As America – or a majority of it at least – and most of the world celebrated Barack Obama’s re-election on Wednesday night I was struck by two overwhelming thoughts. The first, THANK GOD Obama is back and America doesn’t have to suffer through four years of what could have been a disastrous – for women, immigrants and the world as a whole – Mitt Romney term. The second, which came through especially loudly while I was watching Barack’s eloquent, human and utterly relaxed victory speech, was why can’t we have a leader like that? Because, and debate me if you will, but John Key is distant galaxies away from having the leadership strength of Obama.
Earlier this week we witnessed another in a string of press gaffes from Jonkey (as I like to call him, rather than calling him…you know, the other thing). During an interview on a radio show about farming, he accused the host of wearing a ‘gay’ red top (a Canterbury rugby jersey as it turned out). Now, sure, using the word ‘gay’ in this context – not a good idea, but not completely unheard of (though, for the record it is a pejorative term in this context and the use of it, especially by kids, should not be condoned). But, two things that made this different. One – the man using the term is the leader of our country, so it isn’t beyond the pale to apply a higher standard of political correctness to him. Second – even when given the chance, again and again and again by the press, he didn’t apologise, or attempt to recognise that using the term (which he later described as meaning ‘weird’ because, you know, that is going to help) was either wrong, or just a bad idea.
This is a lesson that he just doesn’t seem to have learnt throughout his terms (we elected him TWICE??? People, honestly….), that sometimes the best way to make a story go away, and to stop it from detracting from what you are ultimately trying to achieve, is just to apologise and move on. He is married, so surely he knows that sometimes, even if he thinks he is in the right, it is better just to say sorry and save yourself a fight? But no, instead he just ploughs ahead with his shrug of the shoulders, shake of the head and wry smile as if to say ‘no biggie guys, just get over it’. I can only imagine what a nightmare his media team must have trying to manage him.
Key’s latest gaffe caused comedian Guy Williams to quip on Twitter ‘John Key is quickly becoming to New Zealand what Borat was to Kazakhstan’. This tweet was then repeated in articles in the Guardian and the Daily Mail about John Key’s other recent media debacle – the allegation that, in front of some Dunedin school kids, he called David Beckham stupid. And this is where John Key becomes SO MUCH WORSE than Borat. Borat is a made up character designed to lampoon and cause laughs. John Key is the real elected leader of our country, and the face of our country to other leaders and nations. So when he uses the word gay in a derogatory way, openly mocks an international soccer legend or appears on the David Letterman show acting like a dumb puppet, this is the impression the rest of the world get of New Zealand. That we chose to elect this guy to represent us. Twice (sorry, I know I am piling on, but SERIOUSLY?).
Look, I know I will be accused of two things here. One – I am not and never will be a National supporter, so I would never like a National Prime Minister. That’s pretty true. And two, surely these things shouldn’t be the focus of the media’s (and bloggers’) attention – shouldn’t we be focused more on the issues and what his government is achieving? Well, sure. If they achieved anything, but I haven’t seen much achievement lately. But what Obama reminds us of is this. Having a stable government around you to do what needs to be done is important – incredibly important. But the thing that will bring a country together, inspire a new generation of people who want to serve that country, and give the country a good international reputation – is having a strong, intelligent, well-spoken and erudite leader. So, sorry to say it John, but you just don’t cut it.