You don’t get a vote, mate.

We’ve heard versions of this in every election since 2001. I see no reason to believe it won’t continue for years to come, but I’m amazed that it’s crossed oceans.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard on Monday denied having a political motive when he said that terrorists in Iraq should be praying for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to become president of the United States.

Howard, a supporter of President Bush in the Iraq war, insisted his criticism of Obama was in Australia’s national interest because Obama’s plan to withdraw U.S. combat troops in Iraq by March 31, 2008, would represent a defeat for Australia’s most important military ally.

In an interview Sunday, Howard said that Obama’s plan meant al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq should “be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats” in presidential elections in November 2008.

Prime Minister Howard has a point to make. I disagree with it, but there is room for debate. Let’s have it.

Instead, he chose the easy, sound-bite route. The terrorists want Obama! Vote for right-thinking candidates, you left-leaning liberty-hating Americans! That’s a smear tactic straight out of the authoritarian handbook. Pretend like there’s no debate to be had, declare the truth, and admonish anyone who disagrees. When confronted on it in a free-thinking society, deny that you actually smeared anyone. And you certainly didn’t intend to smear anyone.

I’m not buying it.