Late in life Bertrand Russell recalled attending a dinner party as a precocious 12-year-old, and realising to his horror that the only other male guest was William Gladstone – thus obliging him to spend an agonising hour or so entertaining the gnarled Prime Minister after the ladies had withdrawn.

But those 60 minutes would have been a honeymoon night in Aruba compared to the pre-lecture pleasantries between ex-PM Howard and the professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University, for that eminent office is occupied by none other than Stuart Macintyre, historian of the Communist Party of Australia, ex-Red himself, and libellously accused for 20 years of being part of a lynch mob out to get Geoffey Blainey in the 80s.

It was Blainey’s comments about Asian immigration which, taken up by Howard, decisively lost him party leadership, with one newspaper thundering that the remarks had made him unfit to be prime minister. The Australian, it was called. What happened to it? (What indeed.)

Mind you, since even Blainey came out to criticise Howard in the dying days of the ancient regime – for politicising a history book prize by giving it to a partisan, less than great work – maybe most of the conversation was of the “Blainey what a c—” variety, although I’m sure Stuart would not have replied to that assertion.

Anyway, Howard used the occasion to hoe into the apology, and with the grey man no longer having to pay heed to the “doctors wives” (oh aren’t we oh so politically incorrect! We just don’t care!) he can pretty much say what he likes, suggesting that Aborigines join the mainstream – i.e. dissolve their remote communities and move to white cities, presuming they’re allowed to make a reservation.

And yes, dear emailer, I don’t want to write about the rodent either but at the moment he’s doing a last tour through the last place that will actually listen to him before the possibility that his beloved White House is taken over by a woman or a black man, and while he does I will do everything to cover it, short of actually going to hear him speak.

Howard’s visit was below the college lacrosse results in the press, and another old bastion of white resentment – the entire state of Mississippi – will know the feeling, as its first chance in decades to actually record a vote that matters is pushed off the page by the amazing Eliot Spitzer story. As Stephen Mayne reported yesterday, the racket busting governor is less a straight arrow than a spare prick, busted through the wiretap of an international high class hooker service called Club Emperor VIP, offering ladies at $1000-$5000 an hour, which turned up a conversation between the Club and a client known as Number Nine. “9” who earnestly discussed rates for “Kristen” before arranging a date and the agency – as one commentator gleefully noted – put Kristen on the cheap train to town.

Number Nine was of course the governor, though he didn’t use his own name – in a touch of real class, he called himself “George Fox”, the name of a prominent Democrat fundraiser and friend until yesterday.

Much of the scandal has centred on the fact that Spitzer not only had an account with the agency, but was particularly enamoured with Kristen, a classy looking blonde, which affliction for a man is not so much corruption as 50.

All the networks called the sting “ironic”, but it doesn’t even meet the minimal Morrisette standards of irony. It’s simply a result of the regular seperation politicians have to make between the private and public self. Governor Spitzer is simply another bloke walking around, of distant relation to Eliot, approaching 50 in a hotel room, waiting for a hooker he’s fallen in love with. Of course preachers get caught blowing boys in toilets. Of course wowsers of the general public’s naughty pleasures are knocking the top off it in private for a reduced fee. Best suggested headlines so far: “Elliott Mess”, and “Spitzer Swallowed”.

Spitzer is trying to ride it out, but the heavies are on him to announce his resignation within hours. And attention inevitably turns to the junior senator from New York state, Hillary Clinton, who has received Spitzer’s blessing. Photos of Hillary with him, shaking hands etc are hardly fatal – there’s already one or two pics of her with a world-standard gormless shagger. But it ain’t gonna help. And only a fraction of the transcripts have been released. What else is lurking there that would portray the New York Democrats as a nest of old-skool machine politicians? Will this help blunt the problems Obama is having with his Rezko slum-lord association? Or simply hurt the Democrats even more than the Michigan-Florida chaos is doing?

Currently with 35% of vote counted, Bama is leading Hills 55% to 45% in the swampy state, which was about what I predicted on Monday. If it dips below that for ‘Bama it’ll be a less than good result. But the place would have to resegregate the schools to draw any attention from the Spitzer-roast (high five!) going on across all networks. 

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW