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Shorten and Turnbull Finally Weigh in on the Big Issue: President Donald Trump

Australia is probably the first country to make "Freaking the Fuck Out About Trump" an official political position.
All images via Wikicommons

Last week, US President Barack Obama conceded that international leaders "have good reason to be rattled," which gently confirmed that reasonable people everywhere should freak the fuck out about a Donald Trump presidency. If Trump wins the US election, it affects everybody. And not in a "will he usher in a new global recession?" kind of way. It'll be more like "will Trump's global recession have any effect on tonight's Thunderdome death match?".


Now Australia has made "Freaking the Fuck Out About a Donald Trump Presidency" an official political position. Bill Shorten—aspiring prime minister and official bobble-head Bill Shorten figurine—recently set diplomatic tongues wagging and diplomatic wags tonguing when he described Trump as "barking mad." He admitted a Donald Trump presidency would be "very difficult" for Australia, even if Australia manages to remain on the half of the planet that Trump doesn't accidently set on fire.

Many called this bad form on Shorten's part, with both Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop quickly taking him to task for his poor diplomacy. But was this really an irresponsible thing to say? Did Shorten really put his foot in it?

It's doubtful. Given Trump is considered to be the presidential candidate Most Likely to Trade Humanity to Aliens in Exchange For Spice, Shorten is on relatively safe ground. At least until the aliens come.

Plus there's precedent for warning Australians against a dangerous American candidate, although it might not be the one you're expecting. Back in 2007 Prime Minister John Howard (and Rick Moranis tribute face) told Channel Nine "if I were running Al Qaeda in Iraq I would put a circle around March 2008 and pray as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats."

Even before we saw how history played out, this quote from the man who got us into Iraq could charitably be described as a "fuck pas."


But if Trump actually wins, it's likely the world's leaders will just backpedal on their mudslinging, as we've seen in the US. New Jersey governor Chris Christie said Trump was a "carnival barker," and now stands awkwardly behind Trump at rallies, like a sort of ineffectual butler. Back in February, Senator Mitch McConnell was telling Senate Republicans to distance themselves from Trump in the election, but McConnell is now publicly supporting him.

Trump spent the entire Republican primary season making fun of "Little Marco Rubio," and Rubio has now apologised to Trump. All Shorten will need to do is hand over his lunch money or do a little bow, and Trump will be all over that shit.

But first Shorten has to become Prime Minister. And calling Trump out might have been a savvy move on his part. Everyone knows Trump is a lunatic—even Trump must suspect this—and watching the media act like this is business-as-usual has been a profoundly depressing sight.

The Republican nomination instantly normalised Trump, and for the most part the media is treating him like any other candidate, asking "who will be your Vice President?" and "what's your economic plan?" Instead of, say, "why have you called for the deportation of ugly chicks?" or "why did you say America should become the primary exporter of unobtanium?" They are furiously trying to pretend that everything is okay, and—save for Shorten and Obama—we have a worrying dearth of people who are prepared to call this out for what it is.


Before we give Shorten too much credit, it's very likely that this was a calculated move designed to force Turnbull into either:

  • Supporting Shorten's comments, or
  • Going the opposite direction and looking like an idiot by referring to Trump as anything other than a presidential candidate who's less qualified than that unicycling frog from the Dat Boi meme.

But Turnbull didn't shy from the challenge. "We all have private views about the merits of individual candidates," said the PM, "but to express them publicly… if you're asking me to echo what Mr Shorten has said, I have to tell you, I think that would be clearly contrary to our national interest. And regardless of what many Americans may think about Mr Trump, would be seen as being offensive to Americans. The choice of president is Americans' to make."

Diplomatic af, plus the "we all have private views about the merits" bit is like a Rorschach test. Turnbull definitely thinks at least one of the candidates is a total nutjob, but he's not going to give it up as easily as Shorten.

So we'll call this one a stalemate. Shorten and Turnbull both played this one pretty well. No matter which one of them is Prime Minister after July 2, the Australian-US alliance will remain as it always has, even if it's with an America controlled by hyperintelligent, gold-addicted apes.

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