: George W. Bush took an electoral beating November 24, but not at any ballot box in this hemisphere. Bush’s pounding was administered in Australia, where his closest international ally, Prime Minister
, suffered a stinging rebuke. Not only did Howard’s Liberal Party lose control of the upper and lower chambers of the Australian Parliament but the prime minister failed to retain the parliamentary seat he’s held since 1974. That’s a big loss for the White House, because no global leader so slavishly parroted Bush as did Howard. The Bush Administration did everything it could–short of invasion–to influence the voting there. The President traveled to Australia to hail Howard’s commitment to the neoconservative agenda, especially the dispatch of Australian troops to Iraq and the support of US moves to help India develop its nuclear capacity. When Howard faced domestic pressure over the detention of Australian citizens at Guantánamo,
arranged for their release.
But it wasn’t enough. The opposition Labour Party prevailed, placing mildly socialist technocrat
in the prime ministership. Rudd’s pledge to bring Australian troops home from Iraq–further dismantling the “coalition of the willing,” which had already been diminished by electoral revolts in Spain, Italy and other countries–grabbed international headlines. But Australia’s contribution to the occupation is a modest 550 combat troops. The bigger shift will come on climate change, where Rudd promised to align himself with the agenda of Nobel laureate
. Abandoning the rejectionist line that made Howard the top world leader standing with Bush against the Kyoto Protocol, Rudd and his party’s environmental spokesman–former Midnight Oil rocker
promised to sign the agreement as a first order of business. The new prime minister will travel to Bali in early December to help world leaders strengthen the protocol. “The atmosphere at [the] Kyoto talks in Bali will be markedly different due to this election result,” explained Greenpeace International political director
. “The US Administration will no longer be able to plot with the Australians in its effort to destroy international progress against climate change.” Greenpeace says Bush is more “isolated” than ever on the global warming front, and the loss of Howard spells a broader isolation. Australians used to call their prime minister “Bush’s poodle.” Without Howard, the President is left with only White House terrier
. The lesson Democrats should take from the land down under is that a commitment to fighting climate change is not just another talking point. It’s a potent issue that separates the politicians of the past from those of the future. JOHN NICHOLS
18 AND LIFE
: According to a recent report by the University of San Francisco School of Law, at least 2,381 US prisoners are serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed when they were younger than 18. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world (750 prisoners per 100,000 people) and leads–by staggering margins–in the number of juvenile offenders sentenced to die in prison, accounting for 99.9 percent of all such cases worldwide. The study also noted that African-American children are ten times more likely than white children to be sentenced to life without parole.