With friends like these.....

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With friends like these.....

Post by Belle » Tue Sep 18, 2018 4:37 pm

Appalling. (It raises the issue of the meaning of the word "prestigious".) This article from one of Australia's leading political commentators. I dislike the myth-fuelled rant written about our PM (a man I personally know and who was at my son's wedding 6 months ago). It's the ugly face of hatred, front and centre.

Maureen Dowd a sign of The New York Times

SEPTEMBER 19, 2018
With the prestigious New York Times now devoting more coverage to Australia and building a bigger audience in this country, Australia has been graced by the presence of its Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Maureen Dowd, variously called the sharpest and most dangerous columnist in America.

Dowd has just published pieces on the two prime ministers she interviewed, Australia’s Scott Morrison and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern — contrasting personalities who received contrasting treatment. Under the heading “Trump Finally Makes a Friend”, Morrison is cast as a cynical manipulator, out of touch with contemporary norms, indulging like Donald Trump in the politics of “dog whistles”, a religious hypocrite struggling in a secular country and so forlorn that he seeks to “play ball” with the amoral demon in the White House.

While Dowd told Australians during her visit she felt Trump had been a “reviving force” for democracy — instilling fresh energy into feminism, liberalism and journalism — she offered no redeeming hope for Australia, a country “at the very bottom of the world in the land of Mad Max”.

That’s truly bad. You remember the film Mad Max and its dystopian future of social mayhem, murder and chaos. You might think the Liberal Party crisis is a serious event in our public life, but you missed the point — for Dowd the Australia she visited suggested the tyrannical wasteland of Mad Max and the Prime Minister she interviewed “wants to play ball with the Mad King”.

Her cleverness is just beginning. Dowd loathes Trump as megalomaniacal, mendacious and a huckster. In words loaded with contempt, she nails Morrison: “In the Trump era, we can rewrite the maxim to be: If you want a friend in politics, get an Aussie.”

It doesn’t get any lower: a new Aussie leader crawling to Trump. What, pray, could be lower than this? Dowd, even cleverer, tells us: If you want a friend in politics get a dog. But Trump doesn’t like dogs — that’s OK, he has Morrison.

Dowd provides us with her context: her articles depict an Australia wrestling not just with churn of prime ministers but with racism, sexism and toxic frontier masculinity. No wonder Australian progressives love her. But Dowd strains even the loyalty of her supporters as she piles caricature upon caricature.

She says Morrison, like Trump, “expediently lurched to the Right on social issues” and, like Trump, threw “red meat to the base”. What lurch? What red meat? Does this refer to Morrison’s preaching since his election about the need for people to “come together” or to “love all Australians” or to support “a fair go for those who have a go”? Are these well-known stances of The Donald?

Dowd then plays her ace — she says both Morrison and Trump “craft their political identities with dog whistles around the issue of protecting their country from hordes of migrants”. This is a classic: if you want to fabricate then ­resort to a big fabrication. Morrison has been immigration minister. His record is known. Morrison is pro-immigration and presided over high immigration levels as minister.

Australia has faster population growth than most other advanced nations, largely due to immigration. Population growth has averaged 1.5 per cent annually with many rich nations at less than 0.5 per cent. In Australia 28 per cent of the population is foreign born compared with 11 per cent for the US. The government is under pressure to reduce the intake — Morrison has been attacked by conservatives for his reluctance to act — but any such reduction will be measured.

Dowd loathes Australia’s border protection policies where Morrison made his reputation by stopping asylum-seekers arriving by boats. Open borders are rejected in Australia on sovereign and moral grounds with border protection bipartisan and basic to a legal, non-discriminatory and high-level immigration intake and offshore refugee intake. The hostility of The New York Times to Australia’s policy is long known but Dowd’s comparison of Morrison with Trump is false and typifies progressive jaundice.

Morrison praised Trump during their interview. Dowd acknowledged but seemed reluctant to accept this was Australia’s tactical means to retain its US alliance. This approach was adopted by Malcolm Turnbull in office; it will be followed by Morrison; it will presumably be followed by Bill Shorten if Labor comes to power. It is an entirely prudent and responsible tactic by a junior ally, even if it upsets Dowd and provokes her scorn.

Our leaders, unlike Dowd, have a national interest to defend. They are fully aware, moreover, of the shambles many other US-­allied leaders have made of their dealings with a hypersensitive president. For Morrison, feeding out pro-Trump lines to an American journalist is a no-brainer.

Finally, a frustrated Dowd points to the latest Washington revelations about Trump and asks: “Does all this volatility and immorality make Morrison nervous?” His answer: “We look through the dust.”

Implicit in such exchanges is Dowd’s journalistic trauma as part of the Trump-induced American national trauma. She comes to this country and locates Australia and Morrison in the Trump-infected world. That is understandable but misleading.

Australia has no Trump; it won’t even have a poor man’s Trump. It is idle to think Trump hasn’t had an impact on our politics — of course he has, notably on the conservative side — but our leaders are not channelling Trump. Morrison isn’t duplicating Trump. Our political cultures are too different and Australia doesn’t have most of the problems that drove the Trumpian eruption.

Judging foreign leaders according to a simple approval/disapproval attitude towards Trump is infantile. Australian journalists know how challenging is the task of visiting other countries and trying to understand their dynamics. But if you come with a closed mind and an unremitting progressive lens you only have your prejudices affirmed, you see only what you want to see and you miss what is different, distinctive and doesn’t slot into your preconceptions.

When you read Dowd’s piece on the New Zealand leader, headed “Lady of the Rings: Jacinda Rules”, you understand the problem Morrison faced. He was the wrong party, wrong gender and didn’t have a baby.

This time Dowd left her reputation at the door. She invokes the “Jacindamania” that swept the globe with Ardern “part of a club of young progressive leaders, along with Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, trying to counter President Trump’s ugly impulses against the environment and multilateralism”.

“She was going to be able to run a country and nurse a baby at the same time,” Dowd said. “Without a nanny or a wedding ring.”

As for her partner, Clarke Gayford, he is “boyish and charming” and a stay-at-home dad who “would show the way for modern man”.

Dowd then explains — it wasn’t really that easy. The trolls had come after brave Jacinda who had been forced to fly to the Pacific Islands Forum on a separate plane from her Foreign Minister at a cost of $US50,000 ($70,000) so she could breastfeed her baby. She was determined, Dowd reports, not to miss an important meeting, with her extra task being pursuing Australia “to rescue refugees from the hideous holding ­facilities in Nauru, the shame of Australia”.

Dowd met Ardern, who was wearing jeans with holes in the knees and sat barefoot on the living room floor. Because Ardern is “careful about excess” she bought her maternity clothes at Kmart and frequents second-hand stores.

Dowd ventures that Ardern is “so committed to moral leadership” and wonders whether she would do “something to evoke Trump’s wrath”. She says Ardern prides herself on being a “pointy head” and “girlie swot” — but Dowd fails to mention a single policy initiative.

Clearly, that wasn’t the point — the point being that Ardern, a female celebrity leader with a baby, is the perfect fit for Dowd’s progressive prejudices and is given a full exemption by the so-called most dangerous columnist in America. Her article is a parody of a progressive love-in. If you want a study into the sheer depth of the ideological prejudices and unreliability of The New York Times, look no further than Dowd’s fantasy reports.

Paul Kelly is Editor-at-Large on The Australian. He was previously Editor-in-Chief of the paper and he writes on Australian politics, public policy and international affairs.

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