What is it about American presidents that gets everyone, the media in particular, in a state of such breathless excitement.
The TV was on in the background last night as all the happenings happened. The President arrived, was driven in a car and, presumably, breathed in and out for the whole time. This was relayed in a mood of utter incomprehension that such a wonderful person was amongst our poor, formerly colonial and obviously second-rate, midst.
Then , tonight, we get "the leader of the free world." No. Maybe the president of the world's most influential country, by virtue of military and economy. But that economy is hanging on a thread and the military stressed to the limit.
Now before we go any further, I don't want to appear absolutely ridiculous on America's influence - it is, and has been for some time, the foremost power in the world. But not to the extent that its similarly powerful cultural export agency, Hollywood, has liked to depict it. And the mechanisms by which the US wields its influence are not all open and benign. The links between its political, commercial and military power are immense. Its power over supposedly multilateral insitutions, many of which it helped to establish in the post WW2 period when America was seen almost universally as a force for good, is now malign, if declining somewhat.
Bush is a president whose election was at best question questionable and at worst fraudulent. We have seen plenty of hints as to the lengths that the powers behind him will go to ensure their particular world view attains dominance. But we didn't vote for him and he certainly doesn't "lead" Australia in any sense of the word.
In fact, equating what Bush does with "leadership" is a more interesting exercise than one might think. You might think that leadership means laying out a desirable vision and then explaining how you're going to get there. With Bush, it's "freedom, liberty and democracy" all OK, but that's the end of it. Every action he endorses, whether authorising the deaths of Texans while Governor, embarking on a pre-emptive invasion despite the facts and (at least some) advice and reducing the capacity of swathes of his citizens to enjoy the fruits of democracy, is at odds with the rhetoric. He is, in sum, not authentic. And it's authenticity a leader needs to be seen as a leader.
Bush isn't even a manager. Try this: you'd think a God-fearing conservative would be all for saving. But no: those dang Chinese can't buy enough American crap because they save for a rainy day.
Spare me. Now, the inevitable disclaimer: this is about Bush, not America, and it's not reflexive anti-Americanism. I've known lots of Americans and have benefited directly from their generosity and ability. State Department consuls and other reps are first class.
Just spare me the breathless media coverage (this explains why I watched no news tonight).
Update: Oh yeah, I got one of those e-mail newsletters from a bunch of solicitors today. Quoting some work done by another, similar, firm, the newsletter said:
Getting the basics right
March 2006, the Work Choices amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 1996
(‘Act’) became operative. Work Choices made wide-ranging changes to Australia’s industrial relations system. These changes deliver significant opportunities
to employers. However, employers need to firstly understand the extent to which
Work Choices affects their employment arrangements
The article then went on to explain some of the legal background and instruct employers what their minimum requirements are. But that one sentence stands out, doesn't it:
These changes deliver significant opportunities to employers.
The 'choice' is only one way, as people keep on pointing out. Bombast and threats won't work any more. Suck it up, Mr Hendy.