“In March of this year, the world was staring down the barrel of a Great Depression,” Rudd said in an interview here last week. “This is a case study in bringing the world back from the brink, and it was American leadership from President Obama that was the key to that.” Rudd is Obama’s political kinsman not only because they are philosophically in tune but also because the 51-year-old Australian’s election in November 2007 foreshadowed Obama’s own.

The leader of the center-left Labor Party, Rudd ousted one of George W. Bush’s best friends, conservative Prime Minister John Howard, by riding the same theme of change and the same generational tide that carried in his American friend.

Yet if Rudd praises Obama, he also praises Bush for acting swiftly when the global economy began coming apart in the fall of 2008. As Rudd put it in a speech to the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue, Bush acted in dire circumstances, at a moment when “global financial flows ground to a virtual halt.” In fact, for all the flaws in the execution of the bank bailout program, Bush’s willingness last fall to put the urgent need for massive action above his own ideological proclivities is likely to go down as the most enduringly constructive act of his presidency.