Saturday, May 31, 2014
In the company of a chenius this Saturday ...
There's now no doubt that Tony Abbott, the government and the entire country is in crisis.
You see, Dame Slap has bravely doubled down, and lifted her workload, and shifted from her usual slot to provide intellectual meat for a Saturday, by scribbling The real Tony Abbott struggles to come across for the reptiles at the lizard Oz.
Yes, it's a bit like the Queenslanders still reeling in shock from their defeat ... the head coach has had to rush down to the bench and give detailed coaching advice to the Man, before the cockroaches sweep the toads away for good (those who live in the real world can keep on blithely ignoring what that nonsense means).
It seems at one point Tony Abbott was a genuine Ivan Reitman, a real genius. A chenius ...
Oh what the heck, it's a Saturday. Remember The Late Show's joke about Reitman? No doubt he never heard it, but like most of the visual world, it's on YouTube. The sketch was hopeless, but that notion - of chenius - got a real work out in the pond household ...:
Sorry, where were we?
Why in the middle of a gushing which sounds positively uxorious:
Abbott doesn’t lack intellectual oomph. True, he is a hardened warrior, but one who holds convictions, an especially rare commodity during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years.
Around the Howard cabinet table, he was a naturally fluent and incisive contributor. A Rhodes scholar who has outlined his political philosophy in his book Battlelines, Abbott has a depth of knowledge rare in Canberra, spanning history, religion, culture and politics.
He often quotes Malcolm Fraser’s eloquent description that the art of government is to weave together the liberal and conservative strains in the community to find “that creative balance between the forces of freedom and the forces of continuity which allows a society to advance”.
Why the man sounds like a positive chenius!
Wait a second. Malcolm Fraser! Does that mean Abbott's going to turn into a barking mad leftie in due course?
One of the problems is that Tone faces challenges lesser men never had to face:
It’s too simple to put it down to the pressures of a 24/7 media cycle, cameras in radio stations, relentless social media catching hold of every stray wink and loose utterance. To be sure, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan didn’t have those pressures. Even for Bob Hawke and John Howard, the political cycle moved in a lower gear.
Yes, Churchill might have fronted Hitler, Kennedy the cold war and the Cuban missile crisis, Reagan might have demanded walls be torn down, but that's nothing, nothing Dame Slap tells ya, up against camera and mikes and social media.
It's too simple? So why did she bother to scribble it, and in the process of trade off and associate Abbott with names like Churchill, Kennedy and Reagan?
What a risible, pathetic and meaningless strategy. But hey, Dame Slap is just cranking her comedy stylings into high gear:
When Abbott gets it right, he hits it out of the ballpark, like the speech he gave at the 70th anniversary of the Institute of Public Affairs in April last year. Here Abbott drew on his impressive knowledge and passion for the history of freedom: “From the Garden of Eden to the Exodus, Athenian democracy, the Roman senate, Magna Carta, the glorious revolution and American independence, the story of our civilisation has been the story of freedom and our struggles to achieve it.” The audience was spellbound.
Spellbound? Isn't that an Alfred Hitchcock film featuring characters tortured by grotesque Salvador Dali images?
So you just have to gabble a few meaningless, even contradictory, catch words like the Garden of Eden, Athenian democracy, the Roman senate, Magna Carta etc etc, and the crowd is spellbound?
Yes you goose, because you see, in his element, Abbott is a Ciceronian master.
Read this and weep Shakespeare:
In question time on Wednesday, Abbott displayed his natural mojo. Answering a question about cuts to unemployment services from Labor MP Julie Collins, Abbott said: “The shadow minister opposite is unhappy about the changes to the funding of certain programs. I say to her: she is responsible. We had to save money because of the debt and deficit disaster that members opposite created … We have not run away from the difficult decisions the way members opposite did consistently for six years … This is a political party which is more interested in expanding the welfare system than it is in expanding the wage system. This really is one of the reasons why no one can take this Labor Party seriously.”
Oh Keats, that you could have wasted your time on poetry when confronted with this kind of natural verbal mojo. Kneel, bow your head, ask to be blessed by the verbal flourishes of Abbott ...
But look, forget all that. The silvertails are in trouble. Mosman is sliding into the harbour! At one time Abbott was the go to man but now the coach has to think about benching him.
The coach has listed all sorts of major flaws:
Ever since he became opposition leader, Tony Abbott’s public persona has moved further and further away from his private one...
Uh oh ...
Wooden responses, sound bites and slick messaging are now driving voters, young and old, and even those on the cusp of voting, to distraction.
It’s the early signs of the Gillard disease where a stifling caution is wringing out the best of the Prime Minister’s personality.
Oh dear ... not Gillardism. Why that can be fatal. Next think you know you're a wicked witch, or even worse, a femnist.
When Abbott gets it wrong, the audience is left flat. Like the speech Abbott gave last month at the Sydney Institute annual dinner. It was a doleful stump speech that betrayed the private Abbott, the intelligent, warm, amusing man full of intellectual curiosity and convictions.
Oh noes ... doleful, which is possibly one step short of going on the dole.
Is there any hope at all?
The next morning Abbott was interviewed by Alan Jones on 2GB radio and a few minutes later by Marius Benson on ABC News Radio. His message was deflated by a flatness of language, a failure to hit the heights of persuasion with argument and numbers to match.
With Jones, Abbott discussed the fact the deregulation of universities would see new money flowing in trade support loans to tradies, to electricians and plumbers and so on. It’s a brilliant message of building equity into our education system for a broader range of people. So say that.
With Benson, Abbott tried to justify the co-payment by explaining that the Medicare levy covered a fraction of the cost of healthcare. Tell us the number. It’s mind-blowingly low, covering 7 per cent of the nation’s total health spend of $140 billion, and adds heft to the unsustainable spending story.
Yes, and best of all, explain how the seven dollar co-payment designed to set up a medical research future fund has anything at all to do with that mind-blowing number ... and therefore has anything to do with the cost of healthcare.
Hmm, that's a hard one, eh coach?
Never mind, the message is clear. Abbott is useless, he's hopeless, he's fukt, the team is losing game after game, the toads are down, the cockroaches are rampant, well at least the cocky cockies in the western suburbs, and it's all up to the captain to do something about it ...
What to do? What to do?
Well like any top notch coach brimming full of ideas, Dame Slap has a lot of great schemes and strategies.
First off, it seems Abbott needs to hire a decent speechwriter. Then he needs to take acting lessons and turn himself into Ronald Reagan, though some might think this has as much chance of flying as Sheldon taking acting lessons from Penny ...
Hey maybe we could do a little improv, kick it around like Ronnie:
And maybe Abbott could learn from John Howard to do talk back radio, unlike that prawn sauce Ruddster.
But even with all that, there's a problem, a sticking point.
...what worked brilliantly as opposition leader hasn’t translated so well as Prime Minister.
There is a transition. New skills are required. Doing the hard work to repair a budget ballooning with structural deficits is a big story that requires a coherent and passionate sell.
Gasp. We were sold a pup? The man's a dog with a deficit in skills and training? Should he spend six months seeing what's like to earn or learn?
To be sure, counselling a politician languishing in the polls to loosen the straitjacket of sound bites is a common refrain from armchair pundits. But at a critical time when there is a big story about repairing the budget, Abbott risks losing voters with stilted performances and a caution that saw off Julia Gillard.
Sheesh, not Julia Gillard. Not all the way from Ronnie Raygun to that wicked witch?
Come on coach. Usually at half time, there's a rousing cry about how the toads are giants astride the earth, and the cockies need crushing.
Please coach, for the love of the long absent lord, give us hope:
That said, Abbott has the upper hand. He has a sensible story to tell and believes in it. Whichever way you look at it, the budget needs fixing. The numbers are there, the budget measures are there and a foundation of support for reform has been there in the past. It will be there again if the PM can sound more comfortable having a compelling conversation with voters.
Ah water boy, make sure the team all drink that Dame Slap approved kool aid before they take the field again. And can we have some fries and a rhetorical trick to go with it? Sure thing:
Abbott must work on what Cicero called the “graces of persuasion”. Trust voters. As you told your partyroom during the week, they’re not mugs. Trust yourself. Play your own game. Throw off the micromanagement that prefers caution over candour. Sure, you will make a few mistakes along the way. A wink here. A stray word there. But the power of honest oratory means more people will sit up and take note, listen and learn; they may frown, they may smile, and more may walk away with a new understanding of what needs to be done to kick-start a new era of economic reform.
Take the ball up the gutz, turn yourself into Obama - a Kenyan socialist background might help - and the Red Sea will part, and we'll all march off to paradise, just like in the movie.
The pond must confess to warming to this significant Saturday appearance by Dame Slap. Talk about the very best comedy stylings:
Abbott must work on what Cicero called the “graces of persuasion”.
Could it get any funnier. How many more Jaffas can you roll down the aisle in a single read?
Has Dame Slap been hanging out with Dale Carnegie and the 'closer' crowd, who are fond of quoting Cicero as saying If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings and speak my words, though whether he actually put it that way is another matter.
But Cicero did say this:
For every man’s nature is concealed with many folds of disguise, and covered as it were with various veils. His brows, his eyes, and very often his countenance, are deceitful, and his speech is most commonly a lie.
Perhaps that's the problem. Perhaps when you lie your way into power, and then cheerfully break all the promises you made, you develop an image problem.
Has the coach thought about this? Will her man think those thoughts, feel those feelings, speak those words of promises broken, and of easy betrayals, and behaviour which in the nineteen century would have seen the man denounced as an unfeeling cad and a bounder?
No doubt she has, no doubt she's a chenius, like her diligent student ...
As is always the case, the wonderful David Pope has a most apposite cartoon, and more Pope here:
Posted by dorothy parker at 5/31/2014 09:19:00 AM