The conservative line about Donald Trump used to be that really, he himself was not all that important. What mattered was the unbreakable link between Australia and the United States, our great and powerful ally.
Such was the strength and durability of the alliance that a single president – a single administration – was only a passing phase, one that could be managed without any serious consequences. And even when The Donald emerged as an archetype of mendacity, egomania and just plain craziness, Australia did not really need to worry, because the log-standing institutional stability of the most powerful and successful nation on earth would still survive his depredations and all would be well in the relatively near future.
But within this wall of reassurance was the implicit assumption that it would not be too smart to get too close to the dysfunctional White House, and that above all that partisan domestic politics – the only kind Trump knows – should be avoided at all costs. The idea was to play the game with the USA, not with the temporary POTUS.
However, it is now clear that Scott Morrison, normally a cautious ducker of policy risk, has gone over to the dark side and become an unashamed, even enthusiastic, acolyte eager to roll over and have his tummy tickled at the slightest gesture from the Oval Office.
His zeal to embrace Trump’s demented conspiracy theories in the prelude to next year’s presidential election campaign is not only stupid and inappropriate – at a time when the beleaguered and barely rational Trump is fighting personal vendettas against his largely imagined enemies it is seriously bad policy and endangers rather than enhances the national interest.
Morrison’s ambassador to Washington, Joe Hockey, pre-empted the grovel by telling Trump that sure, he would be willing to do anything within treason, sorry, that should be reason, to help out; then. as Morrison was preparing to pack his bags and his knee pads for his ritual obeisance, Trump rang just to confirm his riding orders – anything you can dredge up, especially about that treacherous pinko Alexander Downer, should be conveyed as soon as possible.
And of course ScoMo said sure, boss – whatever you say, it’s all part of our great history of mateship. Except that it isn’t – it’s all about subservience and servility and not even to the American nation, but to its deranged leader.
This is the Morrison mindset – the attitude that regards criticism of the man as an attack on the entire country and its population, that insists that any legitimate debate about, say, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and his authoritarian regime must be dismissed as anti-semitism. It is an echo of Morrison’s constant refrain when his own policies are queried: “Which side are you on?” The taunt of the kindergarten – demeaning, dangerous and deeply stupid.
But that’s our ScoMo. This goes further than identity politics – it is a cult of personality, the arrogance that leads authoritarian dictators to declare themselves president for life. If the alliance survives Trump and Morrison, it will be not because of them but in spite of them.