Former Carter Speechwriter Fails to Intimidate Wallaby

Idyllic Tasmanian vacation marred by 'spaniel-sized kangaroo'
James Fallows, Wallaby / AP, Flickr user wwarby

James Fallows, Wallaby / AP, Flickr user wwarby


James Fallows, the former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter who once lived in China for a couple of years, failed to intimidate an encroaching wallaby during a recent trip to Freycinet National Park in Tasmania, according to an article in the July/August issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

Fallows and his wife were sitting on the island beach, some 150 miles from the Australian coast, when the famed journalist suggested that his wife pose for a photograph.

“I asked her to hold still so I could take pictures of her to send to our family,” Fallows wrote. “As she smiled and posed, over her shoulder I saw a wallaby—essentially a spaniel-sized Kangaroo—making its approach.”

The wallaby was after his wife’s lunch bag, Fallows surmised.

“I faced a dilemma straight out of an Ethics of Journalism course,” added the author of several Atlantic cover stories. “Do I let the story unfold and keep the camera going? Or do I recognize the higher duty to intervene?”

Such weakness was provocative, however, and the wallaby inched closer.

Fallows launched a preventive strike against the hungry marsupial just as the wallaby was about to pounce on the mother of his children.

“I decided the time had come to yell, ‘Hey, get out of here!’ The wallaby stared at me long enough to let me know it was not intimidated.”

The incident recalled the infamous encounter of Fallows’s one-time boss with a “killer rabbit” during a fishing trip in President Carter’s hometown of Plains, Georgia, in April 1979.

Fallows, who judges “travel by the density of the memories it creates,” did not let the marsupial attack ruin his vacation.

“By the standard of sheer unforgettability, the five days my wife and I spent in Tasmania were as rewarding as any trip we have ever made,” he wrote.

Among Fallows’s books is Looking at the Sun: The Rise of the New East Asian Political and Economic System, which trumpeted the successes of Japanese capitalism. It was published in 1995, a few years prior to an economic crash from which Japan has yet fully to recover.

During their stay, the Fallowses also visited the Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA, located outside the Tasmanian capital of Hobart.

“You turn one way and see Roman or Egyptian antiquities; you turn the other and see a piece of kitsch, or an endless row of porcelain casts of genitalia,” Fallows wrote.

“Most American cities seem inelegant,” Fallows added, when compared to “the good-life food-and-wine culture of Sydney and Melbourne, in ‘mainland’ Australia.”

Hobart is a similar case: “A Napa, or a Portland, Maine.”

“We spent our last night there at the Squires Bounty brewpub in the Salamanca dining district,” Fallows reported, “listening to a band from Guam in Hawaiian shirts do convincing covers of Beach Boys songs.”

Fallows is known for his defense of Chas Freeman’s appointment to the National Intelligence Council in 2009. The nomination was later withdrawn after Freeman’s controversial statements on Israel and China came under scrutiny. Freeman blamed the “Israel lobby” for his withdrawal.

Fallows also backed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who had made similar extreme statements about Israel and its U.S. supporters, when he was nominated to his current position earlier this year.

It could not be learned where Fallows will spend his next vacation.