President Bush also indicated that it was still the US preference to sign a free trade deal with Australia by the end of the year, and said he would use the visit to pursue the matter with Mr Howard.
He bristled slightly when asked why his own popularity, according to current polling in the United States, had suffered since the war while Prime Minister John Howard's had remained high in Australia. 'Well, it must be his charisma,' he replied. 'He married well, and he's smart.'
It would just be crass to say a man who can detect charisma in John Howard should be able to find anything anywhere, but it would be unkind, so I won't. I'm actually proud, in a perverse way, that charisma is so little an issue in our politics that John Howard can be elected.