So Key’s managed to make it to ANZAC Day and get out of the country without doing anything else that comes across to the New Zealand public as “weird”.
His handlers (and the collective National Party Caucus) must be breathing one hell of a collective sigh of relief.
Unfortunately, while the Prime Minister might be out of the immediate scandal-ridden frying-pan … he’s stepped straight into an international laughing-stock fuelled fire.
He’s presently in Turkey, inadvertently tarnishing the hell out of one of our most sacred days simply by being there.
And regrettably, his – and therefore, by extension, our – problems don’t end there.
For you see, while the world was watching our buffoon of a PM, he decided to issue a clarification of his conduct and a sort-of apology.
From the highly appropriate venue of an International Peace Summit in Istanbul.
Truly, his sense of comic timing is impeccable.
In it, Key sets out his belief that instead of his conduct being deplorable, creepy, and a flagrant abuse of his position and power against an ordinary Kiwi worker … it was just “silly” and “having too much fun”.
Why did he do it? What on earth lead him to think this was an OK way to behave in public? Well, he “misread the tea-leaves“, you see. It’s all part of his “pretty casual and laid back” public persona. The one we all like (and voted for) because it’s “good for a laugh“.
But check the next bit.
Instead of acknowledging his own agency in this situation, Key describes his role here as “playing along a bit“. Or, in other words, he didn’t create the situation – he was just going along with the actions of others and got a bit carried away. The implication is: she might very well have been asking for it. He just went where she lead him.
Who could blame a man for “[misreading] the tea-leaves” of a woman’s intentions and accidentally taking things too far? Never mind the fact this woman had previously laid out in coffee-grounds her overt intention to assault the Prime Minister if he persisted in his conduct. That’s apparently a declaration of limits that’s open to being “misread”.
Rather than treat this with the seriousness this episode demands, Key (perhaps unintentionally – he may very well be that situationally unaware) attempts to make light of proceedings by describing his pulling of a pony-tail as “a bit of horsing around”.
Ha-bloody-ha, Prime Minister.
The message from John Key to the ordinary Middle New Zealander is as clear as it is reprehensible.
“You like my ‘fun’ persona. The one I whip out in press conferences to make you want to invite me round for a beer over a barbie. Aren’t I a great guy. Like you! A bit high-spirited, perhaps … but this one isn’t my fault. I was just “playing along” with the waiter and having “too much fun” to realize I’d gone a bit far. I was mislead. I didn’t do this on purpose. We all make mistakes. This one isn’t serious or creepy – it’s just “silly”.”
There’s a second, unspoken bit to match it, which goes something along the lines of:
“But some people don’t like having a Prime Minister who’s “casual and laid back and good for a laugh”. Those bullies in the media, and leftists and feminists who kicked up this whole fuss want me to be dour and serious all the time. They’re anti-hijinks. So now Mr Fun PM’s going to have to go back in his box for awhile. 🙁 You won’t like that, will you. Let’s forget about all of this and move on so Mr Fun PM can come back. 🙂 ”
Regrettably, as the mainstream media continues to build this scandal into a crescendo, they’ll be playing right into the Prime Minister’s hands. We saw the same sad phenomenon during #DirtyPolitics at the last Election. Ordinary Kiwis sympathize with an underdog; and by presenting himself as the victim of an ongoing media beat-up, Key may very well salvage enough credibility and good will with the electorate to avoid having to resign or other serious political fallout.
But to the legion of female voters who’ve previously helped to sweep him into office, it’s likely he now comes across as an altogether less wholesome and less salubrious figure than he did before.
More pointedly, the abominable spectacle of Key’s Minister of Women’s Affairs point-blank refusing to take a stand on the ongoing workplace harassment of a female worker ought to cast in stark relief just how little regard this government evidently has for women.
In Kiwi culture, there’s a tradition of looking out for your mate who goes out to socialize, but inevitably winds up doing something dumb and embarrassing.
Usually, when we think of this, we’re picturing some obnoxiously intoxicated 20something in a dress shirt down the Viaduct being kept out of fights with bouncers and other patrons by his long-suffering mates.
Not since the days of Sir Robert Muldoon has the Diplomatic Protection Squad been effectively charged not so much with keeping the Prime Minister safe from the Public … but rather, with protecting the Public from the ravages of a “hijinks”-prone Prime Minister.
Let’s just all collectively hope he doesn’t pull the tassel on some poor Turkish man’s Fez while he’s over there in Turkey this weekend.