up Turnbull’s tyres, suggesting the PM “stood up” to the President and showed him his “mettle” — the reality is that being made to look a fool to a global audience by willing media is something Turnbull could (and should) have avoided.

First, a little history.

Back in 1992, the Conservative government of UK Prime Minister John Major — itself freshly re-elected in a result that probably owed more to the thumping majority won by Margaret Thatcher in 1987 it was defending, and to the fact its Labour opponent was Neil Kinnock, than it did to any great enthusiasm within the British electorate — leapt into the fray during that year’s presidential election in the US, making no secret of the fact it wanted George H. Bush re-elected, and going to great lengths to ensure that that message received extensive coverage by the US press.

The outcome, as everyone knows, was nothing of the sort; Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton beat the elder President Bush handsomely (thanks, in part, to the votes drained off by billionaire Independent candidate Ross Perot). Clinton went on to serve eight years as President — in a reign many credit his wife, Hillary, as the “real brain” behind — and during which controversy and scandal were never far from the surface.

(It is during this period that my own deep contempt and dislike for the Clintons developed; not because they were from the Left, but because they gave every appearance of being a law unto themselves: an entitled mentality that remained evident up to and beyond Hillary Clinton’s own failed presidential bid last year).

Even so, in 1997 — as Major again faced British voters, this time against a resurgent “New” Labour Party led by the telegenic but vapid Tony Blair — the Clinton administration, always happy to hold a grudge and to act on it, returned fire at the Conservative Party in a concerted endeavour to make sure it got the British government it wanted to work with. Labour would have convincingly won the 1997 election in Britain even without the endorsement and star power Clinton showered upon its campaign, but it hardly takes a rocket scientist to deduce that Clinton’s opinion counted for more in the UK than Major’s did in the US, and Major and the Tories were trounced.

This story is instructive, for it contains a sentiment that I think has changed very little in decades, if not centuries: nobody tells Uncle Sam what to do, or not do; from the War of Independence to the two World Wars — the second of which America was dragged into by the ambush attack at Pearl Harbour in 1941 — and to the Cuban Missile Crisis and more recently, its domestic politics, the bottom line always ends up being the same. America makes up its own mind.

What many people forget, too, is that prior to 1941, the US was quite content to dwell in splendid isolation, and leave the rest of the world largely to itself: this could offer a clue to why, after decades of global military activity over the past 75 years and being co-opted by most of the free world to act as its guarantor, the independent, isolationist message of the Trump platform resonated as strongly as it did. In short, it was a pitch for America to return to a more traditional view of itself.

The reason I relate both the Major-Clinton anecdote and the nature of pre-1941 America is because I think Malcolm Turnbull has probably emulated the former, and been complicit in an attempt to disrupt the latter.

Before last year’s US elections, Turnbull made it clear — crystal clear — whose side he was on; Hillary Clinton was “an old, personal friend” who “Lucy and I” looked forward to welcoming to Australia “as President.” Turnbull anticipated that “President Clinton” would be “a very good friend for Australia.” He was less vocal than some about his distaste for Trump before the election, but as the result became clear, the saccharine acknowledgement Turnbull gave of Trump’s victory failed to mask his obvious and real disgust that his “friend” had lost.

In an age of ceaseless, instant media coverage (and in a time political bunkers across the world receive news in real time, analysing and studying it to determine precise intelligence conclusions) Turnbull’s unabashed rah-rah antics on Clinton’s behalf were never going to escape the attention of the Trump team.

And in turn, the deal for 1,250 processed refugees to be resettled in the United States — formalised with Barack Obama, after the result of the election was beyond doubt — was only ever going to be interpreted by the Trump machine as a poke in the eye: an arrogantly mischievous attempt to lob a grenade into the incoming administrations’s plans that would explode in the new President’s face.

Turnbull himself might not have thought of the deal in such terms, but it beggars belief that Obama (and the Clinton team, which was reportedly involved with planning it) would have regarded it as anything else.

It was, to use the vernacular, the action of a smartarse.

There has of course been a tremendous amount of reportage over what was said and what was not said in the course of the conversation on Thursday between Trump and Turnbull.

What has not been contradicted by either side, despite wild accusations of “fake news” informing some of this coverage, is that a) Trump regarded the refugee settlement arrangements as a “dumb deal;” b) that Trump claimed that countries across the world were “taking advantage” of the USA, and that this had to stop; c) that Trump berated Turnbull, saying (among other things) that the call was the “worst” of his four calls with world leaders that day, including Russian leader Vladimir Putin; and d) that the call abruptly ended 35 minutes short of hour scheduled for it almost immediately after the refugee deal had been discussed.

As an incidental observation, characteristically fatuous remarks by opposition “leader” Bill Shorten — that Trump should have shown Turnbull more “respect,” and that he shared Australians’ sentiments that “petty playground bickering” and political point scoring must stop — deserve to be contemptuously dismissed as the hypocritical and opportunistic blather that they are.

And some readers of this column (and others who follow me on Twitter) may accuse me of hypocrisy in going down this track, too, for I was trenchantly critical of Hillary Clinton during the election campaign, and whilst not a Trump supporter, was resolute that the only result her candidacy merited was defeat. To those people I simply note that this is an opinion column, not a news service; the bulk of the opinions here are guided by my knowledge of and instinct for electoral behaviour. My sense was that beyond the Democratic Party’s citadels of California and New York, there was little appetite for Clinton among Americans. Once the votes were counted, that judgement proved correct.

But Turnbull is the elected head of government in a country very closely allied to the United States, and — like Major in 1992 — had drawn attention to himself for making it very clear to the Americans who he wanted to work with, and who he didn’t.

In this sense, what happened on that phone call should surprise nobody, but if ever there was a time one of Trump’s increasingly famous outbursts of belligerence was justified, this was it.

I tend to think that if it plays its cards correctly, the Turnbull government will find “better weather” in henceforth dealing with Trump: the President has vented, as they say these days, and there is a sense that having blown off a head of steam, the heat in the issue has been dissipated — whatever the eventual fate of the refugee resettlement deal turns out to be.

Indeed, there are some conciliatory overtures emanating from the Trump camp now the dust has settled a little. If Turnbull seriously wants to work Trump, now would be the time to draw a line under the refugee deal once and for all, for it never looked like anything more than a cynical stunt cooked up with a lame duck in Obama that was more about causing trouble for Trump than with achieving anything particularly noble or constructive.

But the fallout from the Thursday telephone call closes the circle on yet another in a long line of spectacularly inept political judgements on Turnbull’s part: having campaigned for Trump’s nemesis relentlessly and given every appearance of deeming her defeat despicable, the Obama refugee deal episode simply meant that the reaming he got from Trump by telephone was inevitable, entirely to be expected, and completely justified.

The real damage to Turnbull will be in the eyes of the Australian public, which already holds the PM in dim regard and will interpret what they have seen and heard of his discussion with Trump as weak, subservient, and a failure.

In this sense, I think Denis Atkins from the Courier Mail has it about right, saying that the Trump call will prove to be the curtain-raiser on a very, very difficult year for Turnbull.

That sentiment, however accurate, is probably the understatement of the year, although we canvassed the same point here last week.

I’ve heard whispers from different places (places, plural) that Turnbull’s papers are stamped, and that the push is on to get rid of him by Easter, or before the budget in May at the latest. The sticking point seems to be who to replace him with. If Turnbull even wants to see the year out, the time it takes the forces lining up against him to coalesce around a candidate represents the amount of sand that remains in the hourglass.

The first Newspoll for the year is imminent. It will find the Turnbull government faring badly, registering the seventh of “30 losing Newspolls” Turnbull used to justify knifing Tony Abbott. I don’t think Turnbull will last the year, or anything approaching it. But more fiascos like the Trump call will simply hasten what is now almost inevitable.

President Hillary? God Help Us, And God Help The United States Of America

THE WORST PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATE as President of the United States has declared, with an announcement by former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton that she would seek the Democratic Party nomination as President; the development should galvanise conservatives and more reasonable figures in Clinton’s own party, for she would be a domestic liability and international menace if ever elected to office.

At the outset — to answer the charge my trenchant opposition to a “President” Hillary Clinton is motivated by opposition to women, which it most certainly isn’t — I should like to simply observe that there are several capable, high profile women on both sides of American politics who would theoretically make very good Presidents, and that anyone whose politics are dictated by gender rather than a rational assessment of the best candidate for office should identify one of the other women in the field of potential contenders, and get behind her instead.

For Hillary Clinton, to be completely blunt, is just about the worst candidate going around for the Presidency, and should she ever be elected to that office the consequences for both the United States and the wider world are likely to be dire.

For someone who has spent decades at, near, or adjacent to the edifices of real power in the United States, Clinton is someone the US public has gotten to know all too well; there can be no doubt hers would be the most recognisable name on the ballot should she win the nomination of her party as President — which she has now announced her intention to seek — but name recognition and suitability for office are two very different notions.

In some respects, it is possible to feel some admiration for Clinton’s stoic determination; after all, this high-profile liberal lawyer (and no intellectual slouch) was forced to play bridesmaid — literally — to her husband Bill through stints as Governor of Arkansas in the 1980s, two terms as President himself, and what seems to have been a virtual lifetime of dealing with her husband’s philandering and infidelity, with a string of affairs and humiliations an unwanted bequest in life from the contemptible specimen to whom she is married.

I don’t propose today to embark on some forensic analysis of Bill Clinton’s tenure as President, although it is safe to assert it was helpful that it ended when it did, and equally helpful that the Democratic Party was moved on from the White House after eight years lest his deputy — who, among other things, “invented the Internet” and forecast polar ice caps would have melted by last year — be elevated to an unmerited and equally unpalatable stint as the US’ Commander-in-Chief.

Clinton is, to coin an idiom only ever deployed to demean its target, a Washington insider; this scion of the Democratic Party establishment, left-leaning social activist and hypocritical champion of the status of women is synonymous to many Americans with the interests of big business, lobby groups, and not concerned with the lot of the “little guy.”

And I say “hypocritical champion” of women because there is ample evidence Clinton is nothing of the kind; in recent weeks the US has been swept by rumours — neither denied nor, tellingly, responded to by the Clintons, even through recourse to legal proceedings — that Clinton was the enforcer who bullied and harassed and heavied husband’s conquests to keep them from going public; affairs and even rapes are said to have been hushed up and their victims bought off, intimidated, or thuggishly ground into submission.

Clinton has form for this, as we saw last June, as a report emerged in the US press of her boasting and laughing about getting a child rapist acquitted on a legal technicality; this is not conduct becoming of a putative President, and it is to be hoped Clinton’s Republican adversaries make great use of this — and other items from Clinton’s cavalier and wilful past — to explode the myth that she is in any way the candidate for women and families.

But her problems do not stop there.

Her age, for one thing, is a liability that can and should be turned against her; Democrats have form for making merry over the age of some of the candidates their opponents have run for the Presidency (one of the best Presidents in Ronald Reagan not least) and she deserves to be fair game as a 69-year-old by the time Americans vote in November next year.

As I said last year of the Democrats’ age-based crusade against Reagan, also 69 when first elected:

At 69 by the time the election is held in 2016, Clinton will be the same age Ronald Reagan was when he won in 1980, and despite the spectacular successes of the Reagan era, Democrats have spent the 30+ years since lampooning him as a senile gerontocrat whose administration was run exclusively by his wife and his advisers.

What compounds this consideration is the story — again, never denied by the Clintons — that Hillary some years ago suffered a stroke, and whatever recovery might have been made from that event (and be it one of life’s great injustices or otherwise), anyone who has suffered a stroke is literally not fit to serve in the most powerful office in the world with thousands of nuclear weapons at their disposal and on hair-trigger alert.

Foreign policy is going to be important on the watch of the next President, and incumbent Barack Obama — the worst President since at least the thoroughly useless Jimmy Carter, if not ever — has spent the past six and a half years inflaming global hotspots and imperilling the security of the United States and its allies, a track record neatly if sarcastically itemised in Brisbane’s Courier Mail this morning.

As someone who served for four years as one of the most senior members of the Obama Cabinet and who is deeply enmeshed in Democratic Party governance whenever it holds power, Clinton is as culpable in the representative sense for these failings as Obama is, and as President would face the responsibility of dealing with them.

Yet Americans can have no faith she is equipped or willing to do so, and the evidence of this can be found in the track record of her philandering husband, whose own administration (often said to in fact be influenced and run by Hillary) consistently kicked foreign policy challenges down the road to be dealt with by someone else.

It actually matters who wins this election in the US, with a resurgent and bellicose Russia openly threatening nuclear retaliation if held to account for its outrages, the Middle East seemingly erupting in a firestorm with the tacit imprimatur of Obama, and other hotspots around the world seemingly ignored.

Obama has overseen both the world becoming more dangerous and a diminishing of US power, prestige and reach. His country — and the world — cannot afford another of his ilk to follow him, yet like peas in a pod, Hillary would little different to Obama in his mishandling of international affairs, and America’s role in them.

Like most Democrats, there are few signs that Hillary Clinton has any inclination to address the ballooning US deficit and/or national debt, let alone the ideas and/or the backbone with which to do so; as it is, total US debt has doubled during the tenure of the Obama administration, to $US 13 trillion, and with an agenda heavy on left-leaning social spending and expanding public addiction to welfare, Clinton does not present as a responsible or capable economic stewardess.

Other coverage of the Clinton announcement in today’s press may be viewed here and here.

Clearly, this is no subject that can be summarily dealt with in a single article, and the process for electing a replacement for Obama in a little over 18 months’ time is only now sputtering slowly into motion; we will follow the election races on both the Republican and Democratic sides as they unfold.

But although unsurprising, the formalisation of a Clinton candidacy is the last thing the United States needs, and should be regarded as an invitation to better candidates on the Democratic side of the equation to do what Obama himself did the last time Hillary was said to be a shoo-in for their party’s nomination and to oppose, out-campaign and defeat her.

And I reiterate that at this early stage of proceedings, my own support lies with a hypothetical Republican ticket led by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as his running mate: we will see how that dynamic plays out.

But a “President” Hillary Clinton?

Should it ever come to pass, then God help us all, and God help the United States of America; this veteran, inveterate Washington hack is just about the worst prospective candidate either side of US politics could dredge up to inflict on an unsuspecting public.

It is to be hoped, in good time, that even if she emerges with her party’s nomination, her only reward for the endeavour will be a humiliating concession speech — ideally to Bush — which would be neither more nor less than she deserved but which, by virtue of the fact they would have enforced its delivery in the first place, be exactly what the citizens of the US most needed after eight years of mismanagement and neglect by Obama that has made her country and the world around it a far, far more dangerous and less secure place.

 

Empty Rhetoric: Obama’s BS On Climate Change

THE POLITICAL LEFT — internationally — is cock-a-hoop in the wake of a “deal” between China and the USA on climate change, announced last week by US President Barack Obama; far from isolating Australia, this arrangement will never even take effect, and far from achieving anything meaningful, it will disappear behind the shifting priorities of Chinese pragmatism and the reality that Obama has lost control of his own government.

I have continued to be deprived of the time I would like to post on this site over the past few days, and whilst I haven’t published anything I have certainly been keeping track of the goings-on at both the G20 summit in Brisbane and in politics generally; we will, I’m sure, touch on several of the “missed” issues as we move into the week.

But I wanted to comment on the “deal” on climate change that was announced late last week by Barack Obama, because it’s been some time (and distance) since such an unutterable pile of sanctimonious bullshit was last dumped on “believers” and the gullible and/or stupid — assuming, of course, those groups aren’t comprised of exactly the same people.

And in terms of the distance travelled since the last batch of comparable verbal diarrhoea was encountered, the name of a town called Copenhagen springs to mind.

I’m not going to pull apart the specifics of the promised deal; there is no need to do so, save to note that China and the President of the United States appear to have confirmed a framework of aspirational targets to enact swingeing cuts in global emissions, with China and the US ostensibly providing the world “leadership” that has been conspicuously absent, often demanded by the “believers,” and claimed for patent purposes by the Australian Labor Party and the Communist Party Greens in the form of a tax.

Rather, I simply wish to point out why this latest exercise in verbal defecation won’t even yield a solid stool, let alone emissions reductions, and anyone who accepts the announcement by Obama without a very big pinch of salt probably needs their heads read.

On the Chinese side, it has been a fashionable argument of the Left (and the Greens in particular) to observe that China has been closing down coal-fired power generation plants, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, and such an observation is correct.

But this characteristic and deliberately misleading half-truth neglects to add that the decommissioned coal-fired plants are being replaced by new, far larger plants (that also swallow tons and tons of coal) and being augmented by new nuclear power generation and hydro-electric capacity, too; far from reducing her energy footprint, China is rapidly and exponentially expanding it as it caters to the energy consumption needs of a modernising — and ballooning — new middle class comprising hundreds of millions of affluent Chinese.

To date, China has exhibited scant practical interest in emissions reduction, combating climate change, tackling global warming, or any of the other emotive watchwords of the Left.

The “science” of climate change — settled or not, depending on your view, and not even relevant on this occasion — has failed, if it is true at all, to curb or even alter the course of colossal industrialisation of Chinese industry, commerce, and consumption, and there is no reason to believe this will change.

What China does have a reputation for is pragmatism: pragmatism through the prism of its own interests and its own agenda, and this, I suspect, is where the “deal” announced by Obama comes into play.

After all, China has faced relentless criticism and sustained political pressure from the global Left on this issue; what better circumstance in which to strike a “deal” could it wish for than with someone who currently stands in the shoes of Barack Obama?

A big hint that this “deal” is nothing more than a partisan political stunt (agreed to by the Chinese for reasons of pure and understandable expediency) was glaringly evident from the start; the USA and China may very well be the two biggest emitters in the world, but the complete absence from the structure of the agreement of any of the others — India, the EU, the UK, Russia, or the developing bloc in South America — somewhat tarnishes the glittering light in which the “deal” was presented.

But Obama, with two years remaining on his presidential term, can do little more than talk.

Already unable to control the US House of Representatives, his Democratic Party was brutalised in mid-term elections last week that saw it also lose control of the US Senate; consequently, Obama is — to use the American vernacular — a lame duck in every sense of the word.

In practical terms, it means Obama can promise whatever he likes, but unless it’s something he is able to decree by the Executive Orders he has proven so enamoured with during the past six years, his initiatives will never see the light of day: and anything that radically targets climate change — a subject viscerally detested by the energised Republicans who now operate the levers of legislative government in the USA — will be bitterly and ruthlessly savaged by his opponents.

It is all well and good that the G20 summit in Brisbane has concluded with the issuing of a communique that pledges constituent nations to “support strong and effective action to address climate change;” these are mere words, and whether you fit the “believer” or “sceptic” approach to climate change, they will amount to precisely nothing.

The Chinese, for their part, can hardly be blamed for signing up to Obama’s plan; after all, with a complete inability on the US side to deliver, they will be held accountable for nothing by doing so.

And if a Republican wins the White House in November 2016 — which is a distinct possibility, with Jeb “the competent one” Bush increasingly likely to seek his party’s nomination — this “deal,” announced with such fanfare, will quietly cease to exist at all.

Which, frankly, is as it should be.

I’m not passing any judgements on the merits or otherwise of what the agreement sought to achieve; merely to note that far from the big win the lunar Left thought it had scored, it is nothing more than an empty, empty promise.

What it was, however, was a flagrant play at partisan politics.

Far from isolating Australia, the “deal” probably makes the Abbott government’s Direct Action plan look good (or at least, to look better than it otherwise would); after all, doing something, however spurious, is better than doing nothing more than talking.

And with the darling of the American “moderate Left,” Hillary Clinton, seeming more likely than not to stand against (we presume) Jeb Bush in 2016, there is a clear vested interest for Obama to pump up the hot button issues US Democrats crow about at election time, but rarely — if ever — deliver on.

Obama can hardly crow about healthcare, employment, education, welfare reforms or the state of the US budget deficit: after six years as President (and too long to keep blaming George W. Bush), these are all signature failures of a regime seemingly obsessed with European-style socialism and the unproductive sovereign debt levels that accompany it.

And he can hardly claim to have been a successful President in international affairs when the Cold War has all but resumed on his watch, with Russia emboldened by his policies of strategic disarmament and the perception that if push came to shove, Obama would do nothing.

Just like the annexation of Crimea and ongoing Russian-orchestrated insurgency in Ukraine have been met with little meaningful response.

And elsewhere in the world, and particularly in those areas in which America traditionally prides itself on its influence in the Middle East and Asia, the number and scope of dangerous flashpoints have exploded on his watch as President.

Hence the grandiose rhetoric and posturing on climate change, and this “deal,” from Obama: just about the only agenda item in the Democratic manifesto his administration has singularly failed to bugger up thus far.

Nobody ought to believe for a moment that “progress” has been made on climate change this week, if that’s what they are looking for: it hasn’t.

And far from being hailed as a hero and a man of principle, this “deal” of Obama’s should be examined in context of the spectacular failings of his administration and the failure he has been as President, and the tacky attempt to reset US Democratic politics in Clinton’s favour by using this incendiary hot-button issue in an international setting when his own domestic political shortcomings now dictate he can deliver absolutely nothing.

This is empty rhetoric, delivering an empty promise, premised on little more than hot air and bullshit.

But Obama has made a political career from these attributes for years, so it ought to surprise no-one.

It should, however, make plenty of people who “believe” — in both Obama and in climate change — very angry indeed.

And when all is said and done, China — in agreeing with Obama — can hardly be blamed for it.

 

Rape Defence: Is Hillary Clinton Unfit To Serve As POTUS?

A 30-YEAR-OLD INTERVIEW — made public this week for the first time — could be the silver bullet that ends the career of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once and for all; made when she was a lawyer during husband Bill’s first term as Governor of Arkansas, Clinton is heard laughing about her handiwork in getting a man she clearly believed guilty off a child rape charge. Is Clinton unfit to serve as President of the United States?

There are some people who will excuse practically anything on the basis of “youthful indiscretion,” or as a proverbial slip of the tongue, and indeed when talking about young, brash, excessively confident or ambitious and inadequately experienced young people, these pretexts for forgiveness are often appropriate and, indeed, warranted.

After all, the ruination of a career should not be primarily engineered from the mistakes of immaturity.

But rape — and the rape of a child, no less — is no laughing matter, and it doesn’t matter how young or inexperienced one might purport to be, there is nothing amusing about either the act or the escape of a perpetrator from punishment based on legal technicalities.

It is particularly disturbing, therefore, that an old interview with Hillary Clinton — previously a New York Senator and US Secretary of State, lately a rumoured presidential aspirant — has surfaced for the first time this week, and in my view it seals concerns over Clinton’s suitability to be President that have percolated for decades, and at least since her husband made the move from Little Rock to the Oval Office in 1993.

Readers should peruse this story and, particularly, listen to the six-minute audio file embedded in the article. This is material that has been buried since it was compiled in the 1980s, and with the contest to replace Barack Obama as US President set to ratchet up a notch once midterm elections in November are out of the way, its public release now is something Clinton could well do without.

I acknowledge that in handling the case in question — and representing her client, a 41-year-old man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl — that she was only doing her job; I also acknowledge that in plea bargaining the offence down from first degree rape to “unlawful fondling of a child” based on the destruction of a key piece of evidence by a forensic laboratory that had analysed it, she availed herself of a legal loophole by which to legitimately do so.

Where the problem for Clinton arises lies in some of the other details revealed in this interview, in Clinton’s obvious attitude to both the matter and the complainant, and the implications these raise over her integrity and suitability as a candidate for high office.

This case — to be sordid for a moment — appears to have pivoted on the underwear the accused was wearing on the night of the alleged rape; a section of this (encompassing, it seems, virtually the entire area of contamination with bodily fluids) had been removed by a forensic lab and analysed, with a report on the composition of the foreign material provided to the Court.

However, due to an intricacy of law that I don’t pretend to understand, the fact this evidence was subsequently destroyed (despite the official forensic report having being filed) apparently rendered the prosecution case as good as pointless, enabling Clinton to secure the deal for her client that got him off the charge of rape in exchange for a plea to something less serious.

So far, there’s nothing wrong in that, personal opinions readers might have notwithstanding.

But Clinton makes it very clear she believed her client was guilty: her musings that by passing a lie detector test, he “forever destroyed (her) faith in polygraphs” make that plain.

So, too, does her laughter over various points she makes in the interview, and it is this apparent mirth — hey, I knew he was as guilty as sin, right? But I got him off, and aren’t I clever? — that in my view goes to the heart of her suitability to be President, blowing apart as it does the credibility of her claim to be an unwavering champion of women’s rights.

There is nothing funny about a child being raped; the fact the perpetrator — now deceased — got off as a result of the inadvertent destruction of key evidence doesn’t justify or excuse the fact that someone finds the matter worth laughing about.

I accept that having agreed to defend this fellow, Clinton was bound to do so whether she believed him to be innocent or guilty. But her conduct in this interview is at times tantamount to bragging, which is tasteless at best and downright despicable at worst given the welfare of a 12-year-old girl was central to the case.

As the linked article notes, the victim of the alleged rape claims to have never come to terms with the attack, and harbours ongoing resentment and hostility toward Clinton for her actions.

To be fair, nobody can deny that over the course of her life Hillary Clinton has done a lot of charitable work that has benefited many people. Even so, the appearance of this material will give impetus to those who argue that such work was undertaken purely to build a political profile in readiness for the time she would step clear of her famous husband, and pursue a political career of her own.

And it bears pointing out that this interview wasn’t embargoed, or withheld for security-related reasons; it was never published, it seems, because notorious lad magazine Esquire — for which it was taped — simply opted not to run with it. Its emergence now, however, is difficult to regard as coincidental, coming as it does amid rampant speculation that Clinton will shortly confirm her intention to seek the Democratic nomination for the Presidency to succeed Barack Obama when his term expires in early 2017.

It raises more of the questions that have perennially been asked of her judgement over more than 30 years in the public eye; the cavalier regard for propriety, which critics have often sought to portray as observed only by stonewalling and reliance upon technicalities, evokes memories of the Whitewater scandal that threatened at one point to terminate the Clintons’ tenure in the White House in the 1990s.

Her apparent betrayal of lawyer-client privilege in the interview is a telling pointer to this attitude; Clinton seemed to place greater emphasis on self-promotion.

So, too, is the revelation her certificate to practise as a barrister in Arkansas was suspended in 2002 for failing to undertake certain requirements around career development she was obliged to meet.

And the whole episode will do nothing to promulgate her claims to act as an advocate for women and children.

The irony is that just as Clinton’s opponents begin to produce what is reasonable to expect will become a mountain of material to discredit her, it is already clear Clinton is a flawed, compromised candidate for the Presidency.

At 69 by the time the election is held in 2016, Clinton will be the same age Ronald Reagan was when he won in 1980, and despite the spectacular successes of the Reagan era, Democrats have spent the 30+ years since lampooning him as a senile gerontocrat whose administration was run exclusively by his wife and his advisers.

The Democrats have also since used age to help defeat two other Republicans — Bob Dole at 73 in 1996 and John McCain at 72 in 2008 — and can hardly expect Clinton’s age not to be turned against her.

As a hypothetical President, her return to the White House would reopen many wounds from the administration of her husband: the reputed iffy deals, the policy torpor in international relations, and the divisions the controversial first couple opened in American society the first time around.

The domestic political climate in the US is arguably far more fraught today than it was in the 1990s: with arguments around national security, budget management, healthcare and environmental policy seemingly insuperable, as they are in many Western countries, it is doubtful as to whether such a divisive figure as Hillary Clinton could unify Americans as all US Presidents seek to do.

In any case, I have long maintained that if the Republican Party has the good sense to endorse Jeb Bush as its candidate (provided he can be prevailed upon to run), the Republicans are likely to return to the White House irrespective of who the Democrats put up — Clinton or otherwise.

Even so, I think this episode raises a question that American voters (and, by extension, anyone among America’s allies, partners and adversaries who ponder such matters) are increasingly going to be forced to contemplate over the next two-and-a-bit years, assuming Clinton goes ahead and contests the Democratic nomination.

Is she even fit to hold office? I suggest the answer is no. It remains to be seen what conclusions others draw — and not least, her Democratic Party colleagues and mentors.

 

Beazley, Obama Derail Mindless Anti-Abbott Crusade

ANYONE WHO BELIEVES the Labor Party’s story on the failings of Prime Minister Tony Abbott — or whether he appropriately represents Australia whilst abroad — needs to widen their selection of reading material; in the midst of a North American trip the ALP is desperately trying to paint as an incompetent embarrassment, its former leader and the President of the United States have exploded the myths Labor is peddling to voters.

So it is, yet again, that we come to talk about the ALP and what it has been up to; in news that will surprise nobody, Labor’s target is Tony Abbott — personally, as it always is when Labor attacks the man — and as usual, its story doesn’t stack up.

I have been reading an excellent column piece in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph by Simon Benson that readers can access here; Benson’s leading statement — that the political preoccupation with Tony Abbott’s anticipated failure at everything is getting ridiculous — pretty much sums things up, although this is by no means the beginning and end of Benson’s case.

(As an aside, I would add that nobody could be as bad as Labor and the Communist Party Greens claim Tony Abbott is; anyone as dangerously incompetent and rotten to the core as a human being as their outlandish proclamations suggest would never have been elected to Parliament in the first place, let alone to the Prime Ministership in a landslide as he was. But as I am sometimes wont to do, I digress).

Most people who follow political events will know that Labor has been lambasting Abbott as “a failure” and “an embarrassment” over his trip to Canada and the USA for some time now; what many will have failed to realise is that the insults and name-calling started before the PM flew out of the country.

Benson’s article is, in part, an inventory of Labor’s fatuously dishonest declarations and claims and the realities that obliterate their credibility — a bit like that board game “fact or crap” that was briefly popular with adolescent children several years ago because it legitimised their ability to tell their parents they were talking crap.

The allusion to adolescent children, as readers will see, is well on the mark when it comes to discussion of the ALP and its banal tactics. The fact much of what it has to say is crap is a matter of record, and the Benson article explores the substance of Labor’s claims in beautifully succinct detail.

For instance, Labor had labelled Abbott’s visit to the USA as an “embarrassment and a failure” before he’d even left Europe, where he had been participating in the commemoration of D-Day. How, as Benson rhetorically asks, can a trip be a failure before it even commences?

Or the appallingly dishonest story Labor — aided and abetted by its chums at Fairfax, The Guardian and the ABC — sought to drill into voters that the Prime Minister wasn’t even bothering to keep meetings he had supposedly set with key figures such as IMF head Christine Lagarde and World Bank boss Jim Yong Kim, when in fact Abbott not only met with every individual Labor claimed he would snub, but even attracted friendly teasing from his hosts on account of the sheer volume of work he was determined to pack into the couple of days at his disposal.

On and on has gone the litany of Labor lies about the alleged misdeeds of Abbott, and the seemingly irreparable damage he is said to be inflicting upon Australia’s national interests before an audience of world leaders; Benson chronicles some of them, but his article is by no means exhaustive. The point is that anyone gullible enough to listen to the Labor Party’s jaundiced view of the world and its ways really is being misled.

The fact the ALP makes the most noise, most often and most consistently over subjects it arrogates to itself the exclusive right to claim expertise, does not legitimise the dearth of fact the resultant cacophony contains.

Nor does it explain away or belittle the fact that on this particular trip Abbott has reinforced excellent personal and bilateral relationships, most notably with David Cameron and Stephen Harper, which hardly do Australia’s interests any disservice.

But the most damaging truth of all, perhaps, is the defence made of the Prime Minister and his trip by former Labor leader — now Australia’s ambassador to the United States — Kim Beazley.

Whatever the shortfalls of his politics, nobody could suggest Beazley was not likeable, decent, or gentlemanly — virtues some of his successors in the ALP would do well to emulate.

And Beazley — a student of world affairs whose grasp of the field puts the likes of Bob Carr and Kevin Rudd to shame — is eminently suited to the role Rudd appointed him to in 2010; his stout refusal to turn the position into a partisan political football is a big reason the incoming Abbott government left him in his post when other appointments were truncated, amended, or abandoned.

As Benson notes, it is Beazley who made the case that Abbott was trying to schedule far too much into a two-day visit; it is Beazley who openly conveyed the assessment of his American hosts that they found Abbott, his prodigious work ethic and firm grasp of international affairs “intriguing.” And it is Beazley who — even if inadvertently — shot down one of the domestic Left’s cherished articles of faith that Abbott and Obama “would clash” over global warming.

If the Labor Party collectively (and certain individuals leading the current crusade particularly) had any decency at all, this alone would be enough to shame them into silence. But check out today’s newspapers, and the same discredited attacks are still coming thick and fast from Labor types who not only should know better, but who know what they are talking is crap.

And in a slapdown that must horrify Labor and its errant ally over at the Greens, Barack Obama has specifically acknowledged that in winning office last year, Abbott obtained a mandate to rescind the carbon tax that he, and the US, would respect: so much for wild claims that Abbott would be “isolated” on the issue.

So much, too, for the childish line Tanya Plibersek has been trying to get to fly in the Australian press that on climate change, Abbott would be seen as “Nigel No-Friends” by every other world leader he met; for someone as intelligent as Plibersek and who really ought to have more sense, her words should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

Benson is right, and his point echoes my own — that it is now beyond a joke the extent to which Abbott is no good at everything, will fail at everything, and will ruin everything. This kind of unthinking, unreasoning unilateralism when the question of political strategy is considered reeks of extremism. It certainly carries no moral authority.

Soon (and I say this only half in jest) we’re going to have reports from Labor on whether the PM farts in question time, or on whether or not Abbott passes the salt when he’s asked for it in the parliamentary dining room. The obsession is becoming that trivial. Such an obsession, by those who pretend to suitability to govern no less, is bloody dangerous. And this alone should give those who are receptive to the stifling, unceasing abuse of Abbott some pause for thought at the very least.

My point in sharing this article is that at some point, that portion of the electorate apparently held in the thrall of a narrative that the most evil specimen in the country is also the Prime Minister of Australia  is likely to awaken from the trance.

Anyone reporting current events (Fairfax…Guardian…ABC…all take note) has an obligation to report fact, not partisan smears not underpinned by so much as an atom of truth.

All of us beholden to political convictions are going to adhere to our beliefs; there is nothing wrong with that.

But the primary difference between a column such as mine and a mainstream media outlet is that in my case, it is openly presented as a conservative-inclined comment and discussion forum. In the case of the Fairfax press, the ABC, The Guardian and other entities like them, these organisations claim to be upholders of ruthlessly impartial standards of fearlessly honest journalism.

It is time they started to behave like it rather than leading a national cheer squad for the Labor Party and the Greens.

In the final analysis, people are free to believe as they choose, and more topically, to read whatever they like, and if a preferred perspective on reality sees some opt to listen to what is patently dishonest and almost criminally negligent in terms of journalistic standards then nobody is going to force them to see reason.

But for those who are entrusted with the carriage of the message, it’s about time those who waffle about “editorial integrity” and the rest of the rubbish their publications nonetheless hide behind as they disseminate the propaganda of the Left woke up to themselves.

Ultimately, the bullshit being spouted about Abbott is as much an insult to the countries and leaders who are hosting him as it is to Abbott himself, but never mind about that.

The objective evidence, gleaned from those who are actually there, is that Abbott is making an excellent fist of complex subjects that are of critical importance not just to Australia’s best interests, but to our friends, allies and trade partners across the globe.

Maybe the ALP really does think it could do better. Behaving like a bunch of spoilt teenage brats is no way to convince anyone, although I concede the fact Labor’s tantrums are taken seriously at all is some sort of achievement, however dubious that might be.

 

 

Sarah Palin: Let’s Nuke Russia

COMMENTS BY FORMER Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin — that the USA should institute a nuclear strike on Russia in response to its aggression over Ukraine — are unhelpful in the extreme; even so, the remarks inadvertently highlight the stupidity of the USA’s strategic arms policy on Barack Obama’s watch, and underscore the dangers of blithely accepting promises over national security at face value.

There isn’t a great deal to recommend the incendiary and provocative remarks made by Sarah Palin to the Conservative Political Action Conference, suggesting that ”the only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”

Clearly, such a fraught and inherently dangerous international situation as that which  exists between the West and Russia over Ukraine — and yes, between heavily nuclear-armed powers, to boot — scarcely needs fuelling by somebody widely regarded as a high-profile lunatic possessed of explosively ill-informed views, and who takes any and every opportunity to publicly air them.

Even so, Palin has drawn attention to an issue that has been a deep and increasing source of unease for conservatives, both in the USA and abroad, for much of the duration of the Obama presidency: the apparent determination, based on so-called agreements obtained from Russia in “good” faith, for both sides to commit to and execute steep cuts to their respective arsenals of strategic and tactical nuclear warheads.

I have long been of the view — and have said as much in this column — that negotiating with Russia over nuclear arms is akin to negotiating with a shark over a chunk of bleeding meat; the shark might swim around in circles a few times, and view you with bemusement, but eventually it will seize the meat and wolf it down. And you with it, if you’re unlucky.

Agreements with Russia — with little or no credible verification that it ever follows through in its disarmament commitments — to slash its nuclear arsenal at the same time as it modernises that same arsenal and tests its efficacy is a game of smoke and mirrors at best, and a ruse that the USA has been silly enough to fall for at its menacing worst.

It should go without saying this, but the West — stripped of the deterrent nuclear umbrella maintained by the USA, the UK, and France — would be a ripe target for conquest, incapable of any meaningful retaliation as it would be, and however noble or well-intended his motives, Obama’s approach to nuclear disarmament agreements with Russia have been an act of international lunacy.

To this end, Palin is absolutely correct. Where I take issue is with the follow-through call to strike Russia first over its activities in Ukraine generally, and in the Crimea in particular.

The situation on Europe’s far eastern flank is dangerous, volatile, and largely unpredictable; little reassurance can be derived from either the words or actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose incandescent approach to attempts at diplomacy over the incident even extend as far as to deny that the tens of thousands of Russian troops pouring into Ukraine are even Russian. According to Putin, they stole uniforms, or bought them.

Such idiocy is no laughing matter. Especially when the powers of the West now appear to be lining up to draw a “red line” at any Russian attempt to formally annexe the Crimea — irrespective of the outcome of next weekend’s referendum, which the Ukrainian government has nonetheless declared unconstitutional, and vowed to disregard.

Nobody knows how events surrounding Ukraine might play out, and whilst the last thing I would want to see is the ignition of a conflict that could spiral into World War III and/or a nuclear conflict, it is simply impossible at this point to categorically and emphatically rule such an event out.

To this end, comments from Palin that effectively advocate a nuclear first strike on Russia are unhelpful, inflammatory, and in extremely poor taste.

It is not known to what extent Palin is viewed in Russia as having any credibility, or the degree to which her utterances are likely to be regarded as in any way representative of official thinking in Washington.

But even the suggestion of a first strike from someone who five years ago was a serious candidate for high office in the USA is not the message that country should be conveying to Putin, and should nuclear weapons — God forbid — be used at all in relation to the Ukrainian dispute, a pre-emptive strike in the absence of any proportionate provocation from Russia (and as of today, there has been no such provocation) would permanently jeopardise America’s position in the post-war world order.

If, of course, there is a world left after such an event for any order to exist.

Palin should pull her head in. If she won’t restrain herself voluntarily, Obama should lock her up under the national security laws he inherited from his predecessor.

 

 

Viewing: Threads Of War In Eastern Europe

WITHOUT BEING ALARMIST, the deployment of 18 nuclear-capable fighter aircraft to Eastern Europe — in light of civil unrest in Ukraine, aggressive acts by Russia, and the position of the West to stand firm in the face of it — has had me thinking today about a vision of nuclear war that was (and is) frighteningly realistic; I post tonight e’er briefly to simply share some excellent fictional viewing with readers for their interest.

Please don’t misinterpret the motive in posting this; as dangerous as the situation in Europe might be — and irrespective of its very real potential to escalate into a Third World War — I really don’t think matters will come to that, although with geopolitical issues of this kind it’s impossible to say such a thing with total conviction.

No no no, whilst the subjects clearly overlap, I was on the hunt online earlier today out of pure curiosity for an old movie about a nuclear holocaust scenario called Threads: I first saw this when it was released in the mid-1980s as a high school student (which I think most of my contemporaries also did) and later on a very grainy online posting that didn’t do the cinematography any favours.

Having found the movie (and found a new-ish link to a HD version of the film, which is far easier to watch) I simply wanted to post this for the interest of readers who may like to take the time to watch what is — current events in eastern Europe notwithstanding — an excellent film.

Those who wish to (and I strongly recommend doing so) can see the full-length feature through this link.

I tend to think the military deployments being made by the USA and NATO are as much about sabre rattling as some of the moves being made by the Russians and forces aligned with them; even so, whilst I suspect nothing will come of them in any apocalyptic sense, we will continue — as ever — to keep an eye on these things.

Enjoy the film. I should note that despite the obviously dovish, CND-inspired and sincerely well-meaning intentions of the teacher who made my class watch this almost 30 years ago, it did nothing to alter the emergent hawkish view I was developing in relation to such matters…

I’ll be posting again in the morning; probably on matters a little nearer to home.