Attack: the best form of defence

Attack, attack, attack seems to have been the only idea that was inspiring Joseph Muscat while replying to the questions made to him

Joseph Muscat
Joseph Muscat

Going through Joseph Muscat’s interview spread over the last weekend in The Times and Sunday Times of Malta, many thoughts – or rather reactions – cross my mind.

The first question that occurs to me is: Who requested the interview? The Times of Malta newsroom or Joseph Muscat? The interviewer deftly – and purposely – confuses this issue by an evident fudge in his opening salvo: “Thank you for accepting our invitation for an interview. We’ve been chasing you for more than five years. What made you change your mind?”

This confirms my feeling that it was Joseph Muscat who requested the interview at this point in time. Five years ago, Joseph Muscat was Prime Minister. The Joseph Muscat whom the newsroom at The Times wanted to interview is not the Joseph Muscat that was eventually interviewed. The questions he would have been asked five years ago, are not the questions he was actually asked. The idea that Muscat was now ‘accepting’ a request for an interview that was made five years ago, is bizarre. Bizarre because so much water has passed under the bridge in these last five years.

In this The Times helped Muscat camouflage the truth that it was Muscat himself who asked for the interview now… because it is now that he needed it for his own purposes. From a very puritanical standpoint, The Times could be said to have colluded with Muscat on this. However, the interview was an exercise of very good journalism – the exercise of informing and enlightening the public is paramount, irrespective of what this information is.

Muscat was being assailed by sane Labour supporters who were insisting that the Abela administration should completely distance itself from him. On the other hand, the insane Labour supporters (il-Ġaħnijiet), still think that Muscat is a demigod, if not God Almighty. And these insane supporters consider challenging God almighty as insane. So much for Maltese democracy!

This is where Muscat’s evident threat in his interview comes in: saying he sees “a chorus of people” supporting him. He proudly points out: “In the last weeks, I’ve seen an unprecedented number of people supporting me.” Then, he purposely fudges it all by adding: “In reality, it’s irrelevant. I still feel the people’s love but I can’t gauge if I’m still popular or not.”

How come that – after a number of misleading answers – such as that about the popular negative perception of the construction boom, he later issues a clear threat?  He spurts out the incredible threat of returning to politics: “If they keep annoying me, I do not exclude it.” In my life, I have never heard such an incredibly obscene motivation by anyone considering whether to participate in politics or not – it is just a tactic to threaten people who ‘annoy’ one!

This is an insane attack against those in the Labour Party who feel that their party should distance itself from Muscat.

Labour cannot win the next election without the insane supporters who believe Muscat is a demigod but it needs to distance itself from Muscat to become a credible political party. Robert Abela has one leg supported by insane imbeciles and one leg supported by serious Labourites. Muscat’s words make this predicament worse.

He cleverly camouflages his stance by this unbelievable statement: “I will never utter a word that will damage the Labour Party. Never. I am not bitter, unlike someone from the other side whose name I won’t mention who tries to trip up his successor because he’s no longer in charge.”

Comparisons are odious. More so in this case. However, it serves Muscat’s purpose just right.

Some say that attack is the best from of defence and this is the only way that Muscat’s stance can be interpreted.

Muscat is fighting to save his skin by avoiding to be thrown into the dustbin of history by the very party he once led.

In the first part of the interview, Muscat attacked the possibility of being ditched by his party. In the second part, published last Sunday attacked the possibility of being dumped by his erstwhile friend and confidante, Keith Schembri, whom Muscat avers he will “never ditch”.

Muscat rejected suggestions that when their Panama accounts were revealed, he refused to take action against both Schembri and former minister Konrad Mizzi because they had potentially compromising information about him but he did not even try to justify why he opted for this course of action. The reason: “The only thing I kept in mind was that they were two very important pegs in government.”

Add to this his other unbelievable statement: “Whether I was naïve, time will tell.”… and what do you get? Nothing but silly excuses for not taking the action that everybody in their right senses expected him to take.

This is a defence of Keith Schembri, the like of which had never been made by Muscat.

Incredibly, this also means Muscat was not able to govern without this terrible duo! Therefore, was the financial miracle and feel-good factor that the ‘Ġaħnijiet’ attribute to Muscat, in fact, Keith’s and Konrad’s doing? To the extent that he could not govern without them? No new light on this conundrum, really.

This is rich, considering what this ‘protection’ led to. And poor Robert Abela has been left without them, pegless in Castille.

Joseph Muscat even shrugged off Keith Schembri’s presence during security meetings: “I didn’t push for him to attend security briefings. There were instances when he joined, and others when he didn’t.”

So, Keith was the power behind the throne, it seems.

Joseph Muscat’s loyalty to Keith Schembri comes out as a basic tenet of Muscat’s current stance. One therefore cannot but assume that this is a reward for Keith Schembri’s loyalty to Muscat. Two peas in a pod!

Here Muscat’s underlying message is that an attack on Keith Schembri is tantamount to an attack on him. So, he reacts with yet another attack and threat at those who want to see Keith Schembri face justice in Court.

Attack, attack, attack seems to have been the only idea that was inspiring Joseph Muscat while replying to the questions made to him.

Much like a cornered rat, Muscat has realised he has no way out and has suddenly transformed himself into a ferocious threat.

Will this tactic work?