Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Will "Better To Be Safe Than Sorry" Be The Liberals Election Campaign Mantra?

The only line about the Dr Mohamed Haneef fiasco dumber than John Howard's "better to be safe than sorry" dismisser, was Alexander Downer's pathetically sooky "Get real" whine.

But was Howard actually giving the Liberals federal election campaign slogan a bit of an early airing?

Howard claimed that when it comes to terror, "It's better to be safe than sorry". A line that, if it actually held water, could be used for virtually any injustice, false detention or personal smear campaign by the Howard government that had even the barest of linkages to the 'War on Terror' or national security. It's a disturbing precedent.

Some Muslim bloke gets shot dead for wearing a backpack that looks a bit suspicious?

Better to be safe than sorry.

An innocent man gets detained and held without charge for a few weeks or a few months, or in the case of David Hicks, a few years?

Better to be safe than sorry.

Billions of taxpayers' money pulled out of education and health and re-directed to unjustified foreign wars and completely invasive homeland security?

Better to be safe than sorry.

Michelle Grattan lays out the facts of John Howard's involvement in the Dr Haneef fiasco, under a headline that asks if the 'War on Terror' really does mean that anything goes now :
By yesterday, however, Howard was circling the wagons, as was Alexander Downer, who bluntly told sceptics to "get real". Howard said there'd be no apology, and mistakes happen.

The message is, if you are dealing with allegations to do with terrorism, forget highfalutin notions of accountability.

Here's the embarrassing Alexander Downer sookfest quotes in full, after being asked if Dr Haneef was owed an apology from the Australian Federal Police or ministers in the Howard government :

A request for an apology seemed to offend Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

"What do you expect them to do, fall on the ground and grovel - eat dirt - I mean, get real. This is a quite common situation," he said.

Mr Downer shrugged off the critics of the bungled case as political operatives with an axe to grind.

"[It is] an attempt here by Howard-haters to try to paint the Government as having conducted the investigations unsuccessfully and this was all some political stunt - I think that's pretty reprehensible," he said.

What's wrong with Downer? Is he mentally or emotionally unstable? Why does he get so easily wound up and unfurl such patently ridiculous answers to simple questions from reporters? It's clear Downer is losing it. He should be drip-fed valium during the APEC summit in September so he doesn't embarrass himself, and the country, in front of world leaders.

The only thing more laughable than Downer's whining is his government's repeated use of the Andrew Bolt line that anybody who dares to question the motives of the prime minister is automatically a "Howard hater".

That Downer has been reduced to viewing any criticism or finding of faults in the actions of the Howard government as being part of some broad conspiracy, or proof of hatred, is another sign of the crippling paranoia infecting the government right now. They are beset with The Fear, and it shows every time someone like Downer has a hissy-fit.

What Downer is actually saying when he calls millions of Australians "Howard Haters" is that he thinks the government should not be held to account, and should not have to tolerate genuine, and well deserved, criticism.

Absolutely pathetic.

The Howard government could try and cling to its hold on power with a $100 million advertising blitz in the weeks before election day ringing out its "Vote Liberal. Better To Be Safe Than Sorry" message.

But the polls clearly show, in the huge numbers of former Howard voters now backing Rudd, that plenty of Australians are already sorry about the choice they made back in 2004.

It's unlikely Howard can say, or do, much now to win them back.

And trying to fear up the electorate, when more than half already clearly trust Kevin Rudd, is not going to work.

If Howard & Friends go for The Fear this time, it will show just how far out of touch they really are with the Australian people.