Re Anthony Albanese’s description of John Howard in Friday’s Crikey:
“Here is a man who lived at home until he was 32. You can imagine what
he was like. Here were young Australians demonstrating against the
Vietnam War, listening to the Doors, driving their tie-died kombi vans,
and what was John Howard doing? He was at home with mum, wearing his
shorts and long white socks, listening to Pat Boone albums and waiting
for the Saturday night church dance.”

This has an interesting resonance in Washington DC because I’ve read something with almost precisely the same tone
about Howard’s White House friend. A piece about how George W Bush was going
precisely nowhere when his contemporaries were developing an interest in the
world outside Texas. James Traub, “The Bush Years: W.’s World,” New York Times
Magazine
, 14 January 2001, writes:

Critics often describe Bush as “incurious” about the world, but
that word hardly does justice to what feels almost like a principled
provincialism. Here was someone who by age 13 was mingling in the country-club
set of Houston, who then went on to Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School –
and did so in the age of cut-rate international air fares – and yet he rarely
travelled abroad. Bush was in his mid-20’s when his father became ambassador to
the United Nations, and still he stayed home. He must have had to resist
actively his parents’ blandishments. He visited China in 1975, when his father
was U.S. liaison; Gambia, at President Bush’s behest, in 1990; and the Middle
East in 1998, when he had begun thinking about his own run for the presidency.
(He also travelled to Europe several times in the 90’s with the Young Presidents’
Organization, a group for corporate executives.)

On the other hand I was in Iraq yesterday morning, having spent Monday to
Friday travelling around the (quite safe) northern region of the country. Where
a current topic of conversation is whether the Kurdistan region should ‘do a
Slovenia’, ie abandon the rest of the country before it all goes to sh*t, just
as Slovenia did with Yugoslavia. The only problem is Turkey and Iran, with their
own Kurdistan regions, would not like that one little bit. Whereas nobody,
outside of Yugoslavia, was concerned about Slovenia defecting.

And as a PS, I’ve been downgraded on Qantas more times than I’ve been
upgraded.

Peter Fray

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