On his first day of campaigning as an official candidate for president, Barack Obama committed what would in days of old have been recognized as a major international blunder. Times have changed, of course. If you are old enough to recall the proposition that politics stops at the water’s edge, you are probably incapable of suspending rational thought to join in the excitement over a not-readly-for-prime-player joining the field of Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination.
Australia, you may recall, is one of America’s steadfast allies in the war in which we are engaged. Australian Prime Minister John Howard criticized Obama’s call for immediate American withdrawal from Iraq. When Obama was asked to respond, he declined simply to express respectful disagreement with a loyal American ally. Instead he insulted Australia’s contribution to the war effort, belittling the 1,600 Australian troops in Iraq. He said that if Australia was so dedicated, maybe it should raise its contribution to 20,000.
Obama not only insulted our ally, he formulated the insult in the inelegant fashion of an intellectual thug. CNN reports that Obama said if the Australian prime minister was “ginned up to fight the good fight in Iraq,” he needs to send another 20,000 Australians to the war. “Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of empty rhetoric,” Obama said. In Obama’s case, the phrase “empty rhetoric” is pure redundancy. (Thanks to reader William Katz.)
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