Which politician hasn’t been at a podium somewhere in the past 24 hours spouting their own brand of rhetoric?
The UN Summit in New York meant many speeches, the most notable of which (not for the right reasons) was Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s barking mad effort, full of conspiracy theories and six times longer than his alotted 15 minute slot. As Ed Pilkington writes in The Guardian:
He tore up a copy of the UN charter in front of startled delegates, accused the security council of being an al-Qaida like terrorist body, called for George Bush and Tony Blair to be put on trial for the Iraq war, demanded $7.7tn in compensation for the ravages of colonialism on Africa, and wondered whether swine flu was a biological weapon created in a military laboratory. At one point, he even demanded to know who was behind the killing of JFK. All in all, a pretty ordinary 100 minutes in the life of the colonel.
To be fair, this was a man suffering from severe sleep deprivation. The US state department, New York city council and Donald Trump had prevented him from laying his weary head in an air-conditioned tent in New Jersey, Central Park and Bedford respectively, and the resulting strain was evident.
“I woke up at 4am, before dawn!” Gaddafi lamented about an hour into his speech, adding for the benefit of the jetlagged diplomats seated stony-faced in front of him: “You should be asleep! You’re all tired after a sleepless night!”
It doesn’t look like Gaddafi’s efforts to secure a campsite — or a seat at the international table — will get any easier.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in a somewhat more moderate speech in New York, was calling for a radical overhaul of the main bodies that set policies for the global economy, reports Anne Davies in The Sydney Morning Herald.
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And who would head up such a massive change? Said Rudd:
America remains uniquely qualified, through the combination of its hard power and its soft power, through the narrative of its history and the consistency of its purpose, to shoulder the great responsibilities of our time.
It was only hours, notes Davies, before Obama, giving his first speech to the UN General Assembly, would implore that it’s not ”solely America’s endeavour” to save the world from itself.
President Obama pushed for a global approach to global issues, like climate change, peace and ending nuclear proliferation. But at times it was a tough crowd. Reports The Washington Post:
His audience included several foreign leaders his administration is seeking to face down on the diplomatic front, among them Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has rebuffed other countries’ calls to stop enriching uranium and has thumbed his nose at criticism of his human rights record, his hostility toward Israel and his support for terrorism.
Ahmadinejad sat without reacting obviously in the fifth row as Obama publicly chided his country for its pursuit of nuclear weapons, saying Iran’s actions — and similar efforts by North Korea — “threaten to take us down this dangerous slope” that makes the whole world less secure.
The full text of Obama’s speech is here.
Ahmadinejad spoke later on topics from religion to humanity, but failed to mention the elephant in the room: his government’s nuclear program.
Rudd also addressed the UN General Assembly, again chatting about the need for reform of “global governance” to ensure institutions would stay stable. He even managed to get in a nod to his favourite people: “The price of failure of these institutions has been paid by working people and their families right across the world.”
In London meanwhile, Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull presented a speech to the United Kingdom Policy Exchange (just who is minding the country?). While Rudd was calling for more regulation, Turnbull was calling for less. Matthew Franklin writes in The Australian that:
Mr Turnbull … [said] … that the global financial crisis had promoted a resurgence in “democratic socialism”, including a view held by Mr Rudd that governments must be “at the centre of the economy”.
Arguing that the best governments understood and accepted the limits of their power, the Opposition Leader said governments must not be allowed to impose themselves on businesses and individuals.
“It is critical that parties of the centre-right not be spooked or intimidated by the sense of crisis into greater tolerance, let alone acceptance, of the notion of government intrusion into economic activity that is best left to the private sector,” Mr Turnbull told the think tank.
Also calling for financial deregulation and tax cuts for business was none other than failed Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin, who addressed a Hong Kong business audience in what was said to be her first public-speaking engagement outside North America. “We’re not interested in government fixes, we’re interested in freedom,” she said.
Unlike Gaddafi, she knew how to work her audience. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Ms. Palin warmed up the crowd with her impressions of Hong Kong, one of the densest urban areas in the world. “The wildlife-to-human ratio is different from Alaska, but I could get used to it,” she said.
She also spoke about how Alaska once shared a land bridge with Asia. And she noted that her husband’s Eskimo ancestors crossed that bridge. “To consider that connection that allowed sharing of peoples and bloodlines and wildlife and flora and fauna, that connection to me is quite fascinating,” she said.