MAUREEN DOWD. Trump Finally Makes a Friend (New York Times, 15.09.18)

Sep 18, 2018

The president may be shunned nearly everywhere but at the bottom of the world he has finally found a loyal mate.

CANBERRA, Australia — President Trump has admitted he feels “amazingly alone” in the midst of all his scraps with allies and snarls with undermining advisers.

But he can’t follow the usual advice for presidents suffering the vertigo of isolation: If you want a friend in politics, get a dog. As his first wife, Ivana, wrote in her recent memoir, “Donald was not a dog fan.’’ Indeed, it’s a favorite insult.

But there is someone — at the very bottom of the world in the land of Mad Max — who wants to play ball with the Mad King. In the Trump era, we can rewrite the maxim to be: If you want a friend in politics, get an Aussie.

“I think we both get it,” Australia’s new prime minister, Scott Morrison, cheerily told me in his office in Parliament House. Even though Australia did not get rocked by a recession like the U.S. did, Morrison says some people feel forgotten, left off the globalism gravy train. “And that’s what we get. The president gets that. I get it.”

For those not familiar with the Canberra cascade of prime ministers — six in the last decade — the latest brutal leadership “spill” is best explained with a comparison to a famous sporting spill.

In 2002, ice skater Steven Bradbury became the first Australian to win a Winter Olympic gold medal when his three top rivals crashed in a last-minute pileup. The right-wing Peter Dutton kicked off the coup that felled Malcolm Turnbull, but then the slimy Dutton and the soignée Julie Bishop crashed in a pileup that allowed the unprepossessing Morrison to glide across the finish line.

ScoMo, as the Antipodean prime minister is nicknamed, was not particularly well known but had clearly had his skates laced up for some time. He got off to a fast start, flying to Indonesia to negotiate a trade deal; visiting the outback to spotlight his focus on the drought (even though he absurdly told me about climate change that “I just don’t think it’s relevant to the discussion about how we’re helping farmers” and urged drought victims to “pray for that rain”); and vowing to pass a religious freedom bill in determinedly secular Australia, where Pentecostals are commonly referred to as “happy clappers.”

“We don’t want all this political correct nonsense telling people they can’t have an Easter hat parade” or a Christmas play in a public school, Australia’s first Pentecostal prime minister told me. “In my maiden speech, I talked about the voices of faith being driven from the public square.”

I wonder if, like Karen Pence, the devout Morrison was bothered by Trump’s flouting of the Commandments. (Thou Shalt Not Covet All the Playmates and Porn Stars at a Lake Tahoe Golf Tournament.)


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