Personal relationship between Bush and McCallum questioned

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Australia's major newspapers are highlighting the personal relationship between the U.S. President George Bush and his newly nominated Australian ambassador, Robert McCallum. Australian reporters Phillip Hudson of The Age, and Mark Coultan of the Sydney Morning Herald, have written stories examining the Bush/McCallum friendship which allegedly dates back to 39 years ago when they were inducted into the Skull and Bones society.

The Australian ambassadorship post had been vacant for 13 months, which former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer said was an "unforgivable" delay. The McCallum nomination on March 11 would replace the former ambassador Tom Schieffer who left the post in February 2005. United States President George W. Bush nominated McCallum on March 11th.,2006

McCallum is an associate attorney-general for the Department of Justice and previously represented big tobacco companies at an Atlanta law firm. He also has a master's degree from Oxford University and is a Rhodes Scholar as well as having a bachelor's degree from Yale.

The two Australian papers report on activities of Bush and McCallum in their younger years, and the Sydney Morning Herald alleges that personal connections were instrumental in the career advancements of both men.

McCallum also made news last year when he overrode U.S. Justice Department lawyers who had been handling the government's tobacco racketeering trial for the past 5 years. McCallum ordered the lawyers to reduce the penalties sought at the close of the nine-month trial from $130 billion to $10 billion, angering some of the trial lawyers to the point where it is reported they threatened to quit their jobs. McCallum said the reduction was necessary as a matter of law.