Wednesday, January 19, 2005

leading man

Poor Mark. Well, with hindsight it's clear he just wasn't ready for the job, and wasn't the right choice for the job in the circumstances. I now regret having preferred him over Kim Beazley back when the leadership was up for grabs. We really should've let Beazley lose one more for us and then brought Latham in in time for the next election.
But with hindsight I also disagree with Adele Horin's recent claim that Latham's flaw was that he is a bully. I now think he was just out of his depth and nervous, which led to him acting strange and being withdrawn and projecting the wrong vibes, namely arrogance and coldness. That handshake wasn't aggro--it was overcompensation.
And it didn't help that Latham suffered a lot of negative publicity in relation to his personal life. I do think it was cruel and unacceptable for the media to indulge a bitter ex-wife in essentially portraying him as some kind of malignant narcissist. I think the biggest problem for Mark was this sense of coldness he emanated, of unhappiness even. Perhaps he was actually suffering chronic pain from his illness and was therefore just unable to project those qualities we had associated with him from his past behavior: vigour, energy, passion. Something was just missing.
So now Beazley's going to get another go. Fine--et's let Beazley lose another one for us. Can we please learn from the mistake we made with Latham and not ruin the Gillards and Rudds at this point? I have a lot of faith in Julia Gillard, but let's give her a chance to build a public support base. As for the criticism I keep reading that she'll never be leader because she's from the Left faction--that's just a crock. What does it mean? That Julia is never going to get a go just because she's from the Left? That no-one from the Left faction is ever going to get a go? It's a stupid argument. As for Kevin Rudd, I'm happy to have him as shadow foreign minister. He's intelligent, calm, compassionate and good-humored, as we frequently see on Channel Seven's Sunrise breakfast show. All qualities you want in a foreign minister. He might be a good leader one day, but I reckon Gillard would be better.
Anyway, poor Mark. It must have been such a humiliating and disappointing experience to have lost. And to have been ill--as he says, with a life-threatening illness--all along couldn't have been a lot of fun. Let's give him a break. He wasn't right for the job, sure, but he did an OK job. Let's not forget how even up til the end there was a sense he could win it. Let's not forget how he creamed John Howard in the debate (remember the worm?).
The biggest problem for having staked our chances on Latham was the geopolitical circumstances we live in. The War on Terror, the war in Iraq. At a time like that, the country understandably wanted security and economic certainty. That's not Latham's fault. With hindsight, Beazley would've been the better choice (though I still believe he would've lost it). Beazley had the relationship with the US. Beazley had the experience in Defence. So we ballsed it up. But let's go easy on Mark eh? You did OK, son.