Call it definition of character.
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Turnbull: Bolt bordering on 'demented'
Conservative columnist Andrew Bolt receives a spray from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday over suggestions he is seeking the Prime Minister's job.
Malcolm Turnbull, a barrister by trade and chairman of the board by inclination, chooses his words and his adversaries for maximum effect.
And so, when he lined up neo-conservative commentator Andrew Bolt for a free character assessment, he was addressing not simply the bothersome Bolt, but the jury and the shareholders of his current organisation, which happens to be the Liberal Party.
The Liberal Party, of course, isn't exactly Turnbull's party at present. It's Tony Abbott's party, the same Tony Abbott who stripped the chairman's title from Turnbull a few years ago by one vote and then, glory be, took the whole show to government.
Turnbull hasn't looked stupendously impressed ever since. He announced he was quitting a while back and then changed his mind.
Unsurprisingly, quite a number of observers have concluded Turnbull is waiting.
It's not that he doesn't have options. He's rolling in the folding stuff from all manner of ventures, has proved he can run a merchant bank and the legal defence of a spy against the whole British government and he made a squillion out of an early email company. Abbott was so awed he claimed Turnbull practically introduced the internet to Australia.
So what might Turnbull be waiting for?
Andrew Bolt had the temerity at the weekend to get Abbott on his TV show and ask him if he thought Turnbull had designs on the prime ministership.
Bolt suggested Turnbull was trying to do some undermining by having dinner with Clive Palmer, a man Abbott can't stand but whose little party and fellow travellers will control the Senate balance of power next month.
It's not immediately obvious how such a dinner might lever Turnbull to the prime ministership, nor how this might have been a secret meeting, given it was at a popular restaurant. Clive likes to eat, and the restaurant was a few hundred centimetres from Turnbull's luxury Canberra pad, which might have been a better rendezvous for a secret meeting.
Bolt isn't a man who gives up easily. Next he was blogging about how Turnbull had spoken at the launch of a Parliamentary Friends of the ABC, and how awful this was, given that the ABC was no friend of the Abbott government.
Well, duh. Again. Turnbull is Communications Minister. The ABC is the national broadcaster.
Turnbull barely took breath on Monday morning before realising he had a fine opportunity to offer a little advice to colleagues about the company they like to keep.
Bolt's arguments, he declared, bordered on the demented. Turnbull likes the word demented. He used it recently to describe unnamed rich fools pouring money into loss-making media ventures that simply peddled their own opinion. "Demented plutocrats," he described such folk, and later denied vehemently he was talking about Bolt's employer, Rupert Murdoch.
As to Bolt's latest effort: "It is quite unhinged."
"Mr Bolt is fond of attacking what he regards as the government's enemies in the media, principal amongst whom of course he numbers the ABC.
"I don't think you would see anything as crazy as that on the ABC.
"He proclaims loudly that he is a friend of the government - well, with friends like Bolt, we don't need any enemies."
Quite. He might have added that Tony, Bolt's friend, should take note.
All part of a long amusing game, you might think, for a barrister who would dearly like to be chairman of the board again, but who knows he doesn't have the jury with him. Not yet, anyway.
Even Bolt the blogger had to concede he had no doubt Turnbull wasn't about to launch some imminent challenge. Well, double duh. You'd have to be demented to believe that.