Kevin Rudd's new close mate is President Barack Obama

Malcolm Farr
March 26, 2009 12:00am

It was a moment that best displayed what Barack Obama called "a great meeting of the minds."

The US President and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd sat a diplomatic distance apart during a press conference in the Oval Office of the White House.

As more than 30 reporters and photographers filed out, they relaxed and leaned towards each other, heads almost touching.

They still had more to discuss after a 70-minute meeting that went longer than planned.

It included a session when just the two men talked - advisers out.
Despite the chilly spring weather, Mr Rudd has been greeted very warmly in Washington.

While not on the scale of George W. Bush's "man of steel" reference to John Howard a few years ago, Mr Rudd and his host preferred to meet and talk rather than listen to the Marine band playing on the lawn outside.

They will talk again at the G20 summit of major economic powers in London next week, and Mr Obama said they agreed on what should be done there.

"In the run-up to the G20, I feel that there is a great meeting of the minds between Prime Minister Rudd and myself," he said.

Sources said the Prime Minister was "very satisfied" with the meeting, which included a demonstration of the Obama charm.

The President for a moment thought Mr Rudd was one of his Cabinet members and referred to him as "the secretary of . . ." but quickly recovered to talk of their friendship.

Mr Obama declared the Australian PM was doing a great job.

"He has been one of the people who I've called on various occasions . . ." Mr Obama said, reaching across that diplomatic distance to touch Mr Rudd's arm.

"Right after the (US) election and repeatedly over the last several months.

"I think he's doing a terrific job and I'm looking forward to partnering him for some years to come."

A day earlier, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Mr Rudd's efforts were "A-plus" and that had his advice been followed "we'd all be better off".

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined in, following a working lunch with Mr Rudd on Tuesday, saying "America doesn't have a better friend in the world than Australia".

US presidents usually go out of their way to ensure that first encounters with Australian leaders are positive, because ties between the two countries go back a long way.

Inevitably there will be comparison with the close relationship between John Howard and George Bush, who came together in the war-on-terror crisis.

Mr Rudd and Mr Obama have come together during an economic crisis.

Both are ardent supporters of government stimulus and regulation to hasten the global recovery.

Mr Rudd has wasted no time, packing in wall-to-wall meetings during his four-day Washington schedule, holding talks with House and Senate leaders at the Capitol and with the Defence and Energy Secretaries, among others.

Mr Rudd has been in his element as the hands-on, process-driven political leader who is never happier than being at the coalface of policy development and discourse.
Kevin Rudd's new close mate is President Barack Obama | Herald Sun

'Cause we're awesome. And I can bet that not a single US newspaper or station mentioned it, haha.

I'm loving Rudd's economic stimulus plan. Amongst other things, it involves AU $950 payments to eligible fulltime students (ie, me) - mine appeared in my bank account last night. Man, I am going to stimulate the economy so hard... almost makes up for my lack of employment, sigh.