You get a whole new perspective on the debate when you watch it via second-rate feed at noon on the other side of the world. Two blurry, virtually identical figures, jerking around like puppets, words frequently making no sens-
Ah. I have just been informed that the vision we were getting was full broadcast quality.
Rudd’s obvious win on both form and content, as judged by three experts and two worms (the digital and the Australian’s representative), the blog feedback and the eyes in your head, will not only put a floor under a pretty bad first week, it may also drain Howard of such energy as remains.
Howard is feast or famine energy-wise. Give him the smallest of breaks – the Chaser death song – and he will suck it dry and lick the rim. He makes his own luck from almost nothing. His comeback on the Chaser’s pretty weak rabbit-costume morning walk invasion – ‘you guys are funnier when you attack people who are alive’ or somesuch – not only kept going the image of Howard as the defender of common decency but also made him funnier than The Chaser, at which point, gang, it’s time to go back and finish your law degrees.
But once on the slide, Howard is a pure example of Wilfred Bion’s theory of the ‘container-contained’ – put (very over)simply that in a 2 person relationship (and especially if its unequal), you can either relieve someone’s anxiety by taking all their crap from them, or you can give them the wobbles by projecting all yours into them.
From 1996 to 2004 Howard was up against men who were more anxious than he was – Beazley, who didn’t want to be PM, and Latham, who spent part of the campaign re-fathering himself. Rudd shows signs of knowing who he is (good thing someone does) and in the face of that, Howard, in his heart, is just a newsreel of the Don and a Genoa armchair – sentimental attachments knocked to bits by bad going.
The public get this, which is why ‘the worm’ reacted to the candidates, not their message – going up or down virtually the moment Rudd or Howard began to speak. They just don’t seem to want any part of him.
Was there anything Howard could have done to mitigate this? With 20-20 hindsight, he could have started the week with a couple of middle-weight policies – climate change and more family payments or somesuch – and held the phantom tax giveway till Friday.
As it’s becoming clear that Rudd’s team are the usual pack of Unity numbskulls who are staying alive more by inertia than judgment, such a bombshell might have kept burning all the way to Sunday, night – as the latter day Breakfast-Creek-gang-that-can’t-shoot-straight continued with their principal obsession of clawing back 1% or 2% of primary votes from the Greens.
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Given such anti-talent as gave us Labor Week One, you’d be a fool to write Howard off. His self may be wobbly, but his political Id is strong, and will keep searching for anything to attach to. It is driven by the fact that he has nothing else, is nothing else than politics – the mask ate the face a long time ago. Also retirement means 24/7 with Janette. We’re lucky there’s an election at all.
He will try to create a division – a la the Chaser song- on every front that he can, hoping against hope that the deep lack of desire at the core of Rudd Labor to actually do anything with power, will produce more lacklustre campaigning. And the swing has to be really on to give Rudd a safety zone. And there’s always the possibility of 9/11 II…..
But with all the kryptonite that Rudd pumped into the man of Steel last night, the Coalition’s job just got a lot harder. He’s going to need a Saturday matinee cliffhanger turnaround to get out of this one.