- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Bush-Howard connection has been replaced by the Obama-Rudd relationship.

President Obama declared that his meeting Tuesday in the Oval Office with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was “a great meeting of the minds,” while Mr. Rudd thanked his counterpart for restoring U.S. economic leadership to the world.

U.S.-Australian relations were strained for the year that Mr. Rudd held office while President Bush was still at the helm in the U.S. The two men struggled to build a rapport in part because Mr. Rudd, leader of the liberal Australian Labor Party, replaced Mr. Bush’s longtime ally and friend, conservative John Howard, as prime minister.

Matters were not helped someone in Mr. Rudd’s government leaked to the press last year that Mr. Bush had asked the Australian leader, during a private phone conversation, what the “G-20” was, revealing ignorance of the Group of 20, the world’s largest economies.

At last fall’s G-20 global economic summit in Washington, Mr. Bush, 62, was noticeably cold toward Mr. Rudd, 51.



But now all is love and happiness again between the land Down Under and the United States.

“This alliance of ours,” Mr. Rudd said, “it’s a first-class alliance.”

Mr. Rudd, sitting to Mr. Obama’s right in the Oval Office Tuesday, thanked the 47-year old president for his support of efforts to fight climate change, which Mr. Bush was slow to acknowledge as an issue.

“It’s great to have America on board on this one,” Mr. Rudd said.

He also slipped in a knock on Mr. Bush free-market philosophy, heralding the “return of U.S. economic leadership” under Mr. Obama.

And Mr. Rudd also praised the Obama administration’s plan announced Monday for a public-private partnership between the government and financial institutions to try and remove bad assets from the books of banks, investment firms and insurers, calling it decisive action.

“This is really important stuff. It’s really fundamental stuff,” said the bespectacled, blond-haired Mr. Rudd.

Mr. Obama indicated that he has no problem talking to Mr. Rudd on the phone, and has done so many times.

“He has been one of the people who I’ve called on various occasions, right after the election and repeatedly over the last several months,” Mr. Obama said, indicating that Mr. Rudd has already become something of a confidant.

As he walked Mr. Rudd out of the Oval Office to the prime minister’s limousine on the White House South Lawn, Mr. Obama gestured toward the new swing set installed for his daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.

An Australian reporter asked if Mr. Obama planned to visit any time Australia soon.

“Of course, I have been to Australia quite a bit. I love the Australian people,” Mr. Obama said.

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