On the weekend, Australian Prime Minister John Howard attacked a US Presidential candidate. That an Australian Prime Minister would interfere with the process leading to a US Presidential election, is an act that should be deplored: it is NOT Australia's, nor the Australian Prime Minister's, right to be critical of another country's political candidates.
John Howard has the right to disagree with Barack Obama's policies. Obama certainly argued that the invasion of Iraq was wrong. But for the Prime Minister to descend to the level of personal attacks, and to advise al Qaeda leaders to pray for Obama to win, is inappropriate.
Mr Howard today said that he was not sorry for the personal attacks, and that it was alright, because the "democracy is strong enough". Mr Howard has a history of not saying sorry, and is now showing a degree of arrogance. He, and his senior ministers, also have a history of choosing a position/statement and defending it to the death - even when it is clearly wrong. And so, with that history in mind, Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, jumped to John Howard's defence. Mr Downer said that John Howard "feels passionate about the issue". That doesn't make the abuse acceptable.
Other US politicians dismissed Mr Howard as inconsequential. In the big scheme of US politics, that's almost certainly correct. With 1,400 troops in the Middle East, Australia has committed just 0.006% of its population to the Middle East war: the US has or will commit 10 times that percentage. If Mr Howard wants to speak up about commitment to the Iraq war, he should be promising many more troops. He can't - Australia doesn't have the military muscle. Perhaps Senator Obama was right to dismiss John Howard's words as "empty rhetoric".