Swan, a serious man, didn’t crack a smile when he took his big jab at American conservatism.
“Let’s be blunt and acknowledge the biggest threat to the world’s biggest economy are the cranks and crazies that have taken over a part of the Republican Party,” he said.
Considering Australia is one of the strongest allies of the U.S., “cranks and crazies” is quite an indictment. But in Republicans’ defense, he wasn’t criticizing the entire party -- just the more extreme conservatives who have lately played an outsize role in steering the national dialogue.
“Despite [U.S. President Braack] Obama’s good will and strong efforts, the national interest there was held hostage by the rise of the extreme Tea Party wing of the Republican Party,” said Swan, according to the Associated Press.
“Global markets are nervously watching the positioning of hardline elements of the Republican Party for signs that they will dangerously block reasonable attempts at compromise,” he added.
Swan’s comments come shortly before the U.S. general elections, which could result in a presidential post for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. But that hasn’t stopped Swan -- and a host of other high-profile politicians around the globe -- from taking potshots.
Consider Vladimir Putin, the Russia president with whom Obama is making halfhearted attempts to forge a stronger bond. Putin had good reason to point the finger at Romney, who said in March that Russia was “without question [America’s] number one geopolitical foe.”
The Russian president said in a televised interview this month that Romney was “mistaken,” adding that Obama is “an honest person who really wants to change much for the better.”
Of course, it’s understandable that Russia might be at odds with Romney, who has promised to take a tougher stance on Moscow. But what about strong U.S. allies like the U.K.?
Romney managed to get himself in trouble with British Prime Minister David Cameron during a gaffe-filled trip to Europe in July. The Republican candidate had offhandedly criticized Britain’s preparations for the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games -- a dig he felt qualified to make due to his leading role in the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
Cameron responded laughingly at a press conference shortly thereafter. “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active bustling cities anywhere in the world,” he said. “I mean, of course, it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere!”
During that same trip abroad, Romney committed another gaffe in Jerusalem when he suggested that Israel’s economy was stronger than that of the Palestinian territories partly because of difference in “culture.”
Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, was none too pleased. “All I can say is that this man needs a lot of education. He doesn’t know the region, he doesn’t know Israelis, he doesn’t know Palestinians -- and to talk about the Palestinians as an inferior culture is really a racist statement,” he told the Washington Post.
And then there’s Ireland. In August, an audio clip of Irish President Michael Huggins criticizing Tea Party leader Michael Graham went viral. It had actually been recorded two years earlier. “I think even the poorest people in the great country that is the United States should be entitled to basic health care and I don’t think they’ll thank the Sarah Palin lookalikes and followers for taking it off them,” he said.
His voice rose as he spoke, and by the time Huggins reached the end of his statement, he was yelling. “You don’t find anything wrong at all with this Tea Party ignorance that has been brought all around the United States!”
In this context, Swan’s comments don’t appear so surprising at all.
For Romney and his party, the bad news keeps on coming: It seems most Americans are right there with the international detractors. A new survey from the polling organization Purple Insights has found Obama with a 5-point lead across all 12 of the pivotal swing states that will likely be the deciders in the Nov. 6 general election.