As I heard the news of the demise of the Right-wing Coalition in the Polish Elections and its’ replacement by a new regime committed to withdrawal from Iraq, I wondered if the fall of yet another of Bush’s allies was a bad omen for John Howard, whose Australian coalition faces the voters on November 24.
In recent days a spate of catastrophic polls all showing Howard and his conservative allies far behind the resurgent Labor Party, all raise the question: is there a malevolent spirit–one of the ancient Furies perhaps–pursuing all those politician who were foolish enough, or dishonest enough, to follow Bush into Iraq, and is Howard to be the next victim ?
Consider the list: Aznar in Spain; Berlusconi in Italy; and of course, the invincible Tony Blair. All gone. All swept away in each case by a massive loss of popularity. Now the Furies have swept away the odious right-wingers in Poland, who had become so despised by Poles across Europe that their doom was sealed by an army of absentee Polish voters in places as far away as Dublin.
This leaves John Howard as just about the last man standing from that band of warriors who stood with Bush on the eve of Shock and Awe.
Actually most of them have been shocked and awed by their own demise in the days that have followed, as undoubtedly now is John Howard as he faces the polls, a day of judgment that he delayed for as long as possible!
A passionate admirer of Bush from their first meeting, Howard has been engulfed by a perfect firestorm of problems. A disastrous nationwide drought has sent food prices soaring, and put global warming on the electoral agenda. Howard, an old fashioned climate change sceptic, has coped badly with the debate, not helped by the huge crowds who flocked to see the Al Gore film–or Gore himself, who was mobbed by huge crowds on his several visits to Australia. Howard , typically, snubbed Gore and refused to see the film: "An Inconvenient Truth."
Public opinion in Australia was always against the war in Iraq. Now Howard is talking of withdrawing the Australian troops there to a "safe" place, there to be engaged with "training Iraqi forces", apparently a safe activity!
In recent days as the debate has turned to the possibility of an attack by Bush/Cheney gang on Iran, Howard has said Australia will have no part in any strike on Iran– a far cry from his once enthusiastic support of the doctrine of pre-emptive strikes against all and sundry, which earned him the derisory nickname of Bush’s "Deputy Sheriff" in the Asian-Pacific region.
Now as the polls approach, Howard is caught in the unpopular position of overseeing a rise in housing interest rates, which conflicts with his stance as one who could protect the voters from such measures. The latest polls put him 16% behind Labor and few believe he can recover.
The politician Bush once dubbed "The Man of Steel" now looks more like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz!
So do the Furies claim Bush’s "little Ozzie Mate", the next victim of "The Curse of the House of Bush."
BRIAN McKINLAY is a former Teacher and a Historian of the Australian Labor Movement, and has written a number of books on Australian History and Politics.