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Dedicated to Jane Smith and all those who cared

There are so many well-meaning people in this country who were revolted by what they saw with Rudd, Gillard et al.

One of those stories is told by  Pamela Williams in today's Australian Financial Review newspaper.

Here's a small excerpt.


How Kevin Rudd’s campaign unravelled

Held deep within the top strategy group of the Liberal war room was a document which gave a name and a diagnosis to the personality of Kevin Rudd. It was a document provided to the Liberal’s strategy team on an informal basis by a psychiatrist friendly to the Liberals after Rudd had returned to the Labor leadership on June 26. In a nutshell, this document offered an arm’s-length diagnosis of Rudd as suffering a personality disorder known as “grandiose narcissism”.

Informal check-list

The document was not shown to Abbott, but rather remained within the strategy group as an informal check-list, often as a tool for comparison after Rudd had already behaved in ways that the Liberal strategists believed could be leveraged to their advantage. The Liberal war room had reached its own conclusions about Rudd long ago, based on his public behaviour and the damning revelations of his colleagues.

But the document provided an affirmation that the snapshot of the enemy on which a fighting campaign was based had a context. It listed recognisable symptoms and behavioural patterns linking Rudd’s personality to the clinical symptoms for grandiose narcissism – drawing conclusions about Rudd’s mindset. It also proposed tactics to leverage Rudd’s personality.

Describing grandiose narcissism as less a psychiatric disease and more a destructive character defect, the document suggested Rudd was held together by one key strut: an absolute conviction of intellectual superiority over everyone else. “Kick out that strut and he will collapse; basically he is a self-centred two-year-old in an adult body. Prone to wanting everything – now! If not, then he has a two year-old’s tantrum.”

Rudd, the document went on, was vulnerable to any challenge to his self-belief that he was more widely-read, smarter and more knowledgeable than anyone else “on the planet”. Such a condition of grandiose narcissism would make Rudd obsessively paranoid, excessively vindictive – “prepared to wait years to get revenge”, and “a spineless bully” who would strike an easy target; he would predictably be excessively sensitive to personal criticism. If publicly goaded, he could easily have a “mega tantrum”. If described as “stupid”, such a personality would mount an almost impenetrable intellectual defence. If undermined in front of an audience, with his intellect undermined, Rudd could be prone to “narcissistic rage”.

“Later, in attempts to repair the damage, he will claim, in the calmest, coolest and most reasonable way, that his meltdown occurred because those around him are ganging up on him to prevent him from ‘saving Australia’ or some other such grandiose concept.

“Kevin’s explanation for the meltdown will run something like this: ‘Under the difficulties I face trying to save this country from the terrible threats facing it, any reasonable person would have naturally reacted the way I did.’ And then, blah blah, with grandiose ideas of being the country’s saviour.”

Rudd would be threatened by a rival in any of his fields and would be obsessively paranoid and ready to retaliate to real or perceived threats; he would suffer from excessive suspicion. This could be tactically exploited, the document suggested, by promoting the idea that Rudd was merely a caretaker prime minister, to be terminated by colleagues once the election was won.

Feeding political storylines

Inside the Liberal war room the document explained why Rudd “knew best” and “why he had to take over” again as prime minister. And while the document went to explaining behaviour, it also aided the development of pressure points against Rudd – such as pushing the notion that he was full of flimflam, an accusation designed to undermine a superiority complex. The document was a confirmation that many of the tactics and strategic assessments in the war room were on the mark. It crystallised a view of Rudd rather than creating a framework, confirming views of his likely behaviour – a crucial weapon in the psychological warfare of an election campaign.

While Labor fed a storyline (ultimately proved incorrect) that the enemy, Abbott, was so disliked as to be unelectable, the Liberals fed a storyline (ultimately proved correct) that the enemy, Rudd, was so assured of his own superior ability that his campaign would become mired in chaos as he micro-managed and displayed suspicions of those outside his own small cult circle.

The document – simple in its construct and in many ways echoing a view clearly held inside Labor itself where many of Rudd’s colleagues had described him as dysfunctional – raised a riddle no one could answer; if the symptoms were all so obvious and the character flaws so marked, how was it that Labor had chosen Rudd not once, but twice to lead the country?

If Rudd could be interpreted as a grandiose narcissist, then he could not bear to be ignored. He would demand on cue, “Mr Abbott must respond!”