Flap Flap, Squawkety squawk. Itâs the sound of feathers flying, and wings beating with nervous Nelly intensity, as the Rodent transmogrifies in the space of a week to a chicken hawk thatâs more chicken than hawk.
After spending the better part of last week trying to brush the soot from his carbon caked credibility – trying to imply, without actually saying it, that wilfully ignoring a huge threat to our long term prosperity for more that five years, was in Australiaâs national interest – the Prime Minister has spent the last few days in a rapidly escalating drama on his other great strategic failure, Iraq.
It started with the Obama incident. Howard served the ball over the net attempting to ace Rudd, but found to his surprise and amazement, Barack Hussein Obama (as Gerard Henderson likes to call him) at the other end. Obama employed a sizzling return that left the Prime Minister, whose ball skills have always been a national embarrassment, looking spectacularly âuncoâ.
Keen to demonstrate to a Party room thatâs become a little edgy and uppity of late, that heâs not lost his touch, Mr. Howard served again – this time with his eye firmly on Rudd at the other end. He might have had his eye on Rudd, but did he keep his eye on the ball? Well, Letâs see.
It was only yesterday that Mr. Howardâs game plan included a descent to personal abuse. âDoesnât have the gutsâ, was the phrase employed. Not of Lathamesque quality granted, but for Mr. Methodist Moderation, a veer into the vernacular that is quite out of character. A sign of desperation?
Rudd was âgutlessâ apparently for not laying on the table, in intricate detail, the ALP plans for troop withdrawal. That was so that he, Howard, could pick holes in it and deflect attention from his embarrassing Obama gaffe and the focus it put on his own plans to tread stoically down the road to failure, against the better judgement of the Australian people.
Ruddâs response in Parliament was an inspired riposte. âPrime Minister letâs have the debate on national telly, letâs debate your Iraq strategy, and your decisions in front of the Aussie viewing publicâ, he said. Or something like it.
Howard cowered. He cringed. And in his best mealy mouthed voice, as a way of deflecting the challenge that would be a loser for him, refused, and instead said Mr. Rudd âcan ask me any question he likes, anytime this parliament sitsâ.
That was yesterday. Today Kevin Rudd accepted Mr. Howardâs challenge. This morning, at the commencement of Parliament, Kevin Rudd moved to have an hour long debate about Iraq, right there and then – in the Parliament – as Mr. Howard had suggested. It wasnât just an opportunity for Mr. Howard to answer questions, but to ask them of Mr. Rudd as well â What could be fairer?
Seconds after today’s parliamentary sitting began, Mr Rudd moved to suspend the House of Representatives program for an hour so he could debate the prime minister on Australia’s involvement in the war in Iraq.
But Mr. Howard chickened out. He squibbed it. The motion was defeated on Party lines. No surprise of course, but itâs clear that Mr. Howard will not take on Mr. Rudd in the field, in open, even handed conflict on this matter. Mr. Howard instead, wants an artillery war conducted in the media, where he can plot and scheme with his advisers, and deploy his media proxies to greatest advantage.
He doesn’t need a televised debate with me to say that, all he needs to do is to go out and front the media and say ‘in my view if coalition forces were withdrawn in March of next year the following would be the consequences’.”
Already Andrew Bolt has reported for duty, and the rest of them wonât be far behind.
But what will he actually do? Won’t say. And the consequences? Won’t discuss.
Well clearly Rudd is prepared to discuss it, but not in a forum most favourable to Howard and his pet Rottweilers. Mr. Howard canât cut it in a real time interchange on this one. He needs his scheming space. Rudd is looking very much like a canny political operator, and Mr. Howard, out of his comfort zone for a change, is looking more and more like a chook without a head.