- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2012

F-BOMB THROWER

Australia’s foreign minister arrives in Washington this week dogged by an Internet video that shows him cursing and pounding his desk in a rant that is fueling a political showdown with the prime minister.

In a YouTube video, Kevin Rudd throws the “f-bomb” along with other choice vulgarities, as he expresses his frustration over preparing to film a speech in Chinese.

He complains that the “[expletive] language” is too complicated. He is annoyed with the “[idiots] at the embassy” who fail to write in simple sentences for him. He also is irritated with a “bloody interpreter,” who is not identified.

The rant was filmed at some point when Mr. Rudd was prime minister, a position he held from 2007 to 2010. He told reporters last week that the embarrassing moments were supposed to have been outtakes but somehow ended up posted on the popular website just before he left on a trip to Mexico for the G-20 summit over the weekend.

“When things go wrong, you get frustrated,” Mr. Rudd told Sky News in Australia last week.

He added that he “assumed” the outtakes were “destroyed at the time” and added that he had no idea who released them. Presumably, all video of him as prime minister were stored in a government office somewhere, he added.

The contretemps immediately sparked political charges in Australia, where Mr. Rudd is expected to challenge Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a leadership contest in the Labor Party in hopes of regaining the premiership he lost to her two years ago.

Miss Gillard has denied releasing the video.

“My office did not have access to the material people have seen on YouTube,” she said.

Some of her supporters are urging her to fire Mr. Rudd and head off any leadership challenge.

“It can’t keep going on like this,” one senior Labor Party source told the Herald Sun newspaper. “Sacking him can strengthen her if she handles it properly.”

Miss Gillard is vulnerable because she has lost popularity since ousting Mr. Rudd, who, himself, lost party support after two years as prime minister.

AMBASSADOR SHRUGS

At least 16 Americans are facing criminal charges for promoting democracy in Egypt, but the Egyptian ambassador in Washington is not worried about the fallout.

“Egypt-U.S. relations have seen more serious challenges than the current problem,” Ambassador Sameh Shukri told the Ahram Online news service.

Mr. Shukri expressed confidence that both sides will work out their differences and Egypt will continue to receive $1.5 billion in U.S. aid.

President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, among other top U.S. officials, have urged Egypt to drop the charges.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, plans to lead a congressional delegation to Cairo this week to press the issue.

Egypt on Sunday set Feb. 26 as the date to begin a trial of the Americans and 27 other pro-democracy advocates accused of illegally operating in Egypt.

The Americans include the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. They worked with the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House to promote fair elections in Egypt.

DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

• Tarja Cronberg, a Finnish member of the European Parliament from the Green Party. As chairwoman of the parliament’s Iran delegation, she will meet with Senate staffers and public policy experts to discuss strategies for dealing with Iran.

Wednesday

• Michel Barnier, the European Union commissioner for internal market and services. His meetings include talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Christine Lagarde, head the International Monetary Fund. On Thursday, he addresses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

• Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, who addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

• Carolina Trivelli, Peru’s minister for social development and inclusion. She addresses the Inter-American Dialogue.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.