Australia got a taste of US President Donald Trump’s approach to diplomacy in a sensational phone call with Malcolm Turnbull, details of which were leaked to the Washington Post. But the former US ambassador to Australia during the Obama years, Jeff Bleich, says the reaction in the US was “very helpful” to Australia.
“Because one person after another, myself included, was called onto TV to talk about it,” Bleich says.
“We all said the same thing – which is that Australia is one of our best friends in the world. It’s a critical country. Look at all the things we do together and that Australia has done over the years. And it was actually an opportunity to reinforce the importance of this alliance and the importance of Australia.”
In the wake of Trump’s controversial immigration order, Bleich was one of many who denounced it. But he has no criticism of Turnbull for not joining in on the international condemnation.
“My statement was really about Americans. Americans have a responsibility to stand up for American values and I think we have a vital responsibility to speak out when we think our government is doing the wrong thing.
"For a foreign leader, I think they need to first and foremost advance the interests of their own country and so if the government thinks that by condemning the president’s actions it may interfere with their ability to do other things that are important for Australia’s national interests then I think that’s what a leader is supposed to do.”
Bleich feels vindicated by court decisions to put a stay on Trump’s executive order.
“I think it’s much more likely that the Trump administration will go back to the drafting board and come up with a new ban that they believe will survive constitutional review,” he says.
The former diplomat describes deep divisions in his home country.
“This is a major shock to the system that is going to force all Americans to revisit what we’re all about – what our Constitution sets forth for us as our common values.”
Though Democrats can’t afford to be complacent, the seeds to Trump’s undoing may already be at work.
“He’s made some very, very bold promises. He talked about bringing back all sorts of jobs to communities that are feeling left behind.
"If he’s not able to deliver new jobs and he’s not able to avoid dramatically increasing the debt, I think there will be a backlash.”
Music credit: “Micsource”, by Tab & Anitek on the Free Music Archive