As excuses go, “I’m sorry I’m undertaking one of the biggest policy reforms in American history” is a pretty good one. In contrast to “I’m washing my hair” or “I’ve got a bit of a headache” it has the added benefit of being checkable.

Stuck at work. Pic: AP

Look at any US news website or TV station and there’s our date for next Friday in the fight of his life. It’s OK, Barack. We can reschedule. Meet you at the same place, next to New Zealand. Hey, maybe now we get to spend more than 24 hours together.

Australian politicians can stop worrying about what they were going to wear and rehearsing what they were going to say to make a good first impression. And now that it’s likely the US President will visit in June instead, he might be able to bring the family. His daughters Malia and Sasha will be on school holidays.

It was always going to be touch-and-go. The bitter and messy debate over Obama’s proposed healthcare reforms in the US has reached a crescendo. Momentum is building behind the White House’s proposals ahead of a likely vote and the optics of Obama nipping off to swan around Indonesia and Australia at this critical time could have derailed the process.

“It is clear that a final vote on health insurance reform cannot take place before Sunday afternoon,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. “As a result, the president telephoned the leader of Indonesia and will call the leader of Australia later this afternoon and told him he must postpone his planned visits for a later date so he can remain in Washington for this critical vote. The president now expects to visit Indonesia in June.

“The president greatly regrets the delay. Our international alliances are critical to America’s security and economic progress, but passage of health insurance reform is of paramount importance and the president is determined to see this battle through.”

Maybe it’s best - like I said, perhaps it can now be a longer visit and the family can come - but also the politics of health reform will be white hot here next week as Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd are due to debate the issue on Tuesday. When you’re hanging out with the leader of the free world, you want the focus to be a productive discussion of relations between Australia and the US, and not be sidetracked on the comparative domestic challenges involved in health reform in various polities, exciting though that may be.

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    • Eric says:

      07:22am | 19/03/10

      If Obama manages to ram his “health care” abomination through, he may well make a permanent visit to Australia - to avoid the outrage of Americans.

    • Me says:

      07:46am | 19/03/10

      Only in America could you successfully stir up majority opposition to reforms from people that will actually benefit from them. Half the country are wetting themselves because of some scary thing called socialism being broadcast across the airwaves, they don’t really know what it means, but they get the impression that it’s bad.

      And that’s with a bill that actually isn’t a government take over, there isn’t a public option in sight!

      In contrast you have about 80% of the populace in Australia saying that they actually do want a complete federal takeover of health. Political partisans here are no doubt looking to the US for ways to stir up opposition about it however.

    • Eric says:

      07:48am | 19/03/10

      The majority in the US is in favour of health care reform.

      However, they don’t favour this particular bill, which is a corrupt payout to Democratic Party interests and will contribute to bankrupting an already shaky economy.

      You would know this if you actually bothered to look at the issues, instead of making assumptions.

    • Me says:

      08:13am | 19/03/10

      I have looked at the issues Eric and the Obama reforms are very reasonable, all the reasons I see argued against it are things such as you have out here, that it is a “a corrupt payout to Democratic Party interests and will contribute to bankrupting an already shaky economy.”

      But that is just baseless rhetoric and doesn’t actually mean anything, especially when the bills own costing and independent analysts forecast that it will actually cut health costs and thus the deficit over the long term.

      It is interesting that when asked if they support or oppose the health reforms, a majority will say that they oppose, but when asked about all the individual provisions in the bill, a majority support almost all of them. They support pretty much everything that is in it, but don’t support the bill! Why? I have no idea, possibly because a significant number of people are just caught up in the narrative and have the impression that is bad, rather than because of anything that is actually in it. Opposition to the bill is almost self propagating, because of mindless and often false rhetoric such as “a corrupt payout to Democratic Party interests and will contribute to bankrupting an already shaky economy.” nothing that is actually in the reforms is being discussed.

      Lie after lie after lie has been told about this bill and nobody seems willing to pull those doing it up about it. From the Death Panels lie to the lie that it will increase premiums, when half its aim is to reduce them, to the lie that it will increase the deficit, it goes on and on. With so many outright lies being propagated about it, it’s no wonder a majority oppose it.

    • Kate says:

      08:25am | 19/03/10

      So the insurance companies are corrupt parts of the Democratic Party?

      Come on - All that lobbying money is not going to Democrats.

    • Me says:

      08:39am | 19/03/10

      And here is Michael Steele, chairman of the RNC, claiming that the independent costing just completed by the CBO is a “lie”

      “sked to responded to calculations that the bill would save $1.2 trillion in the out-years following the first decade after implementation, Steele replied told CNN’s Rick Sanchez: “I got two words for you—or three words. Three words… That’s a lie.”

      It’s not, of course. It is an estimate based on a formula and data. And while it surely won’t be dead-on-accurate, it’s a well-respected basis for considering legislation. Steele, at the very least, should know this. Back when he was delivering a tour-de-force takedown of the health care bill in late July, the RNC chair cited CBO data eight times in an effort to claim it was a deficit killer.”

      The dishonesty is staggering.

    • Eric says:

      08:41am | 19/03/10

      The proposed healthcare bill will harm insurance companies and doctors. However, it will benefit drug companies and lawyers. That is one reason for the split in support and donations.

      Another reason is that it will create a deficit estimated at around $200 billion a year, which will have to be paid for by more borrowing and more taxes. This is on top of the Obama administration’s already record-breaking trillion dollar deficits. At some point, the camel’s back will break, and Americans know this.

      Despite all the lies told by the Obamites, most Americans can see the basic flaws of the legislation, which is why they oppose it.

    • Me says:

      09:11am | 19/03/10

      The claim that it will add $200 billion a year to the deficit is either pure ignorance or a bald faced lie, especially now with what the CBO is saying.

      The Reforms will not increase the deficit because the costs are offset with increases to taxes in certain areas, none of which effect 99% of the population, and reallocation of funding from sections of medicare and other already established health initiatives which will be reworked into the new structure.

    • Politically incorrect Formersnag. says:

      09:32am | 19/03/10

      @ Eric, did you notice the latest “green shoot” in their economy? About the mortgage foreclosures being only 6% more for the same month last year. Which means that, the rate of increase in economic bad news is slowing. Or the angle of the dip, in the graph as they slide into recession, is not quite so steep.

      China’s leader was also talking about a slow down as well, for both America & China. The last thing the Americans need now is more debt.

      i have met a number of “American tourists” out here, to look around. Wonder how long it will be, before some of them start arriving on boats or jumping the immigration queue.

    • Nicky R. says:

      10:25am | 19/03/10

      I guess you think Medicare here is just beyond the pale too Eric, and I’m sure your don’t avail yourself of it, do you?

    • Eric says:

      10:28am | 19/03/10

      Nicky R,. you guess wrong.

      It’s better to think than to guess.

    • Fr John Fleming says:

      01:33pm | 19/03/10

      Paul is right.  There is very strong support for the health reform.  But one of the sticking points is abortion.  There are those who do not want the state to pay for abortions.  In the US the abortion issue is more ‘out there’ than in Australia.  The Catholic Bishops, for example, favour the Bill but not with the abortion provision, while the President wants no changes to his reform.  It will probably go down to the wire.  A pity really.  Compromise by Obama on abortion would see the long overdue reform go though.

    • Kevin 07 says:

      07:33am | 19/03/10

      But Barrack, ... you told me you loved me ...

    • Brian says:

      09:29am | 19/03/10

      awwwww poor kev, you won’t have you little playmate obama playing with you, thats ok, you just go outside and play with tony abbott lol, good post kevin07

    • CO2 lover says:

      10:07pm | 19/03/10

      What a pity I was hoping Kevin 07 The Ealking eagle would goback to the USA with Obama’s 747 sooner rather than latter!!

    • Politically incorrect Formersnag. says:

      07:34am | 19/03/10

      Hopefully both our health care systems can be repaired effectively & efficiently. But with the way, the “major mistakes” on both sides of the Pacific have been going for decades now, i can’t see, many “green shoots” or hope.

    • iansand says:

      08:13am | 19/03/10

      Will he still love us in the morning?

    • Brian says:

      09:35am | 19/03/10

      if he doesn’t you could always cuddle up to kevin lol

    • SLF says:

      08:28am | 19/03/10

      How dare he stand up Australia?

      Doesn’t he know that there are 22 million of us over here desperately trying to be America’s 51st state? Come on Barak, we hang on you every word, we think you are great, you have done so much, such as winning that well deserved Nobel Peace Prize. You are Australia’s hero and we love you.

      Come and see us soon.

    • the apologist says:

      08:35am | 19/03/10

      It’s consistently annoying that Australia’s national attitude towards the US seems to be one resembling snivelling idolisation when it’s pretty clear that to the US (as a nation), the world is the US and no one outside really matters all that much.
      Fair point made in the article on a good excuse for the President of the US postponing, but our media/politicians/nation in general is that hyped about the whole thing it’s embarrassing.

    • Chris says:

      08:55am | 19/03/10

      I hope he doesn’t do the ‘Have the Obama’s over for afternoon tea and the kids can play with the dog in the yard’.

      He seems to think that this washes with the australian public - but can someone ask him to act like a PM. Put them on a boat cruise around Sydney harbour and show them the lights of 100,000 cars stuck in traffic due to the security arrangements. Have pictures of the children visiting Taronga Zoo and patting Koalas - goes down well in the US.

    • acker says:

      09:15am | 19/03/10

      @Chris…Melbourne might get the visit now, Barack and Eddie Maguire chugging on a few Crownies at the AFL on a Friday night. Michelle and the girls doing a shop to you drop with Jennifer Hawkins at Myers wink

    • Kate says:

      03:08pm | 19/03/10

      And hopefully Chas Licciardello and The Chaser team breaching the security arrangements.

    • Eric says:

      09:20am | 19/03/10

      It’s interesting to imagine how little kevin responded to this snub:

      “As a result, the President telephoned the leader of Indonesia and will call the leader of Australia later this afternoon, and told them that he must postpone his planned visits for a later date so that he can remain in Washington for this critical vote.”

      The President of Indonesia gets a phone call in advance, but little kevin finds out through the media. How that must irk him!

    • Peter says:

      09:56am | 19/03/10

      Comparative levels of interest and importance, methinks.

      Could you imagine Bush doing that to Howard?  No, because Obama sees Krudd as the cyncial, “look-at-me” wannabe UN big-wig that he actually is!

    • Rover says:

      12:05pm | 19/03/10

      More likely because when this announcement was made, it was already after 1am here but still only 9pm in Jakarta.

    • Eric says:

      12:23pm | 19/03/10

      Good point, Rover.

      But still the Obama Administration could have sent a message of some kind. I’m pretty sure Canberra has an around-the-clock communication presence.

    • Poseidon says:

      09:36am | 19/03/10

      Who needs him? We have world leaders here all the time. Lets face it Australia is becoming a bit of a tart in the way we flirt with other foreign heads eg. addresses to joint parliamentary sittings with the Chinese and Indonesians. Its a great honour - that we share around. As America declines we are less and less faithful. Yes as a suitor Yank has his / her rugged military potency going for it but its not that financial anymore, his health is crap and he doesnt seem able to get his shit together on much.

    • Bruce says:

      10:16am | 19/03/10

      I just worked out why Obama is not coming…...The Democratic Party and Obama are a bunch of Liberals !  Its True !

    • Glenn T says:

      10:16am | 19/03/10

      It would have been better if he postponed his Australia leg altogether. On the bright side however, in Sydney we won’t have to endure a total “lock-down” (as the media is fond of saying) of the city for the duration. Skippies Goons will of course be disappointed they miss out on some head-cracking practice (remember APEC?), but hey, wer’e saving millions!

    • Squire says:

      10:24am | 19/03/10

      By any source of polister dtat other than the Democratic Party Itself, the majority of Americans do NOT want the proposed healthcare plan by a healthy margin.

    • Andrew Goff says:

      04:57pm | 21/03/10

      “Citation needed”.

    • neil says:

      10:29am | 19/03/10

      Obama shunned Rudd at Copenhagen, then Clinton stood him up and now Obama again.

      The Whitehouse spokesman made it quite clear the purpose of the visit is Indonesia and he will drop in to Australia on the way back.

      It appears this US administration does not think much of Rudd, neither did the last one.

    • Tom says:

      01:16pm | 19/03/10

      It should be obvious. Rudd snubbed our Kristina “I’m nobody’s gal” Kenneally and O obviously has the hots for her.

    • Louis McLennan says:

      10:49am | 19/03/10

      Quite happy to see him not come here. He is a disgrace just like Rudd. The big O and the Duddster can go on a play-date on their own dime thanks. I’m sure the USA was looking forward to having him away for a few days because the less things he has time to do the better off the country will be.

      I’m sure those here who are members of the BHO fan club(membership is only a lifetime of added debt) are very sad.

      Just out of interest how can people not detect what Rudd and Obama were going to do? Obama promised failure and comes from a long line of failures(republican and democrat) so one would assume he’d be pretty good at failing. Rudd also comes from a long line of failures so geared with a bit of modern history anyone should have seen these failures coming.

      Things just need to get that much worse before they get better. On the topic of the USA(or CSA heh)... they should have freed the slaves then fought the war.

      Soon Dudd and Failbama will be part of an exclusive club called “one term, that is all”.

    • Julie Milson says:

      11:30am | 19/03/10

      I think its nice hes coming here and I hope he can bring his family. It will be a change from all the nasty rubbish that spits out of The Liberals mouths.

    • Aitch B says:

      12:07pm | 19/03/10


      Heard Julia Gillard in Question Time lately?

      Thought not….....

    • Louie says:

      01:17pm | 19/03/10

      Aitch B, obviously while listening to Julia Gillard, you have conveniently tuned out Tony Abbott. He has a line of invective second only to Paul Keating in Aus. political history

    • stephen says:

      12:00pm | 19/03/10

      America still believes in Walt Whitman.
      If only we were so lucky.

    • Ryan says:

      12:38pm | 19/03/10

      Who would want to meet with Rudd, considering what he did to Bush, there is no way you could speak to him about any confidential matters.

    • Tom says:

      01:28pm | 19/03/10

      Think you just aced it, Ryan. Americans aren’t ever happy about lack of respect for their highest office even if it is their opponents in power at the time. Rudd was a bit too cute at the time and will pay a price.

    • BMJ says:

      12:53pm | 19/03/10

      The world doesn’t revolve around Australia. Obama is the middle of the biggest fight of his first term. He has to be there if the bill passes to take ownership.

    • Marilyn says:

      02:49pm | 19/03/10

      Oh good grief, how is this a snub to Rudd?  Are we in danger from the US or outside forces in some description.

      You need to remember Obama has not been to Israel, now that is a snub by an American president if ever there was one.

      In the grand scheme of trying to get health reform for 36 million Americans who can’t see a doctor, in a nation where most bankruptcies are caused by paying medical care or insurance and their economy is in the tank why do we even matter except to try and force us to join more deluded wars on people who have not harmed us.

    • Peter says:

      06:04pm | 19/03/10

      Who gives a rats anyway.  Obama knows that his Left crap is affecting his Presidency and, like Krudd, ideology to the cause of Socialism comes first.

      Didn’t care about Bush (2) , LBJ or Clinton coming.

      American politics regard us as nothing in their scheme of things.

    • Nicki says:

      04:19pm | 19/03/10

      Paul, what a cheep and very low article . You have no idea,You just write something only to get payment.
      It only show that Punch let write article to one without talent or knowledge of what is going on in the world.

    • Eric says:

      12:36pm | 20/03/10

      Wow, Nicki, what an incoherent comment.

      You hate the article, but you never explain just what you think is wrong with it. What’s your objection, exactly?

    • Henry Lawson says:

      05:34pm | 19/03/10

      Good news; destined be a oncer this failed President adds noything to the US Australian relationship.

    • Vik says:

      06:14pm | 19/03/10

      Obama’s advisers know that rudd and his merry men are on a sinking ship, why waste time in an election year habging out with a pm who is on his way out…......well done ruddy!

    • chris says:

      03:11pm | 20/03/10

      As Australian history is rarely taught in schools these days the old saying
      “you don’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been”
      is apt here.  Anyone here who reads into this that Australian/US relations are not strengthening has a short term view. I am 51 and all US presidential visits have occurred since I was born, this will be the 7th.

      No U.S. President (in office) ever visited our nation before 1966.

    • Larry says:

      08:18pm | 20/03/10

      Rudd and Obama outside the church - looking ’ oh so pious’ I am sure Kev’s minders are working on it right now.

    • Old Bert says:

      02:09pm | 21/03/10

      As usual, comments in some of these forum topics descend into typical arguments from partners whose breakfast grunts almost prove they ought to divorce; i.e, way off topic. You know if you’re one of those don’t you. The fact is, there isn’t an Australian politician who (not that), can anywhere come near the intellectual capacity of Obama, a leader of such a huge country of immense wealth and diverse opinion, particularly that of the past GOP failed presidency of Bush Jr, and his Texan style of so called ‘politics’. We have here in Australia, still a forelock tugging leader, who relies on press doorstops, and media releases, based on US ambassors’  instruction from the White House,  to embarrass thinking Australians, and continually relegate us to our original place of our total reliance of US, without much argument. The Australian punters are not so silly to accept the PM’s political spin, and ought to think twice about the machinations of the US presidency, driven by his spin doctors,and not blame Obama for his original ethical drive to make the US the once great country that is was post WW2.

    • Sam Chowder says:

      10:12pm | 21/03/10

      I’m glad he has cancelled, I was going out anyway

    • Andrew says:

      09:50am | 22/03/10

      BIg deal!!  It saves the American and Australian Taxpayers money and it gives Kev some more time to focus on his job, not sniffing about Obama like a dog on heat!


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