Carr caught in US political crossfire

Foreign Minister Bob Carr has been caught in the crossfire of the US presidential election, after a meeting with Republican hopeful Mitt Romney.

Senator Carr has been in the US for four days for talks with former US secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice.

But before boarding a plane back to Sydney today, he had a meeting with the presumptive Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Governor.

The meeting was reported to be brief, warm and friendly and mainly to discuss Afghanistan, southeast Asia and the Australian-US alliance.

The high level chat, at San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel, also touched on Senator Carr and Governor Romney's shared Olympic organising history.

So imagine Senator Carr's surprise when he gets off the plane tomorrow to find out that Governor Romney has been using the meeting as political ammunition against his presidential rival.

According the Republican presidential hopeful, Senator Carr also touched on America's economic vulnerabilities during their chat.

"I met today with the Foreign Minister of Australia. He said something, and I said 'Can I quote you?' and he said yes. He said, 'America is just one budget deal away from ending all talk of America being in decline,''' Governor Romney told attendees at a fundraiser today.

''And this idea of America in decline, it was interesting [Carr] said that, he led the talk of America being in decline. See that's not talk we hear about here as much as they're hearing  there. And if they're thinking about investing in America, entrepreneurs putting their future in America, if they think America's in decline they're not gonna do it."

The repeated comments can be seen as a not-so veiled attack on US President Barack Obama and his handling of the economy.

But despite headlines today such as ''Mitt Romney Gets Grim Warning From Australian Leader'', a spokesman for Senator Carr says Australia's Foreign Minister was talking up the US economy, not talking it down.

That is, any fears that Australia's foreign minister has been overseas criticising a key alliance parnter, would be misplaced.

''That interpretation is not correct,'' the spokesman told The National Times.

Indeed, Senator Carr has used a similar phrase about the US budget before - on people such as former World Bank chief Robert Zoellick - to indicate his belief in the US economy's strengths and potential.

The comments did not get as many attention at the time. Then again, Mr Zoellick was not running for president.

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