George W Bush is a head of state. John W Howard isn’t. He’s a head of government.

Protocol dictates that our head of state – the Governor-General – greet a visiting head of state. Crikey understands that the Major-General had a prior engagement last night judging the knot-tying at the Tibooburra Sea Scout Hall (the diary entry looks as if it was written in the PM’s own hand, we’re told).

Still, he made it to Sydney Airport last night. The President, however, mistook him for a some kind of lyrebird mascot, given the proliferation of ostrich plumes on his hat. So it was that the country cousins had the honour of greeting Dubya. Mark Vaile did the job.

It may have been an opportunity for the Nationals leader to apologise to the President for the behaviour of his corrupt cocky colleagues at the AWB. Or it may have been an opportunity for the PM to avoid a potentially problematic picture-opportunity.

Dubya – fortunately for him – cannot contest another election. The PM, however, seems set to. Sooner or later, or so the pundits say.

So John Howard thought he’d better appeal to core Australian values. Instead of greeting the President, he rolled along to the Dally M awards, the Australian Rugby League’s night of nights.

We’re already in a phoney election campaign. The PM is polling poorly. And no doubt the PM’s people thought it would be better if he spent the evening in the company of r-pists and drug fiends rather than being pictured with the President.

Peter Fray

Inoculate yourself against the spin

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today to get your first 12 weeks for $12 and get the journalism you need to navigate the spin.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey