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When President-elect Obama and his wife and children asked permission to stay at the Blair House in the weeks before the inauguration so that their two children could start the school term in Washington, the Bush White House replied with a curt “no” saying that Blair House was “spoken for.” Now we learn, that, par for the course for the Bush administration, that statement was ripe with truthiness. In fact it was only after the Obama request that the Bush team went scrambling looking for someone to occupy Blair House so it could be denied the Obamas. The taker is former Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
Howard will be traveling to Washington to receive the last in a series of Bush-awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom. Howard was recently handed a humiliating trouncing by Australian voters, who even turned him out of his own constituency. But he was a far more loyal poodle to George W. Bush than Tony Blair ever was. Among other things, he ventured head-first into American electoral politics, parroting a series of G.O.P. talking points, including the absurd proposition that Obama was the choice of Al Qaeda leaders to be president of the United States.
So Obama is turned out of Blair House to make room for a man who gained notoriety around the world for unprincipled and unfair criticisms of Obama? That’s what the Bush White House calls “gracious.” Most Americans would use other adjectives.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”