Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

When Narcissism Collides With Entitlement

Posted by Possum Comitatus on February 19, 2008

Occasionally, when the timing is right and the wind just perfect, keen river goers get to witness vast hordes of jellyfish floating aimlessly on the tides around the river mouth. It’s quite the show, eliciting many an “oooh” and an “ahhhh” from spectators that don’t appreciate what’s to follow. It’s not to dissimilar for keen political watchers, when the timing is just right and the winds of leadership speculation start picking up, the vast hordes of spineless jellyfish in parliament start floating aimlessly on the tides of opinion polling and the eddies of political myth. They too provide quite a scene, yet here it’s the scene makers themselves that don’t seem to appreciate that which inevitably follows.

Death, decay and a not insubstantial stench that lasts for longer than most would wish.

There were two definitive points to come out of last nights Four Corners program on Howard’s End; firstly, that Peter Costello’s sense of entitlement was only surpassed in magnitude by John Howard’s political narcissism and secondly, the front bench of the Liberal party were inflicted with an impotence so debilitating that they were not only played for fools by Howard for years, but were told to bend over and think of England while they were getting shafted.

Costello’s great leadership barrier was always the slight problem of his ambitions transcending his popularity. He never had the numbers, he never had the Newpolls and he singularly lacked the capability to change either. But he had the promise of being next in line, a worthless promise that never eventuated, but a promise that fuelled a raging sense of entitlement and one which now seems to drive a rather large amount of contempt for his parliamentary peers, particularly Howards Class of ’96, who didn’t share Costello’s view on his own political brilliance .

But while Costello raged impotently over his right to the leadership, Howard did what Howard has always done – whatever it took to achieve the aims of John Winston Howard. From the dysfunction he caused to the Liberal Party in the 1980s with his perpetual destabilising of the Peacock leadership, through to his “mean and tricky” memo through to his blatant, repeated breaking of his original leadership agreement with Costello, Howard has always enjoyed an inordinate fascination with his own political position and survival. “Sacrifice” and “John Howard” are not words that one will regularly find near each other in the sentences of future historians.

Fittingly, Howard’s End was little different to Howard’s Middle or Howard’s Beginning – in the ultimate act of political narcissism, with his party facing electoral oblivion largely from the consequences of his own making, his final act was to place the Liberal front bench in an untenable position the very first and only time that he found himself on the wrong side of his long term leadership mantra of “staying as long as the party wanted him“.

It was untenable for the party front bench to blast him out and take responsibility for the inevitable loss, but it was untenable for them to keep him as leader when he believed he would lose the election and his own seat, and he no longer had the support of the party. Their weakness delivered Howard the outcome he wanted. It was this final act that rubbed the faces of his Cabinet colleagues in their own political impotence, and one which seems to have made a fair number of them realise that they’d been played for fools for years.

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24 Responses to “When Narcissism Collides With Entitlement”

  1. Cat said

    I was not intending to watch 4 Corners but I figured the hysterical laughter of my father (from several suburbs away) would be too distracting if I attempted to watch anything else. In the end I just sat contemplating the fact that those wackers were not my problem any more. We have a real leader now – not without ego but too practical to let it control him.

    I was amused however that their current esteemed leader Decimal Nelson did not factor into even the backroom brawls and now he is leading the party further along its righteous path to oblivion. Is it any wonder I still giggle to myself in my sleep (reportedly).

  2. steve_e said

    Given the exposure that only Four Corners can bring to an issue is important as not everyone reads the political news. The exit from Parliament in the near future of most of Howard’s Cabinet can be expected soon. It is difficult to claim ” leadership” when they cannot make decisions.

    The threat of a Double Dissolution will push them over the line.

    It is not surprising the Dr Nelson has a 9% approval rating. Just how long you can even believe you can keep the job when only 9% support you is a good question. It seems being Liberal Leader and being deluded go hand in hand.

  3. fozzy said

    Reminds me of my favourite line from Mungo Macallum’s book “Poll Dancing”. Talking about when it was revealed Rudd had had heart surgery 15 years previously and how Howard had hoped to capitalise on this to draw parallels with Latham’s health issues in 2004. To paraphrase Mungo: for most people, Rudd’s heart problem was seen as a good sign; it showed he had a heart, Howard would never have this problem, in the same way that Downer would never suffer a brain tumour and Costello would never suffer testicular cancer.

  4. […] When narcissism collides with entitlement – Possum’s Pollytics (2008-02-19) […]

  5. Smile said

    So Bug-Eyed Bishop and Bendin’ Brendan just got rolled on AWAs… what the hell kind of Opposition are they trying to build over there?!?!?!

  6. Howard C said

    Well, the double dissolution just became somewhat less likely – Libs to Not Oppose, with amendments, WorkChoices. The amendment is to make those Rudd AWA’s, whatever they are called, permanent.

    Now, for the scores of posts stating the Libs don’t stand for anything.

  7. jassy said

    I hate to come across as sympathetic because I’m not, and what annoyed me most were the repeated delusional references to Howard as the universe’s greatest leader; or at least the greatest Australian PM.

    We need to remember though these people are human. Downer seems to be the right hand man based largely on the demonstrated fact he is mostly harmless.

    Howard just outplayed Costello all along, from that meeting about the leadership till the election night last year.

    I think the nastiest thing you could say about the rest of the Cabinet and party room other than Minchin is that in March 06 they called it wrong or didn’t even realise they had a call to make.

    No perhaps that last par is too generous because if Hockey was right and the cabinet didn’t realise the basic nature of workchoices when most of the rest of the country knew, they are a lot lot stupider than I thought.

    What would be interesting to know now is whether they are merely jelly fish whether Turnbull is the only one looking out for himself or if Bishop and Pyne and some others are looking to build for future leadership.

  8. Cat said

    Interesting to note that last night’s 4 Corners pulled nearly 1.2 million nationally which is its biggest audience in years. I wonder what portion was Coalition voters trying to understand and what portion Labor voters out for amusement?

  9. Fleetmac said

    Someone wrote in one of the newspapers today that what we lost with the defeat of John Howard and the Coalition is that we have lost someone to hate. I think that statement is very true. I am a Howard hater and who do I hate now? Certainly not Nelson.

    I cringe when I read that the British are going to give Howard some knighthood. But what made me cringe more were the comments to the newspaper piece that many though he actually deserved it and still believe that JWH was our greatest PM….can you believe it!!! JWH our greatest PM. What planet are these people on. One only had to look at 4 Corners last night to understand that, apart from fools like Tony Abbott, all the Cabinet interviewed had lost respect for Howard during 2007. Why then do people still view Howard as great? Great leaders are nation builders………so what did Howard build that gives him that respect. I can name plenty of things that he did to damage the nation – the Iraq War and AWB to name two but where is the nation building? He refused to reconcile with Aborigines, he refused a republic, he refused climate change and Kyoto, he refused to use the huge surplus to improve hospitals, education and build infrastructure lest the Labor states get the kudos, he demonised the refugees and David Hicks, and so on…..I ask the question again why do people think JWH was our best PM?

    Yes it will be a struggle to find someone to hate in the future…….even George Bush will be gone by November.

  10. barney said

    Agreed Poss. When the considered histories (read some years after the fact) are written about the Howard years they will show what a conniving amoral little prick he was/is. Not sure who said it but the only way he was going to leave Kirribili was in a box. He lived, breathed, ate, shat politics. The humiliation of losing his seat is barely punishment enough.

  11. 2353 said

    It was a difficult choice last night – “4 Corners” for the history lesson or “Good News Week”, the perfect format for taking the p*** out of what was showing at the time on Aunty ABC.

  12. Humpy said

    I love your writing Poss – you just consistently hit the issue right between the eyes. And with an uncommon eloquence.

  13. David Richards said

    I opted for GNW, safe in the knowledge that 4Corners is repeated Friday. Windsock Nelson – the 9% man, has at least achieved something – the lowest approval rating of any opposition leader.
    (Do The Nelson Poll Limbo.. how low can he go go go?)

  14. nobby said

    fleetmac,the answer is simple,the msm continually told us all that he was,and that is enough for most people.

  15. Chade said

    It was this final act that rubbed the faces of his Cabinet colleagues in their own political impotence, and one which seems to have made a fair number of them realise that they’d been played for fools for years.

    And still being played for fools; they looked foolishly entertaining last night. And, it was better than any other entertainment I’ve partaken of for the last week, at least.

  16. Styx said

    I know this point has been made else where but it is interesting to note how with the removal of the cloak of Government the now members of the opposition well look very ordinary. OK, I’m biased but the same could not be said of the members of the Hawke/Keating Cabinet.

    On the matter of Costello’s popularity, I stand to be corrected but keating wasn’t that flash in the polls either before he became PM. I think it is the bane of Treasurers to be unpopular.

  17. JP said

    I still do not understand how those guys can all stand up and say “The main reason we lost the election is that we were in for 11 years and the punters wanted something new”. Latham was something new, but Labor went backwards under him.

    Do they not understand how pissed off voters were with WorkChoices and all the other abuses of their Senate majority even after the smacking they got at the election? Surely *someone* in the Libs will have the sense to start distancing themselves, and soon, from the policies that were so firmly rejected.

    Or are they hoping to load Nelson up with all the odium, and hope it sinks with him? Brave call, that.

    More likely they *do* know it was WorkChoices, and did all along, but they are too collectively cowardly to admit it. That would fit with the other evidence.

  18. David E said

    Regarding Fleetmac’s question of who there’ll be to hate now that Howard’s gone and Bush soon will be….try Mugabe, Putin, Chavez, assorted leaders of Central Asian republics, Radovan Karadzic (still out there somewhere), Kim Jong Il etc etc ad nauseum

    Despite my complete and utter joy at John Dubya Howard and his horrid cronies (the Cadaver, Mr Brylcreem, the Mad Monk, Sexy Lexy, the Smirk et al) going down the tubes, I think that there’s always going to be plenty of people even nastier out there leading their people up sh** creeks, and having toxic effects on the rest of the world in the process

    ps to the other David – sorry if there’s an identity mix up – I’ll add an E from now on!

  19. Blink said

    It seems to me that given the alternative, Costello should have declared his hand and shot at Howard from the backbench many years ago, until the numbers swung round- just like Howard did and just like Keating did. Costello was too afraid, preferring to be handed the job. Perhaps all this whinging that Howard would not step aside helps to cover that up for him.

    As for Howard, although he was the of the most conspicuously immoral leaders this nation has had the misfortune to throw up as its PM, history will probably judge him admirably, at least for his political prowess. His narcissism had no bounds, and unlike Costello, he knew what to do to accommodate it. If he crippled his own party in his own maintenance of power, then, in the end, it was left to the Australian people to cripple him. The Liberals should take note that the voters did what they could not.

  20. smokey said

    They were all fools, right from the beginning of the Howard gov and years before. They lucked out with the resources boom and conned people to think they were capable, but in the end they collectively rowed themselves up shit creek using their own ineptitude as paddles.

  21. Grateful said

    What I find of passing interest is how quickly the Liberals have abandonned all that was their core beliefs a few short months ago. The JWH agenda seems to be gone and repudiated. It has long been my view that one of the reasons Howard did not pass the leadership on to Costello was the knowledge that Costello would undo many of the Howard social positions (Sorry, the republic, refugees…) and Howard could not bear for those things to be undone by “his” Liberal party.

  22. Fleetmac said

    JP says: “I still do not understand how those guys can all stand up and say “The main reason we lost the election is that we were in for 11 years and the punters wanted something new”.

    The answer is that all these guys were trained by JWH who never admitted he was wrong, never apologised and lied through his teeth. It is in their blood to blame the punters rather than themselves and their policies for their electoral defeat. Although the coalition was behind in the polls all of 2007, they really believed that on election day the punters would realise their mistake and vote Liberal. I know people like Downer now say they he knew all of 2007 that they were going to loose but those guys believe that they were born to rule. Abbott was saying just before the election that the adverse polls indicated that the punters were having joke with the coalition and when the polls narrowed on election eve (Labor was still in the lead) Howard announced he was back……..Deniers the lot of them.

  23. David Richards said

    David E – I admire Chavez – I would not include him in the group in which you placed him.

    Did anyone else find it bizarre that GW Bush was lecturing Cuba on free and fair elections? Florida 2000 and that other state in 2004 with the rigged electronic voting machines come to mind.

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