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Remember: Mr. Rudd is a man of the political left.

And don't you forget it!


by Dave Riley

How would you summarizes the Rudd Labor Government? If you were given a 25 words more or less option what features would you tease out?

The Wall Street Journal in the space of a delightfully insightful commentary marks Comrade Rudd off as an icon of what surely is indeed a very "responsible left".

This is power portraiture. Within these pages the movers and shakers who rely on the Wall Street Journal for their world weary POV can get their perspectives engineered.

So does Comrade "responsible lefty" Kevin Rudd tick all the right boxes? You bet he does!

So Ruddism -- herein summarized for the world stage -- is given the imprimatur by the WSJ. For those still caught up in the Labor promise this snippet is a coarse reminder that maybe things aren't what they seem.

Left, Right and Down Under

Kevin Rudd, Australia's new Prime Minister, is sometimes billed – not without a little glee – as the latest thorn in the Bush Administration's side: a pro-Kyoto Protocol, anti-Iraq War, left-of-center leader of a major U.S. ally. But the 50-year-old Queenslander seems determined not to play to media type.

We recently met with Mr. Rudd in New York, following his meetings in Washington with President Bush and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, among others. If Mr. Rudd intends to be an "ally" in the mold of Germany's Gerhard Schröder or France's Jacques Chirac, he wasn't letting on. "The ballast that America provides in terms of global security and global economic order is overwhelming," he said, adding that the U.S.'s reflexive critics should "take a step back."

Despite his early opposition to the war in Iraq and his decision to remove Australia's combat troops, Mr. Rudd will still deploy his forces to the country in noncombat roles. He also intends to maintain Australia's presence in Afghanistan "for the long haul" and, at this week's NATO summit in Bucharest, will urge European countries to bear their fair share of the Afghan burden. Australia is not a member of NATO, but its troops, unlike those of most NATO members, are deployed to Afghanistan's dangerous south.

Mr. Rudd is also a realist about the threat posed by Iran, in terms of its "active financing of terrorist operations," its "entrenchment in Syria" and, above all, the nuclear issue. "I wouldn't like us in the future to play footsie" with the Iranians, he says, which sounds to us like an implicit rebuke of the West for the game it has been playing with Tehran. "This is baseline stuff. The Iranians are a real problem."

As for China – where he spent years as a diplomat and learned fluent Mandarin – he will urge President Hu Jintao at their coming meeting to engage directly with representatives of the Dalai Lama. But he opposes a boycott of the Olympics. "Historically, boycotts of the Olympics don't work," he says, recalling Jimmy Carter's feckless pullout from Moscow in 1980. "This will always be a two-steps-forward, one-step-back relationship. Let's be realistic about it."

Mr. Rudd is equally clear-eyed on economic issues. He inherited from John Howard the best economy in memory and doesn't intend to squander it. Sounding very much like his predecessor, he promises to reform welfare and cut taxes. Remember: Mr. Rudd is a man of the political left.

Finally, Mr. Rudd understands, in a way that must come naturally to someone whose country relies heavily on commodity exports, the benefits of free trade. As he told a Manhattan audience after our interview, "The successful conclusion of the Doha Trade Round would give the global economy a much needed psychological boost at a time when there is a heightened risk of protectionism." He added that "I was pleased that President Bush and I saw eye-to-eye on this point."

We only wish Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would see eye-to-eye with Mr. Rudd on the subject, too. And while we'll cheerfully admit to our own disagreements with Mr. Rudd – especially on a cap-and-trade "solution" to global warming – it's good to be reminded that there is such a thing as a responsible left. America could use more of it.

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