Obama couldn’t stand Abbott, former White House adviser claims

By @chelean on
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) listens as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) listens as Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott makes opening remarks at the first plenary session of the G20 summit in Brisbane November 15, 2014. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Barack Obama couldn’t stand former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, according to an adviser for the former US president. Obama, however, got along well with other former PMs Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull and Julia Gillard.

Former national security adviser Ben Rhodes, who served during Obama’s tenure from 2009 to 2016, told The Australian that the 44th president of the US had a “very difficult” relationship with Abbott due to their opposing views. They held differing views on climate change and same-sex marriage.

“Tony Abbott is just politically incredibly different to Barack Obama and a certain brand of right-wing politician, and that was a challenge to Obama,” Rhodes said.

Obama was a supporter of same-sex marriage and a believer of climate change. Abbott, on the other hand, was one of the few members of the Parliament who vehemently opposed marriage equality last year. He was also against carbon tax while he was the Opposition leader.

Abbott’s successor, Turnbull, was apparently more palatable to Obama. For the American politician, Turnbull was part of “the mainstream of centre-right” leaders. In 2016, the Atlantic claimed that Obama’s relationship with Turnbull was “actually warm” and was up there in the warmth scale with Pope Francis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbul U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meet during the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru November 20, 2016.  Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

As for the Labor side, Obama had an amicable relationship with Rudd as well. In 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the two “connected at an intellectual level.” Rudd also initially had a good relationship with Obama’s predecessor, George W Bush, but that came to an end after a report appeared claiming Bush did not know what the G20 was in a phone call with Rudd.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) stands for a picture with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (L) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) stands for a picture with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (L) at the Phipps Conservatory for an opening reception and working dinner for heads of delegation at the Pittsburgh G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania September 24, 2009.  Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

There is another Australian prime minister who served in office while Obama was president of America. Gillard was reportedly described by Obama as a “quick study” after the two first met at the G20 meeting in Cannes, France, in 2011. Their relationship grew from there, with Obama apparently admiring and envying Gillard for being able to get the carbon price through Parliament.

SMH reporter Michelle Grattan described their relationship as “one of professional easiness.”

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard kisses U.S. President Barack Obama Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard kisses U.S. President Barack Obama after speaking to U.S. Marines and Australian troops at the RAAF Base in Darwin, November 17, 2011.  Reuters/Larry Downing

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