And true, as far as they go. Prime Minister Howard was indeed a war ally of President Bush, and he was indeed roundly defeated. And there have been other such defeats, such as Britain’s Tony Blair and Italy’s Berlusconi.
Of course, this being the MSM. it doesn’t go all that far, just far enough to produce the effect of chastising President Bush, especially in the all-important opening paragraphs of both articles. There is not enough about Australia itself, and what factors may have combined to produce this particular victory for Rudd and his Labor Party.
Both articles contain lists of other Bush-allies who were defeated, but no list of their opposite numbers. When Sarkozy was elected in France the NY Times article on the subject was headlined “Sarkozy Wins in France and Vows Break With the Past,” with no mention that that past had involved a continual thwarting of US interests, and that Sarkozy was markedly pro-American in comparison with predecessor Chirac and opponent Royal.
The Times buried that news in paragraph eleven, and even then it was careful to couch it in terms of Sarkozy’s tempering his previous pro-American sentiments during his election speech, not emphasizing them. One could read the entire piece and not really understand that a goodly part of the “change” Sarkozy promised was a change to a far more pro-US policy, and that (sacre bleu!) this happened under Bush’s watch.
To be fair to the Chicago Tribune, it headlined its Sarkozy story, “US-friendly Sarkozy Wins French Vote” (I can’t find the link, but this tells the tale). Of course, the Trib is hardly a liberal paper (it endorsed Bush in 2000 and 2004) although it seems (as best I can determine in a quick perusal; I’m not a regular reader of the paper, and I invite those who are to comment yea or nay on what I’m about to say) it’s a hybrid, somewhat more liberal in its news coverage and somewhat more conservative in its editorial policy.
At any rate, if you look at the other newspaper headlines on Sarkozy’s election, you’ll find that most of them failed to highlight one of its most salient features, Sarkozy’s desire to ally France more closely with the heretofore-hated US, meaning (at least for the next year and a half) the nefarious Bush.
The linked articles now emphasizing Rudd’s election as still another defeat for a Bush ally also ignore the defeat of former Bush-enemy Schroeder and the victory of Bush-supporter Merkel in Germany, albeit in a squeaky-close election. It doesn’t fit the meme “they hate us so much more because of Bush” quite as nicely.
But in truth, most elections in foreign countries do not rise and fall on this one issue—alliance or break with US policy and/orBush—at all. Domestic agendas, personalities, and a desire for change for change’s sake are often far more important factors.
E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post demonstrates this in his analysis of Rudd’s victory. The results appear to have been mostly about Howard’s lengthy tenancy (eleven years, far longer than any president can hold office in this country—unless you count husband/wife teams as one), personal charisma, ecology, and economic issues such as support (or lack thereof) for labor. Rudd wants to pull out of Iraq, it’s true, but this doesn’t seem to have been a major part of his campaign or his appeal, at least as described in the Dionne piece (the only one to attempt an in-depth analysis of the issues involved). And then there’s this: “Rudd is resolutely pro-American.”
My observation is that truly lengthy incumbencies can be very hard to sustain, FDR notwithstanding. Whether the party in power is liberal or conservative, each political orientation has its strengths and weaknesses. Over time, the strengths get to be taken for granted, and the weaknesses make people yearn for a change, since the state of affairs on earth dictates that societal perfection is not going to be reached, no matter what party is in power.
And change, of course, means the rejection of incumbencies and the election of opponents: fresh blood, new approach, more vigor, and sometimes greater youth. “Throw the bums out,” in a cycle that continues in all but the most entrenched dictatorships such as Saddam’s (where it took someone like Bush to throw that particular bum out), or Russia, (where it took almost a century of the Cold War to play the bums out). Out with the old bums, in with the new—although all bums are most definitely not alike.
Elections are complex, headlines are simple.