SYDNEY, Australia — It was a curious photograph — US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd sharing a private moment at the G20 foreign ministers' meeting in Mexico, deep in discussion. Here's the link.
Ordinarily, it would be assumed that the pair were discussing trade relations, or defense ties, or diplomatic initiatives, or even former China diplomat Rudd's insights into Beijing-Washington relations.
Rudd — never one to hide his enjoyment of mixing with high-powered people and high-powered places — even posted a video on Facebook of him shaking hands with Clinton... reportedly (Rudd and Down Under have never Friended).
However, just hours after their little chat, Rudd had resigned his post as Australia's chief envoy.
(GlobalPost reports: Australia's Foreign Minister Resigns)
That was it — no notice, no tidying up of loose ends, no drama (if you don't count the months of speculation that he would challenge Australia's serving prime minister, Julia Gillard, for the top job, and the fact that he was on official business in one of the most high-profile political cities in the Western world — D.C.— when he quit Tuesday night).
Perhaps it went a little like this:
"Listen, Kevin, you're causing quite a kerfuffle down there in Oz Land with all that talk of you having plans to try and overthrow your Prime Minister.
"Okay, so no one could blame you for feeling a little bent out of shape about the way Julia treated you in the first place — I mean, pretending to be your 'loyal deputy' for so long, riding the wave of your public popularity to win government in 2007, then at the first opportunity getting her bully boys in the Labor Party to overthrow you and install her as head honcho.
"I mean. she's really made a hash of that, hasn't she — lowest popularity ratings in the history of Labor, broken promises, disaffected colleagues and — worse — rich people, particularly over that whole tax on mining profits business. I mean, what a disincentive to make billions of dollars a day...
"So anyway, I've weathered the odd tawdry affair in politics, and if there's one thing I've learned it's that we can't always get we want. And you know, traveling the world at the taxpayer's expense eating expensive dinners with influential world leaders isn't a bad consolation prize — and let me tell you, I was aiming a lot higher than chief talking head of relatively inconsequential island nation of 23 million people.
"Besides, Kevin, we in the US really value our relationship with Australia — especially since you agreed to let our military set up shop down and keep an eye on things in the region, if you know what I mean. You speak Mandarin, right, so I think you're picking up what I'm putting down.
"Now, I know some people who know a few people who could be very interested in a guy like you working for people like them in a consulting kind of way. And believe me, these people have a lot more influence than any leader of an inconsequential island nation of 23 million people.
"Besides, who's to say they actually like you as much as you think they like you. People lie, so it follows that polls do, too. You may fail and end up being fired for gross disloyalty. Not winning.
"So realize your true potential, Kevin, and end this thing. Politics is an unkind, thankless, and in some cases humiliating affair — so why not either keep riding the taxpayer funded foreign service train, or make some money of your own to spend, instead.
"And who knows — we here at HQ could always use another Mandarin-speaking friendly on the team. And believe me — when it comes to finding out more about China, our budget's bigger than your budget will ever be. Not to mention our budget for exclusive dinners with influential people."
We're just saying...