22 July 2007

The broken record

Jason Koutsoukis has nothing to say, and he's said it again. The same column he always runs in The Age on Sunday, the same non-story based on false assumptions, and once again trying to blame the object of his fantasies for their not coming true.

Had Costello [challenged for the leadership], he would have faced the charge of disloyalty and of putting his own ambition before the Liberal Party. But, as subsequent events have shown, the judgement would have been right and have put them in a better position to win this election, because the electorate has stopped listening to Howard.

This doesn't consider the possibility that Costello isn't strong enough to face those accusations, especially as he has no convictions other than that he'd like to be PM (if that). Think about Andrew Peacock, widely regarded as Malcolm Fraser's heir apparent, after he went to the backbench in 1981. No sleeping at the Lodge, no eating there, nothing. You had to leapfrog Peacock to talk about Fraser, yet it is the Sunlamp Kid who was the Costello of years past.

Kim Beazley got the leadership of his party without having to challenge for it, and he and his wife probably dined with the Hawkes, Keatings or both in the Prime Ministerial residences. In wanting to have the leadership dropped into his lap, Costello is the Liberals' Kim Beazley. Never mind Fraser and Gorton: here is a parallel in recent times you've just ignored.

Stop recounting some anonymous briefing and actually think about what you're being told, where it comes from, does it hold together under scrutiny. Start doing that and you'll become a journalist.

As for these "subsequent events", Jason: your whole job is helping us anticipate those, not trying hundreds of variations of the same story.

Costello's second reason for not challenging Howard is that he didn't want to be seen as disloyal or be blamed for splitting the party. Then why did he choose politics as a profession? He should have stuck to the law. Leadership is not about being a nice guy, it's about backing your own judgements and convictions.

What convictions?

Costello has never grasped what showing a bit of steel could do and the only reason he is not prime minister now is because he hasn't had the stomach to do what he has believed in his heart was the right thing to do.

Mixed metaphors reveal confused thinking. You can't show steel, stomach, cojones or whatever if you just don't have them. This story has been right in front of you for years and you've missed it, Jason.

And instead of history remembering him as one of the country's most successful treasurers, it may well recall him as a craven wimp who let his party down right when it needed him most.

Not "instead of", both. History, like good journalism, can be pretty bloody nuanced when it's of a mind to be so.

There is a story to be told on Peter Costello - like Beazley and Peacock, tomorrow's man who became yesterday's man without him ever being the man for today. Jason Koutsoukis can't tell it because he's too close; and because even though deploying words is central to his profession, you don't get much sense from a man who thinks people get grilled or shot while on a marathon.

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