September 13, 2007

Howard, a retiring man

Howard, a retiring man; Rudd, the class A jerk

Having done his utmost best, with his party’s backing, to turn the electoral cycle of Australian politics into a presidential-style circus of idiocy focused on the populist imagery of ‘everyman’ (for it remains everyman), John Howard’s latest spin (12th September on the 7.30 Report) that leadership is a team thing and ‘that’s a good thing’ marks the end of the politician as we know him.

It appears Howard has been trumped by all-style no-substance Ruddy-good two shoes. Rudd has mastered the presidential game with fervour. Even Rudd’s naughty escapades at a US strip club played in his favour; recasting him as the favoured son of the church to be redeemed. Cast a vote so he can still go to heaven.

Rudd, the man who believes he can smile with his faith, played class jerk at APEC and won them over with his impressive Mandarin. There is much to be said about this; for Rudd stands at the historical conjunction of Australia’s two-timing poise between the US and its client, the Japanese state, and the mightily rising Chinese behemoth.

When Rudd visited La Trobe University in 2005, as then shadow spokesperson on foreign affairs, I asked him at a public lecture what his stance would be regarding Chinese human rights if Labor won office. His response surprised me; he was upset by my criticism that Labor has always been willing to put national interest well above human rights considerations. His response reflected the luxury of the opposition benches, and also the presence of a dim part of the brain that represses memory of East Timor.

Yet, it’s hard to see how a Labor government under Rudd will deviate from the Howard government’s closed door private dialogues on human rights with China.

When the feudalistic and beatific Dalai Lama visited Australia in June, Rudd showed great sensitivity only agreeing to meet with the eminent Presence of the Buddha in Compassion, after Howard intimated he might do so. Presidentialism is also followerism.

Howard’s presidentialism stumped the Labor Party’s committee people: they could not contemplate as leader the articulate Julia Gillard, so they went through a range of potentials such as Crean-Latham-Beazley, succeeding only in proving the law of diminishing returns. Rudd rode to the leadership on a wave of desperation. He is desperation’s destiny.

Howard’s recent declaration of playing with the team holds promise for a more substantive politics, one focused on big questions as opposed to hair-style and grandfatherly comforting and giving succour to religious congregations. At last, I have found something on which I can agree with Howard. Yeah, sure.

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