Skip navigation

Fans of my facebook feed will know that I’m a firm believer in the West Wing. So much so, that I’m not convinced that this ‘George W Bush’ character was ever President. It’s just so unlikely a story, a cowboy whose father was an oil executive, Congressman and President himself also becoming President despite lack of cognitive and oral abilities. I mean, its great telemovie stuff – themes of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps regardless of any real talent, but its just fundamentally not believable.

On the other hand, the West Wing provides a story so compelling you could believe its true. In fact, I do believe its true. The West Wing told me that a member of a  minority race could become president. I didn’t believe. And then Obama won the Presidency. The West Wing told me that the President was a Nobel Laureate. I didn’t believe. And then Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.  And then the West Wing told me that despite his Nobel Prize in Economics, the President couldn’t stave off the depression that America had to have. And I believed.

Oh yes, the West Wing got a few details wrong, like Bartlet’s name. But then again, we never saw “Barack Obama”‘s birth certificate, so for all we know, his real name miht be Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet of New Hampshire.

Given my firm, evidence-based belief in the West Wing (or as I like to call it, the Bible), it came as very little surprise to me when CJ Cregg became Prime Minister of Australia. The media had always referred to CJ as an excellent communicator and as a smart and sassy press secretary she was always a strong candidate for the leadership position.

What confuses me, is why CJ isn’t using her real name. Who is this fake ‘Julia Gillard’ character? I want to see the real CJ Cregg. Or Julia Gillard, whatever her name is. Let’s unleash the real Julia Gillard, like we saw on TV in the days of old.

Equally confusing is CJ’s ability to control the media. Obviously, as Press Secretary, CJ has a lot of experience managing the media. Over the years she cultivated an image of herself as an forthright speaker, but one who was always carefully controlled. When she took on the teacher’s union and implemented the MySchools website, she didn’t seem combative, she didn’t seem ideological. She crafted a delicate image of herself rising above the fray to deliver the results that parents wanted. Her wonderful ability to rise above the fray even calms crying babies and rabid animals. Case in point – Mark Latham, who said in the Latham Diaries ”I like Gillard because she has a go. She’s the opposite of white bread: feisty, irreverent, good sense of humour, the closest thing we have to charisma in caucus. Not afraid of policy innovation but also steady and sensible.”

But after CJ was promoted to Chief of Staff – second to the wonkish President himself, I think the power got to her head. Standing at 5’11”, CJ dwarfed the leader she served and began carrying knives in her handbag, ready to go after the man Gough Whitlam called ‘Tiberius of the telephones’.

And that’s what’s really remarkable about the sudden fall of CJ Cregg. After the West Wing was bumped off the prime time slot by the Gossip Girl machinations of the Rudd-Gillard spat, her election campaign just fell to tatters. Every single day, some Rudd-related story would lead the headlines pushing away any policy announcements Gillard had planned. Which is a shame because its clouding over the fact that the Bartlett administration is a very strong one.

Regardless of what anyone says, the stimulus package is best designed stimulus in the world. By the criteria set down (the package must be shovel-ready, assist productivity and be targetted at key failing industries). Through a twin attack through mini-infrastructure funding, the Government bolstered the strength of the construction industry (mainly through road  signage upgrades, and education revolution building) and through the $900 stimulus payments, the government very effectively achieved all those criteria. There may be debates about the exact size of the stimulus but during the height of the GFC it was always more prudent to give the economy a greater whack than necessary. Our choice was to enter an overheated economy, which could be easily slowed by higher interest rates, or to enter a 20 year depression like the Japanese economy whose economic managers had done too little too late back in the 1990s.

And Gillard hasn’t been able to communicate the other excellent achievements of the Bartlett administration. Ratifying the Kyoto protocol, apologising to the Stolen Generations, Australian health care reform. Nor articulate her policies for the future – bringing the budget back to surplus by 2011-2012 (an impressive feat considering that this would be one of the shortest recessions on record), fixing vertical fiscal imbalance through health care reform,bringing a practical but compassionate approach to asylum seeker processing.

What Gillard needs to do is get the media under control like CJ Cregg would have done. Like Justin Bieber fangirls, the media has been obsessing over the minutiae of the campaign and not been talking baout policy which is Labor’s strongest advantage. Gillard has already neutralised much of the advantage the Liberal Party in areas like migration and population through its copy-cat policies. It’s beginning to push through its key arguments about its own economic strengths. It’s put forward the reasonable argument that Australia has a tiny amount of debt – equivalent to someone earning $100,000 a year owning a $6000 mortgage. Australia has no net debt. It is pushng the case for the NBN as a way to increase productivity (I disagree, but that’s just me).

Of all the wise proverbs in the Bible, I think Julia Gillard should remember just one:

“Let Bartlet be Bartlet”

Or at least let her be like CJ Cregg.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: