Malcolm Turnbull is the ultimate ‘miserable ghost’
It was without a shred of irony that Malcolm Turnbull paid tribute to George H.W. Bush over the weekend.
Tweeting a letter the late US president left in the Oval Office for his successor Bill Clinton on the day of his inauguration, Turnbull wrote that it recalled "a more constructive and respectful political era".
Bush's moving note, now widely circulated on social media, concluded with the words: "You will be our President when you read this note … Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you."
No doubt Turnbull views himself as similarly dignified in defeat, but both recent events and past history suggest the truth couldn't be further.
It is now clear that our 29th prime minister has well and truly been gaslighting us all.
On the one hand, he insists he is in retirement and complains about media intrusion after jetting to New York post-removal, but then goes on to undermine and white-ant the government at every opportunity.
He wouldn't lift his pinky to help the Liberals' candidate for his former seat of Wentworth, Dave Sharma, yet he's been in regular contact with the independent who defeated him, Kerryn Phelps.
He and his family have followed an Instagram page for a movement to Vote Tony Out and he is now intervening in the southern Sydney seat of Hughes in a parallel game of Vote Craig Out.
If Abbott and Kevin Rudd are the "miserable ghosts" Turnbull accused them of being, then he is certainly no Casper the friendly apparition.
On Sunday night, Turnbull called on the NSW state executive to defy an attempt by Scott Morrison to save MP Craig Kelly's preselection.
"The point is we have a democratic process, you have a challenger, there is a contest in Hughes, the Liberal Party members in Hughes are entitled to have their say," Turnbull told reporters outside his home yesterday, adding: "I might say Mr Kelly, for what it's worth, was a very strong advocate for party democracy, so surely he would be pleased to face a preselection."
Turnbull also oh-so-helpfully called on Morrison to go to an election "as soon as it can" - March 2, specifically - a move that would almost certainly ensure defeat.
In his final speech as prime minister, Turnbull had the hide to attack the "wreckers" within the party.
"I have done everything I can to maintain the stability of the government and the stability of the party," Turnbull said at the time. "But of course, if people are determined to wreck, they will continue to do so."
Again, without the slightest irony, he tweeted last week about his critics' "attribution bias," which he described as "blaming others for the consequences of your own actions" and "a common symptom of paranoia."
But a short trip down memory lane is instructive in revealing that wrecking and destabilising has long been his modus operandi.
After losing 42 votes to 45 to Dr Brendan Nelson for the Liberal leadership in 2007, Turnbull publicly pledged his loyalty to the victor; in reality, he wholeheartedly refused to accept the result.
Reports have him bursting into Nelson's office moments after the latter had given his acceptance speech, yelling and poking his finger at him, accusing him of being a "wimp".
Nelson's then chief of staff Peter Hendy says Turnbull called him, telling him his job was to get his boss to quit, an instruction he's said to have made directly to Nelson himself as well. Eventually, in a move that would mirror events some 11 years later, Nelson called a spill on himself and lost 41 to 45.
As journalist Paddy Manning writes in his book Born to Rule: "For all Turnbull's undoubted talent and ruthless white-anting, he had not won by much, and it was an act of bastardry that left a lot of bad blood."
In December 2009, after Turnbull disastrously supported the introduction of an emissions trading scheme, another spill was held for the leadership of the party and he was defeated by Tony Abbott.
In a public statement that was superficially very Bush-esque, Turnbull said at the time: "He has a big challenge ahead of him and I think all Australians wish him well with it."
Abbott went on to win the 2013 federal election in a landslide.
But behind the scenes, the undermining and leaks persisted, culminating in Turnbull infamously knifing the first-term prime minister, citing 30 Newspoll losses in a row.
When Turnbull surpassed his own benchmark plus some, and again divided his party on energy policy, he called a spill on himself and the rest is history.
Despite his best attempts to rewrite that history, Turnbull has exposed himself as the ultimate wrecker and miserable ghost.
People who still say they have no idea why he was rolled are either wilfully amnesiac or stupid.
Caroline Marcus is the host of Saturday Edition and Sunday Edition on Sky News. Twitter: @carolinemarcus