Paraphrasing a comment I just made at LP: The “shit happens” comment is revealing despite being a media “gotcha” beatup, and what it reveals isn’t pretty.
Mr Abbott has a pattern of metaphorical chest-beating, of being seen to be “one of the boys”. It has led him to several missteps in the public eye over the years, where he seems to value, repeatedly, the momentary gratification of machismo solidarity gestures above other considerations one would expect a political leader to place more to the front of his concerns.
Surely such anxiety to gain the approval of manly men is an obvious weakness when it provokes him to place faux-stoic posturing in front of men he will probably never meet again before the dignified compassion expected of a potential national leader. For a start, which attitude do you think the military men in question would actually respect more, let alone the particular soldier’s family?
There’s now interviews with family friends saying that Abbott was properly compassionate at the funeral, so this bit of dialogue with the soldiers isn’t important.
But this is precisely my point: of course he was appropriately compassionate at the funeral, with all those ritual expectations. But at the moment when he should have had a proper empathic human reaction, when first learning of1 discussing the death of another human being, he thought it was more important to minimise it in order to look emotionally tough, and he thought this was the most appropriate response to display to men who could imagine themselves dying in exactly the same way.
That’s absolutely fundamentally obtuse insensitivity, and he does it over and over and over again.
1. Correction: the soldier’s death was already known, and the discussion with the commander was about the events surrounding it, and
whywhether expected support had been in place or not – Abbott and other opposition politicians were at the time running a line that Australian soldiers were inadequately resourced/supported. (edited for clarity 2011-02-13)