Hyperbole cuts both ways in politics. Sometimes it works, sometimes it – well, think of the PM’s comments about Barack Obama. What seems to determine which way it cuts? The people who transmit the message. The media.

Take Kevin Rudd – and his “threat to national security” remarks. First he said “Mr Howard himself represents a national security risk for this country in the future. Why? He’s refused to say that he’s learnt any lessons from this Iraq debacle and he’s the man who says that Vietnam still stands up as a success of his party’s foreign policy.”

He then toned it down to a claim that the PM was “looming as an increasing risk for Australia’s long-term national security”. 

When the PM was told about Rudd’s remarks, he responded: “Really? I think he’s getting a bit full of himself.” Yet the opposition leader seems to have largely got away with it. O tempora, o mores!

The PM may be out of touch. He may be finding it hard to get traction. It may look as if Tony Blair has wrongfooted him over Iraq. But is he stupid? Surely not.

Yet The Sydney Morning Herald opens its main Iraq yarn today:

After warning that any withdrawal of coalition troops from Iraq would create catastrophe, embolden terrorists and increase the bloodshed, the Howard Government has described a significant pullout of British forces as “good sense”.

US Vice President Dick Cheney arrives in Australia today. The political focus on Iraq and the focus on David Hicks will be even keener.

Unless the PM is really ready for what Dame Edna would call “a home for the bewildered”, surely we have to expect some announcements.

Peter Fray

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