Bush may be a loathed figure in much of the world, but one group owes him a debt of gratitude: the many opposition leaders who came to power after Bush-friendly ruling parties were voted out. Howard took his place alongside JosÂ¿ MarÂ¿a Aznar of Spain (whose party was dumped in 2004), Italy's Silvio Berlusconi (tossed out in 2006), and Britain's Tony Blair (stepped aside in favor of a Bush-skeptical understudy in 2007). Ruling parties in Poland and Japan also paid for their leaders' friendships with Bush with big defeats.
Bush's pariah status has turned his Coalition of the Willing into a retirement community and given the president an unusual role in the domestic affairs of other countries. In Australia, one of Rudd's predecessors as Labor leader, Mark Latham, got the top job after describing Bush as "the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory." He further described members of Howard's government as a "conga line of suckholes" to Bush.
Howard, in turn, expressed a view that al-Qaeda terrorists would be praying for a 2008 victory by Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular.
Bush enjoyed this mutual affection. "I can tell you, relations are great right now," he said last year in Sydney, which was all but shut down by security measures needed to keep him safe.
Too good not to quote
From the WaPo's Dana Milbank: