Things were going so well for Tony Abbott — Labor’s polling was in the dumps, people were finally beginning to talk about him as a viable contender for the nation’s top job… and then he went on The 7:30 Report and had this exchange with Kerry O’Brien:

TONY ABBOTT: Well, again Kerry, I know politicians are gonna be judged on everything they say, but sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark, which is one of the reasons why the statements that need to be taken absolutely as gospel truth is those carefully prepared scripted remarks.

KERRY O’BRIEN: So every time you make a statement, we have to ask you whether it’s carefully prepared and scripted or whether it’s just something on the fly? No, seriously; this is a very serious question.

TONY ABBOTT: But all of us, Kerry, all of us when we’re in the heat of verbal combat, so to speak, will sometimes say things that go a little bit further.

The ALP vultures immediately started circling, labeling him “phoney Tony” and launching an attack ad within the day:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS2V7S7Iv-Y[/youtube]

So is the Mad Monk Parliament’s resident Pinocchio? Or are all politicians just a pack of liars, and this is just more of his characteristic “plain talking”?

In yesterday’s Crikey Daily Mail, Bernard Keane’s said that the “all politicians lie” theme is just a distraction, and the issue isn’t so much that Abbott admitted to lying, it was that he was so easily cornered and quartered by a routine media interview:

What would Abbott be like representing Australia in international negotiations? What would he be like dealing with business? It’s not only the media that subjects political leaders to pressure.

The rest of the nation’s pundits haven’t foregone the opportunity to lay in the boot, too. Here’s how they see it today:

The Australian

Editorial: Time for Tony Abbott to get his story straight

It is simply not good enough for the alternative prime minister to admit he is so ill-disciplined that the voters can only rely on what he puts in writing, because his spoken word is not always his bond.

Samantha Maiden: Abbott’s political harakiri

… the Liberal leader appears to have found the line between political chastity and promiscuity an irresistible one.

Dennis Shanahan: Labor lets loose its dogs of war

Labor ran the dual risk of appearing too eager and too febrile in their Abbott attacks

Mirko Bagaric: Honesty not always the best policy position

We should be less embarrassed about lying and ditch the delusion that dishonesty is always bad.

Sydney Morning Herald

Editorial: The truth and Tony Abbott

Abbott wants the public to let him open the door to Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, where past statements can be finessed to suit the politics of the moment.

Lenore Taylor: Even the honest ones find it hard to lie straight in bed

Is it any wonder the latest Nielsen poll shows about 40 per cent of voters think neither leader is trustworthy?

Jacob Saulwick: Tony in good company in the erroneous rogues’ gallery

The novelty of Tony Abbott is not that he exaggerates or stretches the truth – but that he admits to it.

The Age

Shaun Carney: Casualty of verbal combat

Abbott did not make a gaffe on the 7.30 Report.

Courier Mail

Dennis Atkins: Difficult to know where Abbott stands after ‘lies’ concession

The messy business that Abbott let loose with his interview on The 7.30 Report is not doing the Liberal leader, or any politician, any good.

Daily Telegraph

Malcolm Farr: Tony Forked-Tongue or Up-Front Abbott?

Much of the electorate will be amused by this latest confession, but many Liberal supporters will be furious.

Sue Dunlevey: A big black hole in Abbott’s credibility

… Abbott destroyed his credibility

Herald Sun

Phillip Hudson: Fibbing is fair dinkum?

Abbott might have given Labor an almighty free kick, but the match is not over

Andrew Bolt: Gospel gaffe will take toll

It’s Shakespearean: Abbott is both the Liberals’ best hope and their greatest danger.

ABC

Jonathan Green: Moment of truth gives the game away

Modern politics, like a piece of impromptu theatre, involves a suspension of disbelief. Tony as good as told us last night.

Elsewhere…

Dominic Knight: Tony Abbott, pants on fire!

Yesterday, he exposed himself not as a habitual liar, as someone who makes policy on the run, and as a result, contradicts himself

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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