Obama stands up Australia
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.
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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