In our 24 May sealed section we challenged our subscribers:
THIS POLLIE WALKS INTO A BOOKSTORE…
Some pollies spend their travel allowance on the mortgage, or the
girlfriend/boyfriend. Others have more cerebral pursuits in mind:
Scene: Trendy Canberra bookstore ‘A Suitable Book’, this morning.
Customer: Heavyweight pollie.
*’Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow’ (Adam Zamoyski);
*’Atlanta and the War’ (Garrison);
*’The Iraq War’ (John Keegan);
The customer also recommended to attentive staff a book by ex-Democrat
presidential candidate, General Wesley Clark: ‘Against all Enemies’.
All told, TA well spent.
The question for curious Crikey subscribers: who was the pollie?
(a) Alexander Downer
(b) Senator Bill Heffernan
(c) Trish Draper
(d) Bob Carr
(e) Kim Beazley
(f) Mark Latham
With a genuine plastic collectible Crikey souvenir pen for the most
creative answer, competition has been hot. Read on for a selection of
“Strikes me that your bookshop customer had to be someone with lots of
time on his hands, nowadays. And an American Civil War buff ( ref. book
choice #2). Thus: ‘Bomber’ Beasley.”
“It would have to be the former defence minister, leader of the
opposition, military strategy thesis-bearing Rhodes scholar and
one-time teenage missionary who sought to convert the heathen, warring
Hindus of India to peaceful Christian values yet for whom a love of war
and all its ‘fire and brimstone’ has been a life-long passion: Kim
“None of the above. Senator George ‘Dixie’ Brandis. He’s gotta be the Dixie part of the Mason-Dixon line.”
Clive chips in:
“It has to be Alexander Downer for the following reasons:-
a) He has realised that he probably should learn something about the rest of the world.
b) He wants to find out what happens when you invade (liberate) another
country that is a long way from your base and that gets cold
c) He needs some tips on how to rebuild a city after it has been destroyed by an invading (liberating) army.
d) He has forgotten why we (the coalition of the willing) are in Iraq,
(things are getting so messy!) and had to read up on what was happening
as he may have to give a speech on the subject, or use something other
than white house rhetoric to answer questions.”
“Judging by the Civil war title, this rules out anyone other than a
member of the Labor Right. That leaves Kim Beazley, Mark Latham and
Bob Carr. However Mark Latham shows little interest (or understanding)
of military history and the fact that the other two books are also
about military history and not philosophy rules out Bob Carr. This
leaves Australia’s Uber-Hawk, Kim Beazley.”
“Despite the decoys you offered as answers, the pollie must be Bob
Katter who bought the books in order to find out where Moscow, Atlanta
and Iraq are.”
Mike makes mention:
“Was it Trish Draper swotting for her own private war to hold Makin?”
“My response to your question …
Alexander Downer – Inadequate IQ to be able to read non-picture books. No.
Senator Bill Heffernan – Functionally illiterate. Sees no point in original thought or alternative views. No.
Trish Draper – Her mind currently very much elsewhere. No.
Bob Carr – Unlikely to be in Canberra with any spare time, far less shopping in Canberra. No
Mark Latham – Too busy with his and other people’s children to be idly shopping in bookstores. No.
Kim Beazley – Plenty of time on his hands and a history buff too boot. Jackpot.”
“Alexander Downer has not read a book since his student days… he gets
a synopsis of books provided by his staff (and does not read them);
Senator Bill Heffernan (suppressed laughter); Trish Draper has to have
someone to read to her; Bob Carr has already read these titles and
critiqued them at the Writers Festival; Mark Latham is currently
reading the biographies of Keating and Hawke and hoping not to learn
anything… So that leaves Kim.”
“‘Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow’?” asks Scott. “More like Kim
Beazley’s fatal march on the ALP leadership – aka ‘A bridge too far’.”
“Tough call, but I think I’ve nailed it.
Couldn’t be Downer. He would not have bought “The Iraq War”, he knows
everything there is to know on the subject. What can the Defence
Editor of London’s Daily Telegraph possibly add to Lord Downer of
Baghdad’s deep and comprehensive understanding of the situation? And he
wouldn’t have bought it as a gift, would he, not from his travel
Couldn’t be Heffernan. Let’s be honest, It has yet to be conclusively
proven that he can actually read. Apparently he believes it is a
talent associated mainly with High Court judges, and we all know what they are about, don’t we?
Couldn’t be Draper. When approached, she is reported to have said “I
don’t have time to read when travelling, if you get my drift.”
Couldn’t be Carr. His love of American History is well known, of
course, but heck, ‘Atlanta and the War’ was published way back in 1995.
Why would he pick it off the shelf in 2004? Anyway, he wouldn’t need
his own copy. Keegan had insisted that Bob review his early proofs, to
check for errors of both fact and nuance.
Coudn’t be Latham. Apart from the fact that he didn’t write any of them
himself, it’s pretty clear that you couldn’t read any of them to
So it has to be Beazley.”
A pollie postulates:
“I can guarantee you it wasn’t a West Australian MP!” Bernie Masters, Member for Vasse.
“Atlanta and the War” probably hasn’t reached WA bookshops yet, and
he’d be interested in the part that describes how the Atlanta
campaign furthered Abe Lincoln’s re-election strategy. You can’t give up hope, after all.
Zamoyski’s description of the privations of the common soldier to and
from Moscow in ‘Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow’ would strike a
chord too. All that effort, so little reward.
Keegan’s ‘Iraq War’ is slightly more difficult to pin on him,
especially as “our man in the bookshop” had obviously already read
Clark’s inside story in ‘Against All Enemies’. We all know that in
April 2003 Beazley said: “It will be the aftermath of the war where the
real political costs of this will become apparent, and I believe the
political effects of this are disastrous for Australia.” Which was
But then, earlier this year he was party to exonerating Howard from
“sexing up” intelligence reports. Clearly, with his choice of Keegan’s
book to balance Clark’s, he is still intent on being thoughtful,
informed, reasonable and fair. No wonder his political life has been so
unspectacular – Kim Beazley.”
Charles V writes:
“I don’t know how you’re supposed to be creative on a multiple choice
question, but Kim Beazley is the only politician I’ve actually seen
in a bookstore (Reading’s, Carlton, a few years ago), & they sound
like his sort of books, so I’d be pretty confident the answer is (e).
Plus the reference to “heavyweight”, which sort of gives it away.”
A political editor weighs in:
“Beazley, by a country mile.”
“Logically, it’s a military historian. I can’t think of any logical
answer except Slim Kim! Which is probably entirely wrong then…”
Bill buys in:
“Has to be heavyweight Kim Beazley because:
He has the intellectual capacity to absorb the messages of each of the books.
He has the time to read and think about the issues.
He is a strategic thinker and would translate the lessons in the book into policy to benefit the Australian political scene.”
Michael makes his mark:
“It must have been Kim Beazley! No one in their right mind from the
coalition would be recommending such a thought-provoking book as
‘Against all Enemies’. With so many heretical suggestions – i.e: Bush’s
invasion of Iraq being the single most galvanising act of anti-American
propaganda imaginable. The purchase of Napoleon and other war related
titles suggest an interest in military history (potentially an ex
-Defence minister) so either Carr or Beazley. But who would be the most
likely, in Canberra, with the time to engage in such interesting
reading….of course the big KIM.”
“It’s gotta be Beazley.
1. He has a fascination for all things military, especially American Civil War (the Atlanta Garrison)
2. Due to his current medical condition, he has to lie down 20 hours a day. What else can he do with that time but read?
3. No Liberal would recommend a book by a Democrat, and Latham isn’t
that cerebral. Besides, an Opposition Leader wouldn’t have time to read
anything that wasn’t work related.”
“From the top down:
It couldn’t be Alexander Downer. These tomes are far too serious for
his feeble intellect. Anyway, if he did read any of these books it
wouldn’t do him any good as evidenced by his support for Iraq. Anyone
who knows a touch of history could point to previous adventures in that
area of the world that have gone seriously pear shaped over the
centuries for Europe and the West. Do the Crusades and the British
occupation of Iraq in the early twentieth century give a hint? Alex
hasn’t read, studied or profited by any historical musings at all. He
would not have bought these books!
Bill Heffernan? Come on now… this bloke’s so thick he probably gets
his wife to do up his shoe laces each morning. Anyway, there is nothing
there about homosexuality and its supposed evils so that definitely
rules the heifer out.
Trish Draper? Just what can one say about this one? Logic is definitely
not her strong suit and the study of history does demand a
certain logic although the interpretations can differ wildly. But facts
are at the core of the historical debate as is hard evidence like
Guidelines on Overseas Travel, sadly misinterpreted (sic!) by Trish.
Trish baby has ignored both the facts and the supporting documentation
in her current imbroglio. Therefore, the study of history wouldn’t
interest her one iota. Definitely not her!
Bob Carr? Now here is a likely lad. A known aficionado of the American
Civil War and general history buff to boot. However, what counts
against him in this guessathon is that he probably has every book
written about the Civil War (or close enough to it) and
therefore wouldn’t be buying this one. However, this is only a guess
and he is my strong second running candidate. Anyway, Bob is a lithe,
whip like character, not at all heavy weight other than a modest middle
aged spread though he does have heavy weight political
Kim Beazley? Yes, I reckon it is our Kimbo. He is heavyweight both in
terms of his physique and his political gravitas. He is a known history
buff and he has the intelligence and the time to read this impressive
array of literature. Definitely Kimbo!
Mark Latham. For me, the jury is still out on Mark. He is still an
unknown as far as I’m concerned (though anything is better than the
serial liar we have as our leader right now!). But his area is
Economics and social justice, not history. In my mind that weakens him
as a potential leader as in my humble opinion a good leader knows
that what went on in the past influences the present and therefore a
wide knowledge of history doesn’t hurt a political leader at all. In
fact it enhances them. Therefore, not Mark but maybe give him time and
the subtle influence of Kimbo and Bob and we may yet see him buying
this type of book.”
“My guess is the pollie was Kim Beazley. Why? A process of elimination…
1. Trish Draper doesn’t want to be seen at the moment – by anyone. The
last thing she wants is to be seen to be spending TA on books.
Besides, I’d say she is in a frailed mess at the moment with little, if
any time, for intellectually-stimulating reading. Strikes her out.
2. The customer was recognised by the attentive staffer at ‘A Suitable
Book’. Most people who don’t work at the House on the Hill wouldn’t
recognise Bill Heffernan or Bob Carr. Stikes them both out.
3. The attentive staffer at ‘A Suitable Book’ recommended a book by
Wesley Clark. Other than you or I, few book store staff would have
the cheek to recommend a book by someone who opposed the war in Iraq,
especially to a Senior Government Minister. So Alexander Downer is out.
Besides, Downer is too busy dealing with Hicks and ripping off the East
4. I doubt that Iron Mark has ever read or been that interested in
academic pursuits like Napoleon’s March on Moscow. He is more
interested in Aussie battlers and winning the next election. No reading
5. So it was Kim. According to a ACA report a few weeks back poor Kim
is spending most of his time on his back at the moment due to a rare
illness involving spinal fluid. He has lots of time to read. Also as an
ex-Rhodes scholar, Kim Beazley would understand and be interested in
books like Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow, Atlanta and the War, and
would have the critical faculties to read a book like John Keegan’s The