Kevin Rudd was caught up in a snowstorm of denial this week. "This is all just water off a duck's back. I could not care less." Bollocks he couldn’t.
Nothing could’ve delivered him a firmer, more winding blow than confirmation that American diplomats are officially reporting back to Washington that Rudd is (and this list of quotes is not exclusive) an abrasive, impulsive, control freak, prone to mistakes, making significant blunders and blurting out snap announcements without advance consultation.
Oh. And that, since the beginning of this year, his own party has been talking about getting rid of him.
There's a good reason that most former leaders leave politics as soon as they are deposed. It's because, eventually, details are revealed that irretrievably compromise their further work in the public sphere.
The casual remarks Rudd passed about the inability of the French and German military to do anything more than folk-dance and barbecue sausages may have been long-suspected, but now they're out. This will irrevocably cruel his already-damaged pitch as far as the Europeans are concerned.
That little ‘phut’ was the sound of the last remaining bit of goodwill evaporating. The verbal apologies the US has now tendered to the former PM aren’t even worth the paper they’d be written on if anyone bothered to note it down.
And China? Under Rudd our once-close relationship had disintegrated. Nothing released this week has done anything to patch it back together.
The reality is that Rudd can now be treated as little more than a continuing (international) joke, with Australia as the punch-line.
You won't find this written in any diplomatic cables of course, because then it might be leaked and that would be embarrassing. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.
A far more uncomfortable fact for Julia Gillard is that she can't afford to do anything about it, no matter how much she wants to. When you're on a slender, one-seat majority, you just shut-up and pray, even if you’re an atheist. She's practiced at allowing him to walk all over her.
The morning after Rudd became Foreign Minister he organised an "impromptu" walk with the US ambassador around the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. Rudd's office helpfully ensured that all the television networks were aware of this little bit of performance art, so it could be reported in the news bulletins that night.
The pictures were intended to demonstrate he was on the comeback trail, and certainly not some lonely, pathetic, or despised former PM who'd been dumped, with extreme prejudice, by his party a couple of months earlier.
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