Scott Morrison picked a terrific week for his American holiday, with his mates Donald Trump and Boris Johnson getting extra attention in New York — both in spectacular trouble.
Lee Duffield comments on a wild week in the USA.
THE AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER got to address a de facto Republican Party rally put on by President Donald Trump and a second billionaire political meddler, the Australian box-maker Anthony Pratt. The occasion was the opening of Pratt’s new recycled packaging plant in Ohio, a prime political target zone for next year’s Presidential elections.
Morrison ostentatiously dodged or squibbed the world climate change summit at the United Nations in New York, where heads of government of the stature of Jacinda Ardern were mixing with their intellectual equals.
AUSTRALIA MUTE IN WORLD CLIMATE TALKS
Even Boris Johnson exercised his tenuous hold on the British Prime Ministership by going to the summit, and even Trump briefly appeared — though not getting the attention he would like. He was off the speakers list for withdrawing the United States from the climate change process and was fiercely glared at by the key speaker – Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.
Then he saw on television that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, was starting an inquiry aimed at impeaching him. “No one is above the law”, she said. The national Chief Executive is to be held formally to account by the other branch of government, the legislature, over a phone call to the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky.
CHARGE AGAINST TRUMP
The story goes that he asked this man for help with his own coming political campaign, by getting some “dirt” on his leading rival from the Democratic Party, Joe Biden. Biden’s son had been a board member of a company in Ukraine that was put under investigation for corrupt practices. Asking for the “dirt” would be a political transgression that dredged up memories of the Russian “dirty tricks” campaign in America to get Trump elected in 2016.
There is greater danger in an add-on to the story; that he threatened to withhold major scheduled military assistance from Ukraine if he did not get the information on Biden. If true, it may be an actual major crime. A whistleblower in the intelligence community told about the recorded phone conversation and the Trump Administration has come under pressure to deliver a full transcript of it.
The issue could become a bleeding ulcer right up to the November 2020 election, Trump coming up already with his first response: the whole thing is ‘garbage’ and ‘presidential harassment’.
Most observers thought that would not be enough to deal with it, as with this comment from the Politico news service:
‘Trump has survived an explosive “Access Hollywood” tape, the Charlottesville uproar, Stormy Daniels, the Mueller report and dozens of other threats to his presidency, but this latest problem could be more challenging, writes Nancy Cook.’
VERDICT AGAINST JOHNSON
Meantime Johnson was heading back to London where Britain’s highest court had ruled that his closing down of Parliament on 10 September was illegal.
Said Politico in its Playbook page:
‘Playbook wonders, has a British PM ever achieved so spectacularly much in such a short time? Since Boris Johnson took office on 24 July, he has managed to lose his predecessor’s tight majority, expel Winston Churchill’s grandson from the Tory party, be “humiliated” (according to the British press) both by tiny Luxembourg and his little brother Jo and give “unlawful” advice to the Queen.’
A curious feature of this “Boris affair” has been a consensual exoneration – by news media and everybody else – of the Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II, from any blame. He must have “misled” her, they all say — she should be so stupid. This Queen has a track record in such matters and whatever hand she had in overturning Parliament needs proper study.
As in America, it was another case of a rogue – or roguish – leader, a 21st Century “Duce”, attempting one-man executive government and getting into conflict with the legislature.
Upstaged Scott Morrison, sojourning on-and-on in the United States, declared to the world, from Chicago of all places, the rules of the World Trade Organisation should be altered to cut China down to size (though admitting it would be a very long road). He also had a homily on children worried about climate change: they should not have their lives spoilt by these fears — we’ll deal with it and everything will be alright. He is very lucky he did not man up to the summit and try that on feisty Ms Thunberg.
A point has been made in these columns that all three members of the “conservative leaders club” – Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison and Donald Trump – exist on very slim parliamentary margins (or minority government, in Johnson’s case), so they put on a life of constant campaigning. How else can we explain all the theatre, empty rhetoric and clowning around?
Media editor Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.
Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.