Compare the pair: Scott Morrison and Bill Clinton.
Morrison, a prime minister undergoing a horror stretch of what seems a never-ending string of sexually-related allegations and scandals affecting his government. His government’s popularity is plummeting, its seemingly-impregnable electoral prospects now in doubt, and his personal approval is taking a real hit.
Clinton, a US president who won election in 1992 despite a string of sexual allegations and scandals, and became only the second president to be impeached after his Oval Office shenanigans with an junior staffer and ‘that woman’, Monica Lewinsky. His government was rated as highly effective, he left office with an approval rate in the mid-60s and, according to polling organisation YouGov, still polls 43 per cent approval among women.
In contrast, Morrison is devoted to his wife and there has never been a whiff of public scandal about his personal life, and yet is accused by his detractors as not understanding women.
Clinton, on the other hand, is praised by women for his understanding of women. Maybe it’s because he slept with, or had other ‘relations’ with, so many of them who were not his wife.
It may be unfashionable to say it, but Morrison is a decent man and is struggling to save his prime ministership because of it.
The chief charge against Morrison is that he doesn’t understand what women declare they experience. That he lacks empathy. That he has to refer to his wife and daughters to make sense of other people’s realities beyond his personal experience and comfort zone.
If Morrison is guilty of lack of empathy as a man of a certain age and social background, he is not alone. But as his press conference last Wednesday showed, at least until he let it run off the rails somewhat, he is making a genuine attempt, as a faithful husband and suburban father, to understand what others have experienced, and his distress and desire to do something to assuage their anger and change things for the better are genuine.
Instead of that his antagonists would rather kick him in the teeth, insisting anything he says or does is not good enough for them, continually questioning his sincerity and, instead of giving him encouragement and support to lead the sort of changes they demand, are determined to tear him down.
As for Morrison framing his responses in terms of his wife and daughters, what of it? If he personalises these matters in terms of how he would feel if it were one of the women and girls in his family who were physically or mentally harmed, helps him to ‘get it’, isn’t that a good thing if it leads to change for the better?
Perhaps his political and media detractors would prefer that Morrison be more like Clinton, treating women as his personal playthings and gratifying his carnal urges without regard to the damage he does to those used women and their lives?
Instead, it is his monogamy, family life and basic decency and concern – however hard it is for him to show it – that is in danger of bringing Morrison down.
How patently unfair and absurd.
Terry Barnes edits our daily newsletter, the Morning Double Shot. You can sign up for your Morning Double Shot of news and comment here.
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