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A Train Wreck

Entry 1675, on 2014-08-20 at 20:07:14 (Rating 4, Politics)

I've often admired the skills of the New Zealand prime minister as a politician even though I rarely agree with his politics. But I'm now beginning to wonder whether his apparent skill has just been because he has never been put under any real pressure before, because in a recent interview on Radio New Zealand with Guyon Espiner he sounded pathetic. I think Labour's Grant Robertson said it best when he described the interview was a "train wreck".

I've often heard interviews with Key before and I've been frustrated with the dishonest way he avoided questions, changed the subject, and simply repeated meaningless slogans (no doubt created by one of his spin doctors). But this interview was different. Espiner didn't let him away with his usual tricks. Here's the interesting part of the interview...

JK: At the end of the day we're 5 weeks out from an election. People can see that Nicky Hager's made a whole lot of things up in this book. They can see that he can't back a lot of them up.
GE: Well, I'm talking about one that can be backed up, you're not going to get away with that... because, this is one that can be backed up, because the justice minister of New Zealand has conceded publicly that she did pass on the name of a public servant that resulted in him getting some pretty severe death threats, and you think that's OK?
JK: and people can see...
GE: Is it OK?
JK: and people can see...
GE: Yes or no? Is it OK?
JK: and people can see...
GE: Is it OK?
JK: and people can see that this is a smear campaign by Nicky Hager....
GE: I'm not asking you for a critique about Nicky Hager's motivations, I'm asking you about something that is publicly in the arena. Judith Collins has said "I passed on the name of this public servant."
JK: so I don't know all the details behind all of that, but what I do know is that this is a series of selected pieces of information, many of which cannot be backed up...
GE: That's John Key...

Yes, that's John Key all right. For a start that rather silly phrase "at the end of the day". What does that mean? It's nonsense, but it's something the PM uses a lot. Maybe his propaganda experts think it makes him sound more decisive or something.

Then there's the claim that a lot of people can see Hager has made things up. But can they? I don't know of any good evidence that he made anything up. You might disagree with how he reached some of his conclusions, but they were all based on real facts.

Then there's the repeated attempt to turn the whole issue into a conspiracy with the suggestion it is a smear campaign by Hager. He can't answer the real question because he never answers questions, he just repeats meaningless phrases that he has most likely practiced with his advisers before the interview. (for comments on how he used this technique to destroy John Campbell see my blog post "A Study in Media Training" from 2013-08-20)

Finally there's the feeble attempt at avoiding responsibility - because that is totally his party's cynical strategy - when he says: "I don't know all the details behind all of that". Yeah, sure you don't. Maybe the propagandists don't have a canned answer for that one so the trusty old "I forgot" or "don't know the details" defence kicks in instead!

It was a rather disrespectful way to treat the prime minister I know, but did he really deserve any respect for repeating that same meaningless nonsense about "people can see"? In fact has he really deserved any of the respect he has been given recently? Maybe if interviewers had held him to account like they should have done we might all have heard more meaningful political discussions here in the past.

I've seen a lot of very critical material in the news media about Key recently. Maybe people are finally waking up to how they have been fooled by him for the last 6 years. Maybe they won't be fooled any more and will vote him and his despicable bunch of cronies out at the upcoming election. At least now, thanks to people like Hager and Espiner who dared to stand up to him, we have some hope.


Comment 1 (4142) by Jim on 2014-08-22 at 09:08:53:

This distraction doesn't seem to have done too much harm to John Key's popularity. National are still going to win.


Comment 2 (4143) by Anonymous on 2014-08-22 at 09:55:50:

The straight answer problem is not peculiar to our Prime Minister. It can be applied generally to most politicians. In the end what exactly is the problem here. We can fortunately choose our politicians. Unfortunately we are unable to chose political commentators, and people who choose to snoop and publish details of matters which are of relatively little importance. It is unfortunate that the media and political commentators seem to be pushing the Hager book instead of following up on matters that are of real importance to our country. As far as I am concerned the author of the book and the commentators, only real interest in pursuing the contents of the book is to try and promote their own personal egos. They have very little interest in determining whether there has been any real harm done to our country, which surely is the important issue. If it has harmed some political figures along the way is of little consequence.


Comment 3 (4144) by OJB on 2014-08-22 at 11:06:30:

I partly agree that this is in some ways an unfortunate distraction from more important issues, but there are two factors which also must be considered: first, it is National who have been responsible for all the dirty tricks and now that their behaviour has been revealed they can hardly blame everyone else (but they'll try); and second, National have a "presidential" style approach based on the credibility of JK so if they want to make his credibility such an important issue they can hardly complain when evidence to the contrary is used against them.


Comment 4 (4145) by OJB on 2014-08-22 at 11:08:03:

Also to Jim, maybe you didn't catch the news this morning that Key's popularity has gone down recently. True, it's still very high, but some harm has been done. Also, it's far from clear who will win the election. It could easily go either way.


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