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Sunday, September 22, 2002

Down on the Ranch

Jay Nordlinger of NRO says:

Mark Steyn mentioned John Howard, the prime minister of Australia. He did so in the following context: "Symbolism matters. . . . [The] privilege of kicking loose at the ranch ought to be reserved for real friends [not for terror-funding oil princes]. Yet Australia's . . . John Howard, whose boys fought alongside the U.S. in Afghanistan, didn't get an invite to Crawford."

Here's your Steyn column Jay, and remember, Google is your friend.

This is a really smashing idea. Howard would eat it up. The chatterers in Australia would shed contemptuous ink by the barrel, which makes them happy. Margo Kingston would probably succumb to a fit of the vapors. Ordinary Australians would harrumph a bit about the PM being off gallavantin' in furrin parts while there was work at home, but would be inwardly tickled pink.

But most of all, I want to see John Howard smile. I carry no torch for Howard. He's just the mousey guy who was PM of a country I used to live in. The press in his country is absolutely vicious to him. I used to see Sydney Morning Herald staffers in a circle down on Coogee Beach in the dark of the moon, grunting Zeeble bop fickle fackle howard! Howard!! HOWARD!!!" (with apologies to Juan Gato.) The cartoonist of the Australian keeps drawing him as a slope-browed knuckle-dragging caveman. John Howard as the root of all evil! John Howard the cold-hearted racist baby-throwing religious maniac! (Naturally there is a, which is only marginally more juvenile than the stuff the papers churn out: "It'll be just like Afghanistan: We'll be killing lots of foreigners. Which is good, 'cause it means we can get rid of the Asylum Seekers before they even get a chance to leave their country." Sure kid. Let me know when you get your brain out of hock.)

This is pretty funny, when you get a load of what the man really looks like. He looks like a tie salesman (here shown modelling the "Tiny Rotted Eggs, Burgundy" model). A not-particularly-successful tie salesman. A tie salesman who would much rather be out pottering in his garden. He always looks as if Prime Ministering disagrees with him and upsets his stomach. The only time I've ever seen Howard looking happy is the time in 2000 that his plane developed mechanical trouble on the way to Brunei for the APEC conference, so he was stranded in Darwin for a bit. He was shown walking through the Darwin airport with a relaxed and happy smile on his face, perhaps feeling lucky to be alive.

(This incident led to a most Australian type of minor scandal. The plane sent to fetch him back from Brunei had only coach-type seating on it. Apparently a certain amount of Prime Ministerial displeasure was expressed, which led the yapping wiener dogs of the press to berate him for his high-hat tastes. Why, if coach class is good enough for Ordinary Aussies (though probably not for the wiener dogs, or even the wiener dogs' wiener dogs), it ought to be good enough for the PM. I was aghast. To my mind, nothing says, "Our country is laughably unimportant" like sticking its leader in a crappy plane for several hours without decent work spaces or telecommunications equipment, forcing him to pass the time reading Tom Clancy novels like any ordinary shmoe. Maybe that's just my American arrogance; after all, Howard doesn't have The Button to lug around. But I've digressed.)

I couldn't find a picture of that incident, but this one shows him looking halfway relaxed (and wearing the "1968 Rumpus Room Upholstery, Cranberry") . There he sits with a needle in his arm, and he's smiling. Must be punchy from loss of blood. (And notice the shoes! They're wearing out. He must've walked back from Brunei in those.)

You know where John Howard was on 9/11/01? In Washington. The previous day he was at a White House ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the ANZUS treaty. He was scheduled to address Congress the next day, which apparently was quite a coup, as it had been a long while since an Australian PM had done this. But he didn't give the address then, of course. When the planes hit he was whisked off to a bunker beneath the Australian embassy (that's better: "Our country is important enough to have a bunker"), later to emerge to give an affecting press conference. The next day he sat in the gallery and when he was briefly recognized there was great applause and a smattering of "Woo Woo!". I wonder how often they "Woo Woo!" in the Senate.

Anyhow, the point is, Howard is perfect for the ranch. Maybe they're just waiting for the brutal Texas summer to be over. They'll ride around in the pickup truck. Maybe Bush will take Howard to hunt snipe and jackelopes, and Howard will tell Bush about riding the kangaroos.

Link via Tim Blair.