The 'political' interview often becomes a news event in itself, a focal and sometimes pivotal point in the affairs of government. While it purports to deal with the events of recent days, bits of it frequently end up in everybody's news bulletins on the following Monday night; constructed thus as 'news', it sometimes produces further consequences.
Keeping track of these unfolding causalities is disquieting. Among other things, they indicate just how much power Oakes has to help make things happen; his recent interviews have had a hand in the ebb of Ros Kelly's fortunes [remember Ros Kelly? -- Ed] and the flow of Bronwyn Bishop's. Remarks edited out of context, and then repeatedly re-broadcast both by Nine and by other stations, can have major consequences; and sometimes those remarks have been lured, coaxed or goaded out of reluctant ministerial mouths in the first place by strategies comparable in subtlety and sympathy to a well-aimed jackboot to the groin.
Cheryl Kernot, interviewed a week or two before Ros Kelly's resignation and taking a tough stand on accountability, is one of the few politicians I have ever seen remain unflustered by Oakes throughout an entire interview. Kernot, like Gareth Evans [ooh, prescience! -- Ed] but unencumbered by what Jane Austen would have called his uncertain temper, is both spectacularly well-informed and possessed of high-level debating skills; at one point she left Oakes speechless, sweetly but mercilessly showing him up through a hole in his own research.
One of the most noticeable features of this interview was the difference in its participants' rhetoric: Kernot's images and metaphors were those of consensus and integration, Oakes's those of strife and fracture. His language, illuminated by the difference, revealed his view of political affairs as essentially antagonistic, competitive and hierarchical; 'win' and 'lose' are two of his favourite words. This world view, like the medium through which it is expressed, is coercive; in shaping his questions according to it, Oakes builds whole suburbs of verbal dark alleys down which it becomes very difficult for his subjects not to go. Most politicians' terror of silence is such that a simple 'I don't accept the terms of your question' would never occur to them, even when that is clearly the case.
When Julia Gillard patiently said 'I don't accept your premise, Kerry' to Red Kezza on the evening of the day she became Prime Minister, in response to just such a begged question about the 'stabbing in the back' of Kevin Rudd, I whooped and hollered and applauded and frightened the cats. I'd been waiting (at least) sixteen years to hear a politician say that to a journalist.
Much of the rest of it also reads as though those sixteen years had never existed. Perhaps these are the glory days for which Oakes yearns, and that's why he's behaving the way he is now.
What's prompted me to dig this out of the filing cabinet is the news that Cheryl Kernot may be standing as an Independent for a Senate seat. Go Cheryl.