I hate Howard

The Government’s opponents are routinely accused by its supporters, and even by self-styled sensible centrists, of having a ‘visceral hatred’ of John Howard. Either that or it’s a ‘hysterical hatred ‘, a ‘rabid hatred’ or a ‘deranged hatred’. Because the poets in our midst can’t resist coupling hatred with one of these qualifiers, we’ve come to forget that hatred in fact doesn’t have to be visceral or deranged. Mine, for example, is perfectly measured, proportionate and rational. What’s more, it’s a normal and healthy response to people who exhibit a pattern of despicable behaviour.

This is what Howard said in a “doorstop interview” today:

I just want to start by saying something about this extraordinary call by the Labor Party for the executions of the Bali Bombers not to take place. Mr Rudd’s policy is what Mr McClelland articulated last night and I think it’s quite outrageous of Mr Rudd to try and blame Mr McClelland and also his staff for a policy that he himself supports…

The idea that we would plead for the deferral of executions of people who murdered 88 Australians is distasteful to the entire community and I remind you that earlier this year, Mr Rudd, when Saddam Hussein was executed, expressed his continuing opposition to the death penalty imposed by other countries.

Howard knows perfectly well that Robert McClelland was not talking about diplomatic intervention on behalf of individuals, but rather about creating a forum to advocate policy changes. He also knows that his own position on capital punishment is hopelessly inconsistent, just as McClelland pointed out, but naturally he couldn’t care less about that, since naked expedience is the only criterion that has the slightest relevance to his objectives:

JOURNALIST: Why is the death penalty not okay for Australian citizens but okay for other citizens?

PRIME MINISTER: Well what is appropriate in my country, our country, is something that we decide in this country. But the proposition that we should argue for the deferral of the death penalty when it’s been imposed in relation to the murder of Australians is something I can’t accept and can’t support.

What presposterous gibberish.

Costello was just as bad:

“I think it was a very strange time for the Labor Party, to come in support of the Bali bombers,” he said.

“Let’s not forget, the Bali bombers killed 88 of our fellow Australians.”

Which is not to say that I expect any better from these execrable individuals. What did disappoint me was the ABC’s role in beating up the McClelland Affair to Labor’s disadvantage. On PM Emma Alborici and Peta Donald respectively talked about McClelland being ‘dressed down’ and ‘carpetted’, the news referring to McClelland’s ‘gaffe’, and Kerry O’Brien demanding to know if McClelland is ‘up to the job’ of foreign minister. This approach is of course in keeping with the media’s obsession with party politics as sport, a game in which the substance of what you say is irrelevant, and all that counts is ‘how it will play’ and whether your opponents can exploit it.

So what is McClelland’s crime? Apparently, no matter what his government’s policy is on capital punishment, a Prime Minister has a duty to tacitly support any relatives of terrorism casualties who happen to be baying for blood; and anyone who elects to draw attention to the double standard is showing gross insensitive to the memory of the victims. Do I really need to say it? How bloody absurd.

What about Rudd? Ideally he would have backed McLelland to the hilt. Instead he said:

What I indicated to Robert this morning that his speech last night was insensitive because we are approaching the fifth anniversary of the Bali bombings and for those who have been deeply affected by that personally, it was the wrong time to make the sorts of remarks that he did, particularly in relation to Amrozi.

Perhaps, given the ferocity of the ambush, he had to say something to show he isn’t callous about terrorism victims. He also went on about terrorists rotting in jail, just to prove that he could be as tough as the next man. But to his credit he didn’t say ‘I won’t be shedding any tears for Amrozi’, or give any other sign of tacit approval. Instead, he said what needed saying and and said it with eloquence and authority. He made the distinction, clumsily blurred by O’Brien and others, between diplomatic intervention and mounting a regional campaign, and , most importantly, he pointed out that the Liberals’ policy is the same.

Obviously, in building a consensus around that over time, you would seek to engage regional states and other states in support of that proposition. But that is our overall global approach. Mr Downer has already said in black and white that his government will use every opportunity to consistently raise its objection to the death penalty on the part of any government. You see the Liberals are opposed to the death penalty, we’re opposed to the death penalty. Our concern and my concern about Robert’s speech concerned the deep sensitivities which arise at this time approaching the fifth anniversary of Bali.

Rudd comes out of this episode vastly more creditably than Howard or Costello, and I really hope he beats the creeps.

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Bobalot
Bobalot
14 years ago

I saw that McClelland was taken out of context straight away. I think most people will see through this.

Caroline
14 years ago

Agree James. Utter creeps. This preposterous, (hypocritical) load of gibberish really showed up our leaders for what they are. Are the advocates of capital punishment in Australia so numerous that they need to be pandered to? The idea that Australian lives are far more sacrosanct is odious and the belief that death is a fate worse than life in jail, is at least uninformed.

Observe how these worms will turn as the Bali ‘9’ move further along the row and how the meedja will go ape-shit over their impending fates.

Ken Lovell
14 years ago

It’s starting to look as if the Indonesian government and/or courts will prevent the executions anyway … thus presenting Howard with the exquisite challenge of being outraged at this appeasement of terrorism while simultaneously explaining why they wouldn’t have been executed in Australia either.

I don’t hate Howard. ‘Despise’ is the mot juste.

David
14 years ago

They treat us like fools believing that they can play us like children. Those in the media who think that elections are simply an extension of the football season support such politicians in treating us this way.

I don’t hate Howard either. I am saddened that an intelligent people has voted for a party led by such a small minded, backward looking man.

Patrick
Patrick
14 years ago

I think, James, you are using the word ‘hate’ differently to the right-wing critics. You are using it, it appears to me, in its contemporary and largely meaningless sense.

It would be a sad thing if you really hated Howard.

Guise
Guise
14 years ago

I can’t agree that Rudd came out of this looking any better – and I say that as someone who has been looking forward to him taking a leading role in public life for years. Rudd has taken McClelland to task for re-stating long-held ALP policy, and I would have thought that policy stood no matter how close we are to an election, or what anniversary is coming up, or who has recently been blown up by whom. Rudd’s me-too approach to major issues is, frnakly, starting to grate.

But not enough to make me even think about voting for a party which can make feeble protests against the application of the death penalty to Australian citizens but be quite comfortable with it being carried out on other people. Such as the young and mentally retarded folk of Texas.

They’re all wankers.

Guido
14 years ago

I am surprised, considering the climate at the moment that McClelland went anywhere near the death penalty issue.

So McClelland gives a reasonable speech. How is it reported? Labor will save Bali murderers.

No attempt of sophistication there. You can all go on about the original speech, but the average punter has no time or inclination to get into the details as we can do here.

The tabloid media will go for the simple message. To wit on todays Telegraph:

Mr Rudds efforts were dismissed by Bali survivors including Peter Hughes, who said Mr McClelland was completely out of line.

I dont think he realises that 88 Australians did die and those 88 families, and the survivors, are suffering, he said.

If hes trying to use us as an example to try to get some votes, then he can go to hell.

Louie Zervos, whose sister Louiza was killed in the blasts, was equally angry. Theres about 300 people in my family and they all believe the bombers deserve to be executed, he said.

Im sure if (politicians) daughters were dead, theyd feel that way too.
Tracey Ball, who survived the blasts, said: This is a very touchy subject and they should stop using their own political agenda to make their point now, when it will have the greatest effect.

Their views were echoed by Prime Minister John Howard, who described Mr McClellands sentiments as distasteful.

So there you have it. I think McClelland was ill advised to give the media such a free kick.

This is typical Tampa territory, because it pissed off the battler that may think that Labor is suspect on the terrorist front anyway, and the lefties like us here, because Labor is spineless.

Perfect wedge really. McClelland should have been more careful.

Niall
14 years ago

Well written, James. No, I don’t ‘hate’ Howard. I simply think he’s a wally. An old, out-of-date, lying-rodent, never-to-be-trusted wally.

amused
amused
14 years ago

This is typical Tampa territory, because it pissed off the battler that may think that Labor is suspect on the terrorist front anyway, and the lefties like us here, because Labor is spineless

It is typical Tampa territory because there is simply no vested interest in ensuring that the ‘truth’ of what was said, done and to whom, ever gets an outing. An eight hour news cycle is not conducive to either reflection or debate. The pollies know it, the media know it, and people who care don’t count, and those that don’t care, simply want to express how they feel, which is of course, their right. Put together then, it seems, the ‘ayleets’ are again out of touch with the feelings of ‘mainstream Australia’ ie; all those who haven’t thought much about it, but are invited to feel as though they are the relatives of Bali bombing victims, and are happy to oblige, because not to feel for the relatives of the victims, would indeed be heartless. But wait a minute, just how many people have actually been asked what they think, and about which proposition? Hardly any, and the precise proposition is by now impossible to untangle, and that’s the point.

Howard’s dissembling, and dishonest exposition of the issues is a good example of why so many people despise him, for the third rate populist and lousy little opportunist creep he is. Dishonest with both facts fact and affect, he arouses not hate, but contempt.

wilful
wilful
14 years ago

Absolute scum, both the media and the senior Coalition Ministers for the way in which this has unfolded.

Yeah, hatred is fine with me.

observa
observa
14 years ago

Fair bloody dinkum! You’re all just mightily peed off that your Howard with Hair has taken exactly the same stance as Howard Without, by his dressing down of McClelland. Who the hell are you gunna hate when Howard Without goes I wonder?

David
14 years ago

Now now Observa. Don’t play Howard games. Rudd has not said that his position is the same as Howard’s – on this one at least. Rudd is still supporting ALP policy but is telling McClelland that there is a time and place to talk about things.

McClelland should have know better, no one talks about real policy in election campaigns.

wilful
wilful
14 years ago

See observa, there you go saying the hatred is irrational and will just have to be vented at someone else when Howard disappears. How about you entertain the idea that for a lot of people hatred isn’t a natural condition and we’ll be happy not to have someone to hate?

Of course, I reserve the right to hate Rudd if and when he deserves it.

observa
observa
14 years ago

“Rudd is still supporting ALP policy but is telling McClelland that there is a time and place to talk about things.”
Like right out in front of the Australian people. Yeah, riiiiiight! Now why is it I get this feeling, wall to wall Labor with El Presidente Rudd in charge is going to be lots of fun? Well assuming they can keep it all together under the national spotlight of an election campaign it will be.

observa
observa
14 years ago

This McClelland thingy has provided the Coalition with a golden opportunity to test Rudd’s big talking on how he’ll pick his own cabinet. Basically pick it now so the Australian electorate can assess and compare it properly and see if you’re fair dinkum Rudd, or crawl back to the factional hacks and backroom wheeler dealers for your orders mouse. Expect that Coalition pressure to be unrelenting for Rudd now.

Fred Argy
Fred Argy
14 years ago

In today’s Australian, Professor Allan says that it is “not inconsistent” for Mr.Howard to oppose capital punishment in Australia yet “not condemn it elsewhere”. I happen to agree. As a general principle, we should neither be condemning nor campaigning against the legitimately arrived laws of other democratic countries.

But Mr. Howard has now gone one big step further. He was asked today on Southern Cross Radio how he would react if the Bali bombers were not executed as a result of a challenge in Indonesia’s Constitutional Court. His response was that “that would be very, very bad” – although adding that whenever an Australian is sentenced to death overseas he would argue for remission of the sentence.

Mr. Howard is effectively pleading to the Indonesians to execute the Bali Bombers but keep their hands off our boys. This could be seen as blatantly inconsistent and ethnically discriminatory. It is not a good look for Australia, coming so soon after the comments by Mr. Andrews about African refugees.

Don Wigan
Don Wigan
14 years ago

Very good post, James et al. It brought me back to seeing Howard as a sort of latter-day Richard Nixon. Especially, Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing seemed to carry a lot of similarities with Tampa-Pacific Solution. And the anti-terror stuff with the HUA on communists.

It is not strictly so, of course. Howard owed a lot to Thatcher and Reagan’s agenda-setting styles. And in recent times he seems to have leaned heavily on the Karl Rove-Dubya songbook. But Nixon does come back.

I think of Dick Tuck’s description of the Nixon style:”Deny what isn’t accused; and accuse what cannot be denied.”

Seems to fit the Rodent perfectly.

Guido
14 years ago

Can I also add that I don’t hate Howard. It takes me a lot to hate someone and Howard is nowhere near it.

The problem with Howard is that he is basically a decent human being. But being a politician for too long has warped this decency and has toxically mutated into an effective but very negative tool for political survival.

I wonder whether he realises the damage he is doing to Australia sometimes. When he sends the SAS to stop a tanker with refugees, or when he allows a minister to implicate a ethnic minority as a ‘problem’ he probably thinks that he is doing the proper thing for Australia.

And there lies the reason why Howard is such a negative figure in Australian politics. Because he really believes he is doing the right thing, and he is oblivious to the damage.

But what is even more depressing is that in the last decade the majority of Australians appeared to be oblivious too.

We all get the politicians we deserve.

Tom N.
Tom N.
14 years ago

HOW ‘CONSISTENT’ IS HOWARD’S LATEST POSITION?

In response to a question about the possible remission of the Bali bombers’ death sentences, Howard is quoted on ABC on-line as having said: “I think that would be very, very bad, I accept that many people will think it is inconsistent of me to say and I’ve acknowledged this before… I personally don’t support capital punishment in Australia. It follows from that whenever an Australian is sentenced to death overseas I’ll argue for the remission of the sentence.”

The question that now should be put to Howard is: if an Australian citizen committed a terrorist act overseas and was sentence to death, would he argue for remission of that sentence?

Ruby
Ruby
14 years ago

What of the argument, aired elsewhere, that executing the Bali bastards would achieve their ambition of martyrdom and virgins in paradise? Far better, as the Ruddster said, to let them rot in jail and be taken out in pine boxes.

observa
observa
14 years ago

“I wonder whether he realises the damage he is doing to Australia sometimes.”
Not very likely Guido when you know where ‘Brand Australia’ sits in the world rankings-
http://www.gmi-mr.com/gmipoll/docs/NBI_Q2_2005.pdf

observa
observa
14 years ago

Apparently we’ve raised the bar you’ll notice Guido-

“There are some striking changes in the second edition of the
Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index. Australia, a new entry in
the NBI, has replaced Sweden as the strongest nation brand
in the world. America has moved from fourth to eleventh
place, and Sweden has moved down to fifth place.
However, these changes are not the result of any dramatic
shifts in global public opinion during the last three months;
its mainly because the list of countries tested is more complete.
The NBI now covers 25 countries, and some important
gaps have been filled: France, Canada, Spain, Australia,
Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, New Zealand. (We
have also included several more developing countries with
interesting brand profiles, like Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Poland
and South Africa). The main reason why the US and Sweden
have fallen lower in the list is as a result of several additional
countries being ranked higher. The bar has been
raised.”

Guido
14 years ago

Observa, my point about the damage of Australia was not how ‘the brand is seen overseas’ but within the country. How we see ourselves, how we perceive those who are not in the mainstream, how we treat diversity, how we treat working people who are not skilled enough to negotiate a AWA etc etc.

tssk
tssk
14 years ago

Here’s the thing though.

It’s gibberish but it’s going to win him the election.

Those who don’t have the time to look at the issue deeper will come to the conclusion that the ALP are apologists for terrorists who willfully went out of the way to spit in the faces of the relatives of the Bali dead.

Those who will look at the issue closer will be turned off by Rudd’s pragmatism whether it was required or not.

A double wedge in other words.

Howard can call the election now.

He has this one in the bag.

hc
hc
14 years ago

There is very little to choose between Howard and Rudd. Rudd immediately ran for cover with the usual bout of ‘me-tooism’ whem McClelland was unjustly attacked.

But I agree James that lefties such as yourself do emotionally and irrationally hate Howard. The two parties have never been more similar so your preference for Labor could not be based on rational analysis of policy differences.

The hypocrisy in your position is manifest. You identify the awful behaviour of Rudd in condemning his Shadow Minister for restating Labor policy but attribute sins only to the other side of politics.

Rudd validates the Liberal attack with his grotesque ‘me-tooism’ – not much integrity as Rudd keeps his gaze steadily on that ballet box. How does this kind of dishonesty differ from ‘points scoring’ by the other side?

observa
observa
14 years ago

As a Port man I admire your confidence tssk but…! It’s not exactly Gary Ablett that’s had a twinge at training here and there is a small matter of the contestants overarching percentages to consider.
Generally speaking both leaders have to tread warily around the obvious fact that any referendum would see the death penalty for murder a lay down misere’. That goes double for terrorists. McClelland’s gaffe was in not recognising that obvious fact. Interesting though, how Labor will be a bit tainted by this bipartisan decision of Rudds, while the Coalition will be likewise tainted by Turnbull’s bipartisan decision over Gunn’s pulp mill.

Caroline
14 years ago

Harry, aside from James who possibly posted the title in a fit of pique, and the subject certainly fitted my pique, its certainly eye catching. Pretty well all the lefties here have more or less declared Howard too pathetic to actually hate.

I suspect that in order to fully hate someone with a passion, you need to have experienced the opposite, and have loved them first. And its highly unlikely that anyone in Australia, save Janette and maybe his Mother, has ever fully loved John Howard. Its easy not to like someone, its a much further leap to actually feel hatred for them. The way the term is used in the media, is pretty much on a par with the primary school “I hate you, nanee nah” and then running off giggling.

I hate what John Howard has done to this country, I think his personal ambition has made him evil. However, I don’t hate the man. I couldn’t be bothered wasting the emotional energy on him personally.

clarencegirl
14 years ago

The entire Howard Cabinet have turned into very scary propagandists and, I worry for our society’s future if they are re-elected – think Howard & Co have reached the stage where they really believe their own nonsense.

Doctor Patient
Doctor Patient
14 years ago

I think people are being a little harsh on Mr McClelland. He is after all only a politician and we know it takes many overseas junkets before they acquire wisdom.

Ken Lovell
14 years ago

Meanwhile Brendan Nelson and Alexander Downer, ever eager to please their masters in Washington, make gratuitous claims that the bastard Iranians supplied the roadside bomb that killed an Australian soldier. Or probably did. Or could have.

In fact the suggestion is a complete fabrication but don’t expect an apology.

It’s staggering that nobody in the media seems to think it’s worth asking either the government or the opposition about their attitude to the Bush Administration’s apparent desire to go to war with Iran. Somehow this is a piddling non-event compared to something really important like Labor not supporting the death penalty for terrorists.

We live in strange times.

Niall
14 years ago

Tssk, I see you’ve resurrected Ksst. I thought you’d killed it off?

Youie
Youie
14 years ago

Two things shit me. The first is the constant reference in the past 24 hours of my radio listening and web reading by Government members/ministers to the “88 people” who died in the Bali bombings. More than 200 people died; 88 Australians did; why does the Government prefer to refer to the smaller number unless there is some reason (presumably [cynically] a domestic political one) for doing so?

The second thing that shits me is that I can’t remember what the second thing that shat me was. But it was good, by gar…

cs
cs
14 years ago

OK, we know that visceral, rabid, hysterical Labor-haters always project their own feelings on those who disagree as an advance defence, but really, what’s the definition of “hate”? My definition says “intense dislike”. I can’t see a problem.

cs
cs
14 years ago

On second thoughts, “hate” is not accurate when it comes to John Howard. Instead of “intense dislike”, what’s the word for “intense contempt”?

Cam
Cam(@cam)
14 years ago

Does anyone have a link to McClelland’s speech itself?

Amanda
14 years ago

whats the word for intense contempt?

Howard Disdainer!

tssk
tssk
14 years ago

Naill, I haven’t actually. (For those who aren’t in the know ksst was a persona I used on a couple of forums, a nasty RWDB who was used to throw up obvious strawmen before someone else did.)

I actually think that Howard will use this as a wedge. And I think this will win him votes. In fact the movements of the GG and the PM seem to confirm that the election will be called soon so he can take advantage of the current events.

(Think of the GG and the PM as the keymaster and the gatekeeper from Ghostbusters.)

As a Howard hater I’m not only gutted by what I percieve to be the damage that J Ho has done to the country, I’m also worried about the long term damage he’s done to his own party.

cs
cs
14 years ago

Howard Disdainer!

Hmm. Doesn’t quite have the same punch.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
14 years ago

James,

I’ve been mulling this over for a day or so and I don’t think I agree with you.

I’m a strong opponent of the death penalty. I also think that Rudd could have finessed the problem much more than he did. I think that while conceding the poor timing of McClelland’s comments he could also have called for calm in a statesman like way emphasising the importance of the whole affair for the Bali Nine.

As for feeling bad about Howard for taking a free kick? Well that’s what politicians of both sides do. I recall getting all worked up about what a meanie Malcolm Fraser was for blocking supply. But the ALP Govt had put it’s head in the noose with its incompetence and then found itself reliant on the good will and ‘principled’ behaviour of its political opponents (and it divined ‘principle’ from things other than its own past behaviour – it had threatened to block supply itself). So it created a narrative in which pulling the lever on the gallows that the ALP Government had been kind enough to build as some kind of convention wrecking, indecent thing.

I fell for it then, but I think it’s bollocks now. Politicians do that stuff for a living. Of course if the issues are sacred enough, then I guess I could get on my high horse, if, for instance Howard’s opportunism involved trying to change the law here, start dog-whistling on behalf of a change and whatever. His behaviour over any number of things I think has been reprehensible – I guess the highhanded illegalities of Tampa, the mendaciousness of children overboard, the Nixonian deniability of just about everthing and above all the cruelty of all those people incarcerated in the desert.

But taking a free swing at the head that Robert McClelland stuck out this close to an election? Well I think any of the PMs I’ve known in the last few decades would have done the same.

So it’s like that Italian who took the dive and got the penalty in the world cup. Not pretty, but part of the game.

On the other hand I fully endorse your dim view of the media especially those who are not so beholden to commercial forces – like Kezza O’Brien – indeed I might go further. They should try to inform their viewers/readers of the relevant facts. But they can’t help reporting on politics as entertainment/spectacle/spin. They may as well put up the headline “Howard has a good day conning you mug readers – again! Shock!”