Kevin Rudd’s Demise was the Outcome of a Perverse Psychopathology
All politicians are deeply flawed (with the possible exception of Barack Obama, and his level-headedness is turning out to be his worst enemy).
The particular kind of personality profile common to almost every politician I have known (I found a notable exception in former Victorian Premier, Steve Bracks) can be summarised in four words: high ego, low self-esteem. This is a toxic combination –simultaneous feelings of huge self-importance and gnawing, inescapable worthlessness. It is a counter-intuitive diagnosis but, for anyone who has worked in politics, it is a ‘eureka’-quality insight. It explains the need to please, the unstoppable yearning for affirmation, the limitless capacity for self-delusion. It makes interactions such as these instantly recognisable to political staffers anywhere:
Politician: You’re telling me you set fire to my house, wife and children asleep therein???
Staffer: You were great on radio this morning!
Politician: Thanks! I should do more radio, don’t you think?
After a while, it makes politicians very easy to manipulate. Their rapacious hunger for adoration trumps everything else, including common sense, and can be — and is — leveraged for all kinds of purposes. Flattery is the KY of politics.
Kevin Rudd is an extreme aberration of this character type. He is to the average politician what Charles Manson is to the garden-variety schizophrenic. He is the Moby Dick of politico-pscyhpaths; the apex of arrogance; King of the Turds.
In 2007, like many creatures of the Labor Party, I pinched my nostrils shut, and convinced myself that Rudd was something other than a total fuckwit. A former boss of mine, a wise and straight-talking ex-Senator, told me this about the incoming leader:
He is like a kid from a working class part of town who arrives home after getting a Ph.D. in astrophysics. At the moment, when we look at Kevin Rudd, we are like the kid’s parents: we love him and we overlook what a know-all piece of shit he is. But, one day, we’ll wake up and look at him differently — not like the parents of the brilliant kid, but like his neighbours. At that point, we’ll want to back over him in his own driveway.
He was well and truly driven over in his own driveway, and not a moment too soon. The fact he has not been welcomed back into Cabinet — despite the obvious political advantages of doing so — is a small indication of how utterly loathed this know-all piece of shit had become.
Rudd’s failure as Prime Minister is the direct product of his deep psychological flaws, which I believe relate to class anxiety. I came to this view when I saw him give a speech to a small group of business leaders in 2009. There were no media present, and Rudd felt entitled to speak for more than 1 hour and 20 minutes as if Sydney were Havana and he were Fidel Castro. I was sitting with the speech-writer who spent the entire time shaking her head and apologizing for the fact that her appalling boss was not using the scripted remarks. I smiled politely, wondering if she were conveying something in code: “Help me, take me away from him.”
But the duration or content — long and pointless respectively — was not the thing that alerted me to what troubles Kevin Rudd. It was the way he pronounced the word “initiative”. According to the dictionary, the correct pronunication is i-ˈni-shə-tiv; in other words, the third syllable is “sh”. But Rudd kept saying “i-ni-ti-a-tive”, with a hard ‘t’ where the “sh” should be. And he said it lots:
It’s important for business to undertake initiatives that show initiative, be it initiatives in the field of philanthropic endeavour, be it initiatives in the realm of community-stakeholder-engagement, or be it initiatives in the vicinity of artistic expression, cultural exchange or social outreach.
My first reaction was shared by everyone in earshot: nausea. Kevin Rudd’s convoluted and circuitous way of speaking is renowned, but something else was at work here.
His pronunciation of “initiative” was flat-out wrong. There may be certain geographical areas, demographics or times in history where Rudd’s jarring version of “initiative” is or was the norm, but not in 2009 and not in Australia. So, unless he is a time-traveller or a displaced Jane Austen character, this pronunciation must be a forced affect. It revealed to me then that he is not speaking in his own voice. “Initiative” was a crack in his armour. It was, as Charles Darwin put it, the stamp of his lowly origin.
Kevin Rudd is a Sunshine Coast bogan, pure and simple. He is deeply uncomfortable in his skin, crippled by feelings of inadequacy, yearning for acceptance among the elites of which he is decidedly not part.
Ironically, Rudd copped flak for using Aussie phrases like “fair shake of the sauce bottle” when in effect this was far closer to his authentic self than his contorted, staged poshness.