Aussie PM impressed by Obama as a 'good person'

AP News
Posted: Dec 13, 2011 9:40 PM
Aussie PM impressed by Obama as a 'good person'

Australia's prime minister said Wednesday that President Barack Obama impressed her as a "good person" through his acknowledgment of attendants and security staff during his recent visit to Australia.

"I always think the way you can best judge people's attitudes is not necessarily how they treat me, the prime minister of Australia, but how you see them interact with others, and as President Obama moved through Parliament House, he said hello to every attendant and every security guard he walked past," Gillard told Sydney Radio 2SM.

"He doesn't have to do that _ nothing makes him do that except being a good person," she said.

Obama made his first visit to Australia as president last month.

Australia has a strong egalitarian tradition, as evidenced by Australians sitting beside taxi drivers as they would a friend rather than ride in the back seat. They typically warm to leaders with a common touch, and media coverage of Obama's visit was almost universally positive.

Gillard, who had previously met Obama in Washington and on the sidelines of various international forums, described him as charming, with a "fabulous, high-voltage smile."

"The private person is very like the public person _ very calm, very measured person, very intelligent, casual in a way," she said.

"Clearly being president of the United States comes with all of this machinery and prestige, but in the middle of that, he is actually one-to-one in his reaction with people a very casual person," Gillard said.

While the Unites States is Australia's most important security ally and Obama remains popular among most Australians, some commentators accused Gillard of appearing too enthusiastic about his visit.

Popular conservative commentator Andrew Bolt wrote that "her bizarre fawning, giggling and breathlessness in his presence made her seem weak, even girlish."

Gillard, who leads the center-left Labor Party, turned 50 in September, a month after Obama.