I see in today's Advertiser that Peter Costello, en passant while discussing the likelihood that he will be in a wheelchair before he gets the top job (if then), has paid what he obviously thinks is tribute to the departed Kim Beazley by calling him 'a decent man'.
This must be the fourth or fifth time since he lost the leadership that I've seen this word applied to Beazley, and every time it has been said as though 'decent' were a high accolade, the nicest thing you could possibly say about someone, and a truly rare occurrence in the sulphurous air of Parliament House.
(No prizes for hearing the other shoe drop at this point.)
There are two very scary things about this.
(1) It suggests that decency in general is a rare and prized commodity, rather than the norm one would hope and believe it ought to be. Basic decency ought to be a starting point in the human character, not some kind of rarefied hard-won personal quality.
(2) It lends itself to one of the classic fallacies of Logic 101: 'Beazley is decent and lost the leadership, therefore he must have lost the leadership because of his decency.' This in turn suggests that only bastards should ever be elected to leadership positions.
It is of course in many people's interests to believe that a decent man is a man who will get the elbow. It provides such a magnificent excuse, after all, for behaving like a psychotic prick.
But five minutes' thought will recall that Beazley lost the Labor leadership for other reasons. He lost in spite of his decency, not because of it.