||Issue No. 226||25 June 2004|
Interview: The New Democrat
Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
Industrial: National Focus
History: A Class Act
International: Across the Ditch
Economics: Home Truths
Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
Poetry: Silent Note
The Locker Room
The first is that in questioning the excesses of the Bush Administration - in the face of overwhelming evidence that its foreign policy responses since September 11 have been an unmitigated disaster - is somehow un-American.
In attacking the short-sightedness and self-serving nature of the Bush adventure in Iraq, Latham is lining up alongside many Americans, from politics, popular culture and large sections of the general public, who appear increasingly likely to turf George W out come November.
When you hear the howls of protest against Latham's so-called anti-Americanism, you can't help being reminded of the 'outrage' that greeted Michael Moore's Oscar appearance or the Dixie Chick's on-stage criticism of their commander in chief.
In each case, while the media elites castigated them and called for consumer boycotts, the American public lapped up their hereticism, increasing their sales and fuelling a new phenomenon in patriot publishing - which will only grow if Moore's new film ever gets released.
Now it is true that Latham is a politician not an entertainer, but the point I make is the white heat that those who attack Bush are supposed to feel does not always burn.
The second premise behind Latham's so-called fall from grace over his American policy is that there is something un-patriotic in questioning the current Bush Administration.
This bizarre logic - that to question a foreign power's control over your nation is a betrayal of your own people - has been the subtext of a lot of claptrap emerging from the Australia-US Leadership Dialogue - a private soiree of media, political and business elites, held recently in Washington.
It was sickening to read some of the bile coming out of this exchange and the conga-line of Bush apologists lining up to 'warn' us of the dangers of an independent foreign policy.
Perhaps the weirdest part of this whole production is that even Mark Latham's biggest supporters would never accuse him of being anti-American.
Latham's economic and social thinking - as laid out in a series of books and newspaper articles - is really more in line with New Democrat than traditional Labor doctrine.
He is no plagiarist (another Howard accusation) but he is very much in the tradition of the politics of Clinton as shaped by strategist Dick Morris - basically to create a values set that innoculates a social democrat party from the wedge politics that the Right mastered through the eighties and nineties.
But in terms of Labor politics, Latham is not from some anti-US cell group, he is very much in the mainstream that sees the US a source of inspiration and intellectual leadership.
And finally there is free trade, and the mad frenzy to bully Labor into approving a deal that will force us to bare our buttocks to accept the American economy in all its glory.
In the absence of evidence that this will provide a net benefit to Australia, and with evidence showing the costs in cashing in our economic sovereignty will be felt for generations to come, the idea that the patriotic thing to do is sign on the bottom line is a little hard to sustain.
Of course, the only logic in these attacks is politics and the one straw the Howard Government is holding to is the idea that while people like Latham they don't think he is yet ready to lead.
And so they attempt to portray him as the political equivalent to a dope-smokin' flag-burning uni student on a protest march about issues that he really doesn't understand.
It's patronising, transparent and just a little too desperate.. As they say at 2GB: the message to Latham is to stay brave and true.
There are many on the Labor side of politics who hope Latham sticks to his guns against the unilateralism and sychophancy that masquerades as national policy under the Howard regime.
And methinks there are many more in the swinging heartlands of this great land who will reward him for sticking to his guns.
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