November 27th, 2007

Framing the Rudd election

The headlines blared the recent Australian election news: “Bush Loses Another War Ally” (Chicago Tribune) and “Ally of Bush is Defeated in Australia” (NY Times) were typical.

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.

19 Responses to “Framing the Rudd election”

  1. expat Says:

    For an update on Merkel’s situation, see John Vinocur’s Politicus column on the Europe page of today’s International Herald Tribune. Schroeder and Foreign Minister Steinmeier are trying to set up another “He kept us out of war” campaign and will use the Russian bear and Iran to do it. You might also want to check out Vinocur’s archived articles.

  2. Karen Says:

    I have hope the tide is turning. Besides Merkel and Sarkozy, there is Gordon Browne who is not as supportive as Blair but continues to profess friendship with America and it’s importance to Great Britain, and also now there is the new leader in Belgium. Every election victory helps.

  3. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I believe the Danes went Right recently.
    Putting a couple of their navy ships in anti-piracy work. This relieves the US in the Horn and Gulf areas of a bit of concern, leaving that much more to pay attention to other bad guys.
    Also fighting with us.

  4. camojack Says:

    “Elections are complex, headlines are simple.”

    …and reporters are simpletons.

  5. strcpy Says:

    Nah, it couldn’t be that – it is obviously Australia voting by proxy in the US elections. We are simply grasping at straws when it is obvious Iraq is in shambles, the economy is in the toilet, and the reign of the neo-con is over ushering in the age of peace, love, and harmony that was promised in the 60′s (just apparently not while the moon is in the seventh house and Venus and Mercury are aligned it seems).

    All republicans should read this and DESPAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIR!

    Err, or something like that.

  6. bunkerbuster Says:

    “…and reporters are simpletons.”

    What does that make the people who read newspapers and watch TV news?

  7. jimmy Says:

    Be that as it may (and I cannot fathom your endless tirade against the New York Times), I find it ironic that Bush will be credited for being the French over to the American side and highly doubtful that we’re about to see French troops in Baghdad.

  8. jimmy Says:

    “bringing,” that is….

  9. Trimegistus Says:


    “What does that make the people who read newspapers and watch TV news?”

    Sad and angry, I suspect. People who read newspapers and watch TV news are, generally, disgusted by the ignorance and illogic displayed by the reporters.

  10. Sally Says:

    What does that make the people who read newspapers and watch TV news?

    Trim says sad and angry. I just say skeptical. But that only applies to those who do understand that headlines are simple, and that (many) reporters are simpletons or biased, or both.

  11. Promethea Says:

    Regarding the Chicago Tribune, it can’t really be called conservative or liberal. It’s all over the map, mainly the map of ignorance, and it has many clueless columnists who write a lot of pap. Its reporting on the Middle East is just pathetic. Once in a while it has a decent column from Victor Davis Hanson or Charles Krauthammer.

  12. johnr Says:

    Sorry, what was the electoral defeat of Tony Blair that you referred to ? Last time I looked he won the last election he fought in the UK and retired undefeated handing over the role of prime minister by agreement to a chosen successor. Who has continued to keep British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the US.

  13. Xanthippas Says:

    Last time I looked he won the last election he fought in the UK and retired undefeated handing over the role of prime minister by agreement to a chosen successor. Who has continued to keep British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of the US.

    Boy, that’s a spin job if I’ve ever read one. Blair handed his job over to a successor because nobody wanted him in power any longer. And you are clever to state that British troops are remaining in Iraq, when in fact all that will be left will be a residual force as most of the British troops go home.

  14. Xanthippas Says:

    What does that make the people who read newspapers and watch TV news?

    Well, if we’re talking about Fox viewers, the answer is “content.”

  15. jimmy Says:

    Blair’s time was up, Iraq or no Iraq, though everyone knows that favor for him had dissipated due to the Iraq war. And now the Australians are gone. Whose left? There’s that little country in Eastern Europe called…. Bulgaria? Quite a coalition of the willing, huh?

    And please, can we stop trashing the press just because it doesn’t usually agree with the Neocon line? Where is the press that’s bringing good news about this war? Are they all delusional? I’m willing to listen. Can they all be liberal scallywags?

  16. neo-neocon Says:

    jimmy: I wonder why it is that you confuse my criticism of the MSM for omitting relevant facts that disagree with the line the MSM wishes to present with “trashing” the press for disagreeing with the “Neocon line.”

    Anyone who reads me should perceive that I have an interest in looking at issues in depth, rather than following any “line,” neocon or other. You may not agree with my conclusions or my point of view, but please don’t insult me by accusing me of following in lockstep with a party line of some sort.

  17. Ymarsakar Says:

    Let us not forget, Neo, that the Brits also kicked Churchill’s party out after the war was over. People are just so ungrateful.

  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    Btw, Merkel has her own problems given that she had to jon in a Grand Coalition with SDP to acquire the majority of votes needed for her party to gain the Prime Ministership.

    That means that SDP is going to be able to campaign while having access to all kinds of government powers and funds. You know what they will do then.

  19. Vote for Ron Paul Says:

    Yes Rudd got in and I think it was only because, as you said, the Howard government hads been in a long time. In my opinion it won’t take too long for them to stuff up though. The Labour party traditionally has no business people as elected members, and a government is big business.

    What have we elected? A hodge podge group of teachers and unionists with a few run-down rejects from the media thrown in for good measure.

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