The warbloggers have been attempting to spin the result of the election here to their advantage. Cori Dauber claims that the election “was a referendum on Australia’s participation in Iraq”, and Glenn Reynolds claims that it was “in no small part as a referendum on the war”. They link to stories that provide no support for their claims and indeed undercut them by reporting that Howard did not even mention Iraq in his victory speech. No, the election was not about Iraq—it was hardly an issue.

They also continue to make hysterical attacks on Diana Kerry. Mike at Cold Fury accuses her of:

a dastardly attempt by Kerry to undermine the war effort by directly undermining the coalition fighting it, hoping to convince Australians to abandon a steadfast will to win in favor of tremulous cowardice and appeasement.

Spoons calls her “traitorous”, while deacon at Powerline continues to maintain that she lives in Australia and was campaigning for Labor.

In fact, she had nothing to do with the election here at all and wasn’t even in the country. All she did was give a truthful answer to a question about whether invading Iraq has increased the terrorist threat to Australia. The attacks on her would appear to be just motivated by a desire for partisan advantage in the US election.

Update: Reynolds responds, offering posts from Tim Blair and Mike Jericho to support his claim. Neither post offers any evidence that Iraq was a major issue. Anyone who has been following the election would know how little it was discussed. This article in the Sydney Morning Herald on the election campaign observes:

Iraq flared briefly after the Jakarta bombings—most notably in the leaders’ debate—but was mostly left alone by the Opposition, even though Mr Howard refused to talk about the issue, betraying his fears the missing weapons of mass destruction and increased terrorist threat could hurt this chances.

Update 2: Tim Blair offers support for his position from, get this, Taiwan News. I wonder if Blair gets all his political news about Australia from Taiwan. Perhaps he just reads Aussie papers for their news about Taiwan.

I wonder what the Australian papers say? The closest thing I could find to support for Blair’s position was in the Australian, where Howard supporter Greg Sheridan opines (my emphasis):

Howard’s triumph has been extensively reported in the US. Almost universally, the international interpretation of the Australian election was to see it as a referendum on the nation’s involvement in Iraq.

In some ways this interpretation is accurate. Even though Iraq hardly figured in the campaign, the fact that Labor did not challenge Howard on the war shows that the Prime Minister had already won that particular argument before the campaign began.

Of course, by Sheridan’s logic the election was also a sort-of referendum on ditching the monarchy because that hardly figured in the campaign either. And also a sort-of referendum on everything else that didn’t figure in the campaign. Heavens knows how we should categorize the vote as to issues the did figure in the campaign. Referendum is taken, so maybe we need a new word?

Update 3: Tim Blair keeps digging himself deeper and deeper.

Comments

  1. #1 Alastair
    October 11, 2004

    Reynolds has updated his post to quote sources for his claim. One of these is Tim Blair. Blair seemed (to me) to be making the point that Howard’s “tough stance on terrorism” was the reason that “many voted for him”. This may be so, although the whole issue of pre-emptive strikes against neighbours seemed to form the bulk of the tough stance – not necessarily Iraq.

    Blair goes on to point out what is basically a bad headline at the NYT. The article itself gives a reasonably accurate summary of the issues of this election, but “War Plays A Role in Elections in Australia” gives the impression that Iraq was far more important than it is/was. Whether Blair or Reynolds actually read it is another question.

    Reynolds’ other reference was to a largely incomprehensible spray by Mike Jericho, which includes this:

    Australians are aided in this sense of electoral lethargy by the two national broadcasters (The ABC & SBS), whose staffs are entirely drawn from the ranks of the activist left.

    I’m sure there are people in this world who can concieve of activists encouraging lethargy (not to mention the interesting use of the word ‘staffs’), but I am not one of them. Likewise the claim that the press was whipped into hysteria over Iraq is also incomprehensible and unsubstantiated.

    Personally I was waiting for W himself to congratulate the Australian people on their decision to stay the course in Iraq, by re-electing Howard. Fortunately that doesn’t seem to have happened… yet.

  2. #2 Chris Lightfoot
    October 11, 2004

    You seem to be implying that there is only one “warblogger”, and that he is stuck on a planet all of his own. Would that this were so….

  3. #3 Tim Lambert
    October 11, 2004

    OK, OK, I changed it from “warblogger’s planet” to “warbloggers’ planet”. Though the notion that the warbloggers are just one hive mind is oddly compelling.

  4. #4 ChrisPer
    October 11, 2004

    Well, speaking from the hive mind of the VRWC I can hardly criticise your logic on that.

    However, the ‘Iraq’ war as an issue was driven relentlessly as a ‘Howard Lied’ story, a ‘Iraq made us more likely to have terrorist attacks’ story, and a ‘fawning on America, infected by the chimp’s irrationality’ story. These were relentlessly flogged media memes, and the result may have been alienation of the middle ground – the rational and persuadable voters.

  5. #5 gazzadelsud
    October 11, 2004

    read the commentary on the lefty blogs, or on margo’s blog – pretty universally saying that ratty lied about the war and still the ignorant sheeple voted for him etc etc and with varying shades of vitriol. wish it away if you like – you have 3 years to reflect on whether the ridiculous hyperbole backfired

  6. #6 Alastair
    October 11, 2004

    Gaz: The issue at hand is whether the voting public considered Australia’s involvement in the war on Iraq when casting their vote. It matters not what the blogs (left or right) say on the topic – the question is what does the public at large think?

    It is possible that there are vast hordes of voters who – despite the fact that neither major party, nor the majority of the media coverage, mentioned Iraq with anything approaching regularity – were glued to the blogs for their discussion of electoral issues. And don’t forget that at the same time the great unwashed masses were also ignoring the issues that were discussed in the mainstream forums – such that Iraq affected their vote more than any other issue.

    Like I said it’s possible, but somehow doubtful. One day blogs may have that much influence (and when the cross-media ownership rules get thrown out the window they may need to), but that day is not coming soon.

  7. #7 Robert
    October 11, 2004

    Tim Blair also puts my name forward as someone who thinks the war on Iraq was a significant election issue. I do not.

    1. While a handful of swinging voters might have supported the Coalition because of Iraq, I think most people who voted on that issue would have opposed it and voted for the ALP or the Greens. But I doubt if they were swinging voters anyway.

    2. Most importantly, my post makes clear that interest rates and the economy were far and away the most important issue in the campaign. I think health and education would have been next. Iraq and national security were way down the list.

  8. #8 Aaron
    October 12, 2004

    “No, the election was not about Iraq-it was hardly an issue.”

    SMH search
    Result: 77 matches.

    Google search
    Result: 10,200 hits.

    Not definitive, but I rater think that this indicates that Iraq was an issue.

  9. #9 Don P
    October 12, 2004

    Aaron:

    A google search using the terms “howard cat food election site” generates 49,900 hits. Do you think we may justifiably conclude from this result that cat food was also an issue in the Australian election?

    Substituting “Bush” for “Howard” yields 117,000 hits. So I guess cat food must be even more of an issue in the upcoming U.S. presidential election. Strangely, though, I’ve seen no mention of it by the major American media.

  10. #10 rea
    October 12, 2004

    Well, after JOHN HOWARD’S “THUMPING VICTORY” in an Australian election that was run in no small part as a referendum on the cat food issue, it’s interesting to see how little play it’s getting in U.S. media.

    If Howard had lost, however, I suspect it would be getting a lot of attention, and advanced as evidence that cat food issue was going badly for Bush, Bush can’t keep allies etc..

  11. #11 Tim Lambert
    October 12, 2004

    Aaron, you might want to check out how the SMH search that you posted works. It returns articles that mention Iraq or Howard or election or war, not articles that say that Iraq was a major issue in the election.

  12. #12 sanjay
    October 12, 2004

    you’re all nuts. if howard lost the election, people wouldn’t say it was about the iraq war and that the “people had spoken”? i’m sure it would have made the front page of every major paper on the planet.

    i can’t wait to see the spin on a bush victory in november. “well, really it was about no child left behind.”

    see, it’s just NOT POSSIBLE that someone could actually support warmongering fascists like bush, howard, and blair! there must be some alternative explanation!

  13. #13 sanjay
    October 12, 2004

    wow, the mainstream media, post-election, don’t say that iraq was a “major issue” that led to a howard victory?
    i apologize, you’ve convinced me…

  14. #14 Tim Lambert
    October 13, 2004

    Sanjay, Greg Sheridan is a pro-Howard and pro-war columnist writing in a paper published by Rupert Murdoch which is also pro-Howard and pro-war. Even he says Iraq hardly figured in the campaign.

  15. #15 Aaron
    October 13, 2004

    Like, I said, it is not definative. But if you actually check out the links many do in fact deal with the Iraq war, howard and the election. The best argument I think you can make is that it wasn’t a major or defenative issue. But it WAS an issue.

  16. #16 Jimmy
    October 13, 2004

    My feeling take is that Iraq was an issue but only a minor one. Both parties wanted to avoid the issue and those who were against the war (as I was) had already decided whether it was a big enough issue to change their vote (for me it was one of several).

    It did come up in the context of the honesty of the government but the pull out / stay factor wasn’t emphasised – it was more about whether Howard had lied when he took us to war.

    Howard was happy to avoid it because it was fairly unpopular here. Roughly fifty for, fifty against in a poll I saw two weeks ago.

    Latham wanted to avoid it because of his crazy-brave announcement that he would pull out the troops by Christmas. It was (correctly) derided as stupid to put a hard deadline rather than laying out guidelines for the conditions required to pull out.