Happy Birthday, Mr Prime Minister
So, John Howard turns 68 today. He still looks amazing, like he's in his fifties...the Nineteen Fifties, in fact. There won't be many merry returns for him today though. The Government is facing a landslide defeat, and Howard himself is increasingly desperate, this morning blaming interest rate rises on "Labor government - state Labor governments" (a comment more likely to make your average voter think of clutching at straws than making good points) even as he falls over, forgets names, and is pilloried in the media for being past it.
One could almost feel sorry for John Howard. He could have retired at a favourable time in favour of Peter Costello - the tenth anniversary of his government, in March last year, would have been a nice, cute, noteworthy option - and be remembered by history (though not by me) as one of Australia's greatest Prime Ministers. Instead, it seems like he'll be remembered as the man who hung on too long, dragging his party down with him, and possibly losing his own seat.
Yes, I almost feel sorry for Howard. Then I remember...he gutted Medicare, the ABC and universities. He wouldn't issue a symbolic apology to Indigenous Australians. He claimed asylum seekers were trying to throw their children overboard and used this as an excuse to lock them up in offshore detention centres hosted by tiny nations with no choice but to take Australian money. He dragged us into a war with Iraq we didn't want (referring to the half-million people who marched against it, as a "mob"), and now he won't get us out. He forced the unemployed to perform jobs considered too menial for prisoners in return for their subsistence handouts. He thought he was the president and diminshed the role of the Governor General every time there was a photo opportunity. He wouldn't go when he had the chance and now he's trying to hang on like a spoilt child.
And in all this, after eleven years of his rule he's left Australia, though it pains me to say it, a diminished place; more selfish, more self-centred, meaner. The sense of a fair go, of helping a mate, has been replaced by the sense of "my interest rates, my petrol prices, me, me, me and nothing else matters!" It's a terrible thing and I don't know if we can ever recover, but I know who to blame.
So, John. Today I say not happy birthday, but fuck you.