Can an opposition leader ever get diplomacy “right”?
It’s always entertaining when a political figure with no real responsibilities other than winning votes makes a high-profile foray into the delicate world of foreign affairs.
Unshackled by anything resembling real authority over such things as military or security policy, opposition politicians are free to blunder in to say, Chinese-American geo-political sensitivities, without concerns they might accidentally spark an explosion in the Taiwan Strait.
You only have to look at how quickly Bob Carr hit the “delete post” button on his Thoughtlines blog when he went from interested private citizen to Foreign Minister in the blink of a cursor.
US commentators are currently caught up in a national cringe over Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s journey out of the 50 states.
Romney committed the cardinal sin of publicly questioning London’s readiness to host the Olympic Games, causing London Mayor Boris Johnson to pop his bicycle clips in outrage.
Maureen Dowd called Romney’s assessment, which was pretty much the assessment of every observer in the lead-up to the Opening Ceremony, “shockingly ill-considered, if undeniably true.”
According to Dowd, a Fox contributor described it as: “Beyond human understanding, it’s incomprehensible.” That’s a pretty low bar for beyond human understanding he’s set there.
Tony Abbott could have had a word to Romney before he set off for Blighty.
Last week he became the mocking target over his speech in Beijing lecturing the Chinese about democracy and warning about Chinese state-owned interests buying up Australian assets.
Bob Carr called it “dangerously dumb” and headline writers everywhere dusted off the “bull in a china shop” chestnut.
But these trips are never about real diplomacy and always about how it reads back home.
If Abbott had gone off to China and minded his p’s and q’s no one here at home would have noticed.
And while Romney was ticking off Boris in London, he also hosted a fundraising dinner that raked in $2 million.
You either sneak in and get no traction, or make a fuss and cop the mocking.
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