The stilted unidiomatic bureaucratese, the command of multiple languages which you hope is stronger than his command of his own, a lack of physical co-ordination, an overblown sense of self-importance and ability, extreme risk aversion, confusion of mind, and complete conviction he is always right in contradiction of the facts.
It’s Kevin Rudd and it’s also C-3PO the protocol droid in the Star Wars Trilogy.
It came to me as I was watching his performance on the 7.30 Report last night.
During the interview with Leigh Sales Rudd burped and bumbled his way around a series of questions, including the question of whether he had been “wrong” in his original policy on illegal boat arrivals.
I know what they think out in Western Sydney and the outer-suburbs of Brisbane, and all he had to do was admit he was wrong, even if he didn’t believe it, to convince us that perhaps there was a “new (real) Kevin”. Even a dishonest confession would show he’s at least learned to think strategically.
Labor’s problem was never just with the leader, it is the whole team, including the hired help, and their lack of competence, or control over their leader, was in evidence last night.
Rudd did the interview from his own office which was cluttered with bric-a-brac (including a poorly draped Australian flag and some hard-to-identify personal photos) and had a chintzy liberty print feel to it. It seemed to be a reflection of the state of his mind .
This is not a set that any competent media officer would have allowed, Rudd should have been in the ABC studio, if not in Sydney, then somewhere else. His interaction with Sales would have been better, and it would have sent the subliminal message that Rudd was engaged, not aloof and hiding behind the trappings of office and family.
During the course of the interview he invited Tony Abbott to beat him up, challenging him to debate him on the economy at the Press Club, and declaring that Abbott has nothing to fear because he is a “boxing blue” and Rudd is a “kid in the library with glasses”.
Come in spinner – not. I don’t think Abbott is going to fall for the Brer Rabbit gambit, even though I think there is a good chance that he would beat Rudd. In fact Rudd is trying to have an each way bet – if he beats Abbott, then it’s brains beats brawn, and if he loses, hopefully it is so bloody that electors are turned off Abbott.
Abbott’s right. The test of Rudd’s mettle is an election campaign, not a series of debates at the Press Club. The challenge also betrays Rudd’s insecurity in his own “popularity”.
Challenging an opponent to a debate is the mark of the under-dog politician playing catch-up politics. The leader who is comfortably ahead doesn’t want to risk his dominance by putting it to the test in a gladiatorial arena.
Faced with the Ruddbot, Abbott would be best placed to play R2D2, the little robot that could, and did.
Or just ignore him altogether.
We’ll see Abbott on the 7.30 report tonight and be able to see how they shape up.
My bet is that after seeing both of them, even many of those who like Rudd, will start to decide that if you’re choosing someone to play poker against leaders of the world like Barack Obama, Xi Jinping, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, or even Frank Bainimarama, the protocol robot is not your man.
P.S. For another, equally damaging take on Rudd, check out Wednesday Night Fever from last night.