Thursday, May 14, 2009

Greg Sheridan, rumors and gossip and innuendo and speculation and the future of Chairman Rudd

(Above: the anonymous, secret, furtive, highly informed sources who've revealed to me dramatic news about Chairman Rudd's future).

It's hard being a newspaper columnist, having to fill up your quota for fish and chip wrappings for the week, and it's especially hard for those on the loonatic side of things, because there are so many loons competing for scraps and angles, like seagulls battling for a casual chip flung their way by beachgoers stuffed on a handsome serving of flake.

But even so, there's something so desperate about Greg Sheridan that all you can do is laugh, especially when reading his column Today the Lodge, tomorrow the world.

At a time when the budget's just been handed down, and most of the commentariat are predicting we'll all be rooned, and so will Rudd, Sheridan comes out with a column suggesting that PM Rudd's real ambition isn't to run the nation, but to run the United Nations.

One thing the federal budget discloses is our Prime Minister's very long time horizons. He plans for 2020 and 2030 and beyond. As for the nation, perhaps for the man.

What is Kevin Rudd planning to do after his stint as our Prime Minister? In the past few weeks I've heard from three quite credible sources that the PM has given a lot of thought to having a shot at becoming the UN secretary-general.

I don't want to describe these sources, even generically. And I don't regard them as definitive. But take my word for it, each is a source you'd normally give a lot of credibility to. Each is in a position to know quite a lot about this sort of subject.

Well gob smack me with a lamington covered in vegemite, that sounds like as definitive a set of credible sources I've ever heard not named. They make Deep Throat sound like he was named after some kind of sex film. Oh you tell me he was? I guess that must make these sources Deep Anal then.

I did email the PM's press secretary yesterday, seeking guidance on the matter, and certainly received no denial. But the PM's office is pretty busy with the budget and I don't read too much into that.

On budget day! Guidance on Rudd's plans to run the UN! And he received no denial! Not a single solitary whit or jot of a denial! Well then it's as good as gold, as safe as a lay down misere, an all in pot in poker or a kick in the crutch. Well maybe not the kick in the crutch, but don't read too much into that.

Whatever, there's no doubt there's an extraordinary circumstantial case to be made, assuming of course Rudd doesn't in fact fuck up Australia, some passing scandal doesn't tear him down, and neither does his colleagues, he doesn't get collected by a bus, or decide to fly to the moon.

For a start, there's the money we're spending on trying to get into the UN Security council, and then the increase in aid to Africa, and lordy, we're also spending nigh on ten million over the next two years to promote nuclear disarmament.

Now you might call this a piddling amount - go on, Sheridan does too - but when you think about it, it must remind you of Gareth Evans and his UN ambitions.

What's that, when you think of Gareth Evans, which you very rarely do, the main memory is of a beard and bonking Cheryl Kernot? Well that's why you're a loser and Greg Sheridan is ... well Greg Sheridan, and a dreadful name-dropper to boot. How so?

The nuclear commission calls to mind irresistibly the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons that former foreign minister Gareth Evans set up in November 1995. At the time Evans was running flat out, though not publicly or officially, to become UN secretary-general himself. The then incumbent, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, was rightly thought to have done such a bad job that he would not get the customary second term in 1996. At one point Evans made a systematic assessment of his own chances and came to the view that he had a 25 per cent likelihood of getting the top UN job. He was a bit downcast about those odds at the time, but of course a 25 per cent chance at the top job in the entire world available to an Australian is a huge chance, and one to explore as energetically as possible.

At the time he publicly disclaimed the idea that he was running for the UN job, but the workaholic and extremely capable Evans had a very high UN profile and was a credible candidate. Indeed, in the last half of Evans's time as foreign minister, Paul Keating made the running in regional affairs and Evans concentrated on multilateral diplomacy, especially the UN. I remember Henry Kissinger at the time telling me (dreadful name-dropping, I know, but there it is) that he had a high opinion of Evans but considered a lot of his UN reform stuff a waste of time, though he could understand why Evans was doing it.

I took this to be a reference to Evans's UN ambitions.

Ah gee, I'm sorry if you've read this far that you now realize I've wasted precious minutes of your life, which you will never get back, but there you go, Sheridan's done it to me, so fair's fair cobber. But wait, there's more, how about this for weaving a tangled web in the face of difficult issues, like actual reference to the real world?

The obstacles to Rudd getting the UN job are formidable, but it's not entirely out of the question. Ban Ki-moon, South Korea's former foreign minister, is Secretary-General. I'm a big fan of Ban's, but his Korean work habits, his failure to engage fluently in Kofi Annan-like UN diplo-babble and moralising, and his basically pro-American outlook mean he is no darling of the regular UN set.

It is just possible Ban won't go for a second term and his first term expires in 2012.

That would be in the second half of Rudd's second term. Going by recent poll numbers, Rudd will win a second term in a landslide and this timing may suit him perfectly. If Ban doesn't get a second term, Asia may still feel that it has one more term under the informal regional rotation of the top job. The feeling is that after Asia, it is Europe's turn next.

Rudd could be just the Asia-Europe compromise.

The question arises, are the commentariat so desperate to get rid of Rudd that they have to concoct new and grandiose career moves for him? Do they want him to ruin the world, in the way they allege he's currently ruining Australia?

You see the cunning thing in all this is that there's no way to detect or catch out the scheming Rudd in his devious, twisty plans. At the moment, it all looks natural and normal - the government's just raising its UN profile, and Rudd's essay on how neo-liberalism caused the GFC isn't really a calling card.

What's more, Australia doesn't belong to a natural bloc like Asia or Europe, and we're a close ally of the US, but hey, such matters only suggest rules are there to be broken. Why there was even a move to get Anwar Ibrahim to run, no doubt between sodomy charges.

Now you can see how devious and clever Rudd's scheme is.

Rudd enjoys a good reputation on the international stage. He can't become pope because he's not a Catholic and he has a wife and kids. And he can't become president of the US because he wasn't born there (although there is talk of a constitutional amendment...). I think it's clear that the only possible career move that makes sense from the Lodge is to UN headquarters on New York's East River.

You heard it here first.

Ah I get it, it's all a clever joke by Sheridan. He can't become the pope, and he can't become president of the United States. For that matter, he can't become commander of Star Trek, not when Kirk's still in the game, and I hear they've already allocated the Galactic Confederacy leadership to another hot contender, but perhaps Darth Vader has ruled himself out of the running. 

Guess all that's left (unless Rudd makes a tilt at the leadership of the Martian Federation or mayor of the moon colony) is the UN. 

By the way, I've not yet heard any firm denials that Greg Sheridan is running for the hotly contested post of Chairperson of the Association of Loon Columnists most dedicated to wasting the time of readers by running tall stories up a flag pole and saluting.

Why am I reminded of Monty Python? Remember the People's Front of Judea, and Loretta's desperate desire to have children, whatever the obstacles?

Francis: ... I think Judith's point of view is very valid, Reg, provided the Movement never forgets that it is the inalienable right of every man--
Stan: Or woman.
Francis: Or woman... to rid himself--
Stan: Or herself.
Francis: Or herself.
Reg: Agreed.
Francis: Thank you, brother.
Stan: Or sister.
Francis: Or sister. Where was I?
Reg: I think you'd finished.
Francis: Oh. Right.
Reg: Furthermore, it is the birthright of every man--
Stan: Or woman.
Reg: Why don't you shut up about women, Stan. You're putting us off.
Stan: Women have a perfect right to play a part in our movement, Reg.
Francis: Why are you always on about women, Stan?
Stan: I want to be one.
Reg: What?
Stan:I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me 'Loretta'.
Reg: What?!
Loretta: It's my right as a man.
Judith: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?
Loretta: I want to have babies.
Reg: You want to have babies?!
Loretta: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.
Reg: But... you can't have babies.
Loretta: Don't you oppress me.
Reg: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a womb! Where's the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!
Loretta: [crying]
Judith: Here! I-- I've got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans', but that he can have the right to have babies.
Francis: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.
Reg: What's the point?
Francis: What?
Reg: What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can't have babies?!
Francis: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.
Reg: Symbolic of his struggle against reality

Which is why, if you've read this far, you'll be excited to learn that I'm possession of a deep, dark secret about Kevin Rudd's future ambitions. He wants to become a woman and have a baby.

Think about it. He's gone as far as he can as a man, the budget is full of spending items devoted to women, why they've even promised paid parental leave in the sweet by and by, ready just about the time Rudd is likely to step aside from office.

I have of course approached Rudd's office for a denial, and haven't received one yet, which only proves the tremendous strength of the rumor.

And remember, you read it here first.

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