My kid is more important than your kid.

John Key will not attend the funerals of the NZDF troopers killed in action in Bamiyan because he has a prior commitment to attend his high school aged son’s baseball tournament in the US. He says that his son has sacrificed a lot for his dad to be PM and he needs to return the favor.

I do not know what to say. Check that: actually, I do.

Is he elevating his son’s supposed sacrifice above that of the dead troopers he sent into a forlorn war? Is he serious or are the funerals a scheduling inconvenience? Does he not comprehend the gravity of the situation to which he has committed other people’s sons, who have died for the cause he supposedly champions (whatever that is)? Can he possibly not understand that his son’s penchant for a US sport may not be, in the large scheme of things, more important than the loss of life of courageous New Zealanders fighting in a hopeless conflict already abandoned by most Western allies?

Sure, Barack Obama and Julia Gillard do not attend every military funeral for their fallen soldiers in Afghanistan. But the military commitment of both countries far exceeds that of New Zealand and has an explicitly combat role. They both acknowledge that death comes with the commitment. John Key denies that New Zealand has a combat role and is still involved in peaceful reconstruction even though the security situation has “worsened.”

This is a disgrace of the first order.

John Key seems to believe that being a CEO is equivalent to being a statesman and prime minister. He seems to think that other peoples deadly sacrifices are just part of doing business. His bottom line needs no genuflections to the niceties of grief or reconsideration of the rationale of deploying NZ’s sons and daughters in conflict zones. It is all about his “big picture”, except of course when he can use an official visit to watch a high school game in an American sport.

He may claim that family matters most. He has already said as if it was somehow better, that the dead soldiers either had little family or were childless. So perhaps he feels he does not have to front to the funerals of soldiers killed in the worst military incident in forty years because his family priorities exceed his official obligations.

I find his attitude to be despicable and proof that he simply does not understand the full scope of the responsibilities and obligations that come with being Prime Minister, beyond whatever he thinks that being CEO of Kiwi, Inc. entails

This is a spit in the face of the NZDF. It is a dishonor to the fallen soldiers. It shows utter contempt for all the families who grieve.

Note to General Rhys-Jones and the rest of the NZDF brass: he just owned you in a very bad way.


61 thoughts on “My kid is more important than your kid.

  1. This is perhaps one of the most biased, idiotic, and ideologically-driven article I have read on KP. You attempt to distinguish Key from Gillard and Obama is weak and makes a mockery of your entire argument and appears to stem more from your approval of the politics of Obama and Gillard over those of Key. Spare us your faux outrage. Key has already met the families of those killed and expressed the condolences of the Nation to them and Bill English will attend the funeral. How does this disrespect the soldiers and the NZDF? I wonder if Americans and the US armed forces are insulted when Joe Biden shows up at a funeral in place of President Obama. I highly doubt it.

    And yes, his kids are more important to him than other peoples kids are. That is what being a parent means. That no matter what, your kids come first. What kind of heartless society are we descending into if we cannot recognize that fact, and applaud it. To many children grow up with absentee fathers.

    Growing up, sport gave me more joy that anything else in this world and It meant the world having my father there supporting me. After he walked out of our family, that stopped and I would have given absolutely anything for him to show up and show me that he cared after that. John Key might be the Prime Minister and with that there will be sacrifices, but he is also a father. You have tagged this as pampered children, to me it sounds more like his children are loved.

  2. His son is important too. But, he should have promised to meet with the families and their support network when he gets be (without any cameras in tow). If possible, he and his diplomatic staff in the US should mark the funeral in the US preferably at the same time as the funeral in NZ.

  3. Joshua:

    I am sorry that you daddy walked out on you and left you scarred. However, let me explain some basics.When one becomes Prime Minister one assumes public responsibilities that outweigh personal interests. Attending funerals for fallen soldiers is one such public obligation.

    It is not as if Key’s son was getting married or receiving a Dow Jones prize for ruthless entrepreneurship–he is playing in a friggin’ high school baseball game.

    As for the rest of your blather. As I said in the post, Key has repeatedly sold the PRT as a non-combat mission and until this past weekend he minimized the threat to the troops in Bamiyan. His non-attendance at the funerals of these “non-combat” soldiers shows that he continues to downplay the costs involved in that mission. And although it is good that he visited relatives in private, his role as a purported statesman makes fronting at the funerals a matter of official duty rather than personal choice.

  4. You know what I find interesting: why does Key’s kid play baseball? It isn’t a usual game in NZ – cricket, softball or rounders maybe?

    I guess the US operates “international” schools for its operatives which offer an all-American curriculum, but it’s a bit indiscreet for someone who isn’t acknowledged as being on the payroll to send their kids there?

  5. Good on John Key for putting his family first. He has already visited the families of the soldiers killed and done all that he can reasonably be expected to do. He may be the PM but he has a life too. Cut the man some slack and get a life. Soldiers being killed is tragic, but it’s a known risk that they accept when they sign up.

  6. Keyboard sabre rattlers will likely leap onto Pablo’s post with a growl. But I suspect defence professionals and various other kiwis may just quietly file this one away and privately downgrade the PM’s standing.

    Prime Ministers do not have a life as it turns out, they are public property. Mr Key generally likes to not “rule it in or rule it out“ but he has certainly displayed decisiveness on this occasion.

  7. I think that there are two valid reasons for the PM not to attend these funerals: previously scheduled important official business or urgent personal business. Nor do I think that he should attend all military funerals. However, unless the family requests otherwise, I do think that paying respects to those killed in action in Afghanistan is a moral obligation that symbolically reaffirms the government’s respect for, and understanding of, the sacrifices it asks of its troops. Skipping the funerals for a schoolboy ball game overseas is an affront, and sending Bill English a poor substitute.

  8. The Miller, His Son, and Their Ass

    A MILLER and his son were driving their Ass to a neighboring fair to sell him. They had not gone far when they met with a troop of women collected round a well, talking and laughing. “Look there,” cried one of them, “did you ever see such fellows, to be trudging along the road on foot when they might ride?’ The old man hearing this, quickly made his son mount the Ass, and continued to walk along merrily by his side. Presently they came up to a group of old men in earnest debate. “There,” said one of them, “it proves what I was a-saying. What respect is shown to old age in these days? Do you see that idle lad riding while his old father has to walk? Get down, you young scapegrace, and let the old man rest his weary limbs.” Upon this the old man made his son dismount, and got up himself. In this manner they had not proceeded far when they met a company of women and children:

    “Why, you lazy old fellow,” cried several tongues at once, “how can you ride upon the beast, while that poor little lad there can hardly keep pace by the side of you?’ The good-natured Miller immediately took up his son behind him. They had now almost reached the town. “Pray, honest friend,” said a citizen, “is that Ass your own?’ “Yes,” replied the old man. “O, one would not have thought so,” said the other, “by the way you load him.

    Why, you two fellows are better able to carry the poor beast than he you.” “Anything to please you,” said the old man; “we can but try.” So, alighting with his son, they tied the legs of the Ass together and with the help of a pole endeavored to carry him on their shoulders over a bridge near the entrance to the town.

    This entertaining sight brought the people in crowds to laugh at it, till the Ass, not liking the noise nor the strange handling that he was subject to, broke the cords that bound him and, tumbling off the pole, fell into the river. Upon this, the old man, vexed and ashamed, made the best of his way home again, convinced that by endeavoring to please everybody he had pleased nobody, and lost his Ass in the bargain.

  9. Well WH, the one thing I can agree with you upon reading your silly fable is that there is an ass in the mix.

  10. Here is a question: if Helen Clark skipped military funerals like these in favor of taking Peter on an overseas tramping trip, what would be the general response, especially from those on the Right who believe that his family-first choice is correct?

  11. The reality is Pablo no matter what Key did you would find fault, I guess that’s what happens when you are an ideological Muppet

  12. Dean:

    There is nothing ideological in my critique. I wrote this because I do not think Key has a full sense of, or does not care about, the responsibilities of the job.

  13. Dean:

    If you have nothing constructive or insightful to say, then please just go away.

  14. For what it’s worth, I would expect a CEO to attend the funeral of any staff who were killed at work. Having spent time in two organisations which did have workplace deaths that is my memory of the normal behaviour of a CEO.

    Also FWIW, I’m not sure whether Key should attend the funerals in the place of a commitment he’s made to one of his kids, but I am sure that he shouldn’t use rhetoric to attempt to make his the difficulties he’s imposed on his kids appear like the deaths of soldiers he sent to Afghanistan.

  15. Poor old Max. Thrust into notoriety by a geek poseur professing familial piety while accusing women of “breeding for a business”. If he loved him, Josh, he would’ve attended the funeral. Ask your mate Maggie: she knows all about kids, especially those poor deprived wee waifs forced into the horrendous Dickensian situation of playing baseball in the US.

  16. Mr B, you have lost the plot, why don’t you crawl back un the slime you came from.

  17. Steve:

    I will leave your comment up for a few hours so that people can see what a troll is.

    As I said to Deane, if you cannot offer a coherent rebuttal, you should stay away from this blog.

    Read the comments policy BTW. We try to show some decorum and keep things semi-civilized. Even if I have lapsed from time to time when dealing with people like you, the general tone is somewhat above that of your comment.

  18. It is good to see a PM who can put his children first. He has already had a personal meeting with the unfortunate families and of course the Deputy PM will represent him. Being a father is something we cannot delegate I know what a lot of disappointment my children have when I am unable to watch their sports which I mostly attend.
    It is obvious however Pablo that you encourage absentee fathers which is precisely why we have so many social problems today.
    Get a life but it would not have mattered what the PM had done you would find something to criticize.

  19. Yes a tough decision when it comes to his own family but cannot make a decision when it comes to the review of the Veterans Act on those who were fortunate to return from such service and still struggle today

  20. Glenn:

    I am astounded that you and others think that this is an issue about preserving the family. It is nothing of the sort. But I will say this: Key and his PR advisors are very clever. He has basically engaged in the cynical manipulation of the “family-first” logic at a time when there are major concerns about the family unit, concerns that National’s social policies have not necessarily alleviated. This diverts attention away from his shirking his responsibilities as a statesman with regard to the funerals. Remember: he is a public person and choose to be so. He has obligations that transcend those of the average citizen, and one of them is to pay his respects to war dead. I have already outlined the exceptions to the general rule in this regard, so you may wish to refer to some of my earlier comments above.

    Funerals are as much about the living as it is about the dead. The symbolism of his attendance is very important for several reasons. This is why I believe that he has failed his duty to the country and the NZDF. That you think that going to a schoolboy baseball tournament overseas is somehow equivalent or more important than his public responsibilities demonstrates that you fail to comprehend or choose to minimize the significance of this loss of life. In that regard Key has been masterful in playing on your personal concerns about family. I give him props for the spin.

    One question: what is this “get a life” business? That is the second comment that uses that phrase. What exactly does that mean because quite frankly it reads like a silly and meaningless throw away phrase posing as a soft insult. I will say that at least you choose to try and offer a counter-argument rather than engage in some vitriolic trolling.

  21. Peter:

    Why is that? Because I find fault with the PM’s performance in this matter? Because I choose to air my opinion on the issue? Or are you just another one of those Key sycophants that see no wrong in anything that he does or does not do and prefer to shout down those that beg to differ?

    You really need to think before you start typing.

  22. Beliieve me I am not one of your John Key sycophants there is lots about National and John Key I oppose and in fact thereis no party that I will be supporting with present policies, but to try and criticise National for not alleviating concerns about the family unit is fantasyland. Nationall is never going to correct all the social engineering advanced by the socialists over the last few decades and Labour is only interested in imposing more of it.
    If you are going to write blogs such as this you have to be prepared to receive critcism iif not go and write Noddy books

  23. Paul:

    I am thinking. You believe that the soldiers serving our nation require God like elevation above all other New Zealanders. I am very sorry to hear what happen and send my condolences to their families but what about the 100’s of NZ’rs that die each year in accidents? Their deaths are just as sad. They have contributed to NZ through taxes etc. Therefore wouldn’t they be deemed to be in the service of NZ. Its the same thing, the soldier chose this line of work. I didnt see John Key attending every funeral of every NZ’r that has died. If I am a John Sycophant then you are the leader of the John Key hate squad. You decided to chose this accident, which tugs at at many NZ hearts to express you hate of John Key. A true disgrace

  24. Glenn:

    Now you are off-track and not making sense. Your use of the term “socialists” pretty much says it all. Perhaps you should go back to reading those Noddy books, given your apparent level of reading comprehension and argumentation.

  25. Peter:

    To equate domestic accidents with killed in action while serving the foreign policy objectives of the NZ government is simply poor logic. To refer to the circumstances of the soldiers deaths as an “accident” is to diminish their sacrifice and displays a callous indifference to the plight of the NZDF in Bamiyan.

    Again, you need to think a bit harder if you are going draw parallels as part by of a counter-argument.

    What is disgraceful, beyond Key’s shirking of his moral duty, is the sheer ignorance displayed by those who think that my critique is driven by hate or some ideological agenda.

  26. “accidents” does not always refer to a bleeding knee or a heart attack. There are murders and plenty of sacrifices made by our public servants.

    Your argument would be sound if we forced the soldiers by gunpoint to serve our foreign policy.
    but that is not the case.

  27. Sir, your ideological leanings have gotten the better of you once again.

    You had nothing negative to say when Helen Clark chose not to attend the funeral of the CO 2Sqn RNZAF after he was killed at RAN Nowra.

    You had nothing negative to say when she chose Mark Burton to attend in her place.

    You had nothing negative to say when Burton turned up half an hour late.

    You’ve ignored the fact that John Key has already met privately with the families.

    You’ve ignored the fact that the Governor-General and the Acting Prime Minister will attend the memorial service.

    You’ve ignored the fact that these funerals are actually private family funerals – funerals that ONLY THE FAMILIES WILL ATTEND. They are not bloody showcases for politicans.

    Sir, you call those who disagree with your comments sycophants and trolls. It is you, sir, who have nothing constructive or insightful to say. I find YOUR comments in turning the memorial services to two fine soldiers into low-quality political theatre to be despicable and disgraceful.

  28. I am a current serving Regular Force member of the NZDF, this comment is my own personal view and in no way constitutes the views or opinions of the NZDF, or its personnel. That being said, I find it quite astonishing that the PM is being attacked for his decision. Yes, Mr Key has a duty to perform as his role of Prime Minister dictates but I believe it is unfair for us all to criticise him for putting his family first, one of the only times he has done so while in office! What could be the possible outcomes to his family life if he put his official duties before his family everytime? As has been stated in previous comments, he has paid his respects personally to the families and let’s all bear in mind that our current Commander in Chief is actually the Governor General. And as a serviceman, I would find it more than acceptable, that as long as the Governor General attended, and the PM had a suitable reason for not attending, that a representative in the form of the Deputy Prime Minister attend.

  29. Tones:

    Try to calm down and think rationally. This blog did not exist until 2009, so your comments about Clark and Burton and the death by accident of the RNZAF pilot is simply not germane. Plus, I have had plenty critical to say about Clark and her government in other fora over the years, so you are simply wrong when you impute ideological motivations to my writing in this case.

    I have already said that if the families wanted private funerals then I could understand the PM not attending. They did not request that and the fact that Bill English and others will attend is proof of that. But the most important person will not be there because he prefers to take a family vacation. What is sad is that Mr. Key could have delayed his trip by exactly one day in order to make the public memorial service. Since that baseball tournament runs all week, he still would have had plenty of time to see his boy play.

    I am not politicizing anything. I am strongly critiquing what I see is a failure of leadership on Mr. Key’s part. You may disagree, but try to be rational about it.

  30. Active Duty:

    I did not say that the PM has to put his official duties ahead of his family every time. I have simply said that he should have done so this time.

  31. Rather pompous there “Tones”, Helen Clark did well on several of the lingering old soldiers issues during her term.

    My uncle was blown to bits at Monte Casino Italy and I grew up on WWII stories, dad was a bomber navigator in Europe. While not a closeted peacenik I particularly do not like people to die in dubious strategies propping up US (albeit fading) imperialism in Afghanistan. Which some call a narco theocracy due to the strange opiate/religion synergy.

    Mr Key has dropped his bundle on this one like it or not. His government has the means to withdraw and has chosen toadying over principle so the least he could do is appear at some stage of the several official military ceremonies.

    Despite his non statesman-like behaviour the upshot is that ShonKey is happily squandering NZ’s international peace keeping semi neutral reputation built over many decades.

  32. I may disagree? Yes I certainly DO disagree – but my comments are no less rational than your own. I sense that your comments are fuelled by your dislike of Key rather than some “failure of leadership” and in voicing them you show yourself to be a petty, mean individual.

    John Key was a father before he became PM, and he will be a father afterwards. Your comments trivialise and demean the importance of that role. And they trivialise the importance of that role for Key, who had no father standing on the sidelines.

    These funerals are not about the PM – they are about two young men who died, not for their country or their beliefs, but for their mates.

  33. And your point is what Tiger?? – my dad was a gunner in the 8th Army, fought and was captured by germans in North Africa, escaped and carried on to fight in Italy. His brother was blown up in the prison camp by friendly bombs. Their father (my grandfather) fought in WW1. His father fought in the Boer War, and his grandfather was a Military Settler in 1864… and so it goes. We all have stories to tell.

    Genealogical point-scoring on military history is neither here nor there.

    But what you’ve done is the same as Paul – politicised these deaths, as a sop to you own ideological views. Your reactions speak more about your dislike of Key even before this issue arose.

    Shame on you and shame on Paul.

  34. While it is desireable that the Prime Minister attends State and Military funerals it is not compulsory for him/her to do so.
    That role is performed by the Governor General who as the Queens representative acts on her /his behalf as New Zealands Head of State and officiates at occassions such as these.
    In this instance it is quite appropriate that Governor General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae, with his distinquished military background, officiates on this sombre occassion and lends support to the families of the deceased soldiers, and accords the soldiers the required respect for their sacrifice.

  35. Given the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and growing public disquiet about the role and safety of our troops who remain in harm’s way, I believe the PM should have chosen public duty over personal circumstance. His attendance would have acknowledged the continuing worthiness of the cause for which these men gave their lives (whatever that may be). Delegating the hard task of fronting up at the funerals because they clashed with a family sports event half a world away sends a very different message about the priorities of the man and the validity of the mission.

  36. Your continued vitriolic tyrade against the PM is despicable and a disgrace get over it he is not going to be there so live with it. You are trying to whip up a frenzy that is not justified most people support the PMs decision despite ranting by you and many like you.
    I do not recall anyone making the same objections to Helen Clark not attending the funeral of firefighter Senior Station Officer Derek Lovell killed in the tragic Tamahere fire in April 2008. One of only 4 firefighters killed in the line of duty in the previous 60 years.

  37. Key’s son’s baseball tournament runs from August 12 -16 (US time). NZ are playing on the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th (US time). Can we seriously believe that the PM cannot attend the funeral and the baseball?
    If he can attend both – as seems certain – why has he given the impression that he can attend one and not the other?

  38. To me it seems a very clever move to be seen as a caring family man – its american politic strategies at its best.
    Come on after all these years of the family coming second? now was the time to be superdad? who believes that? Especially the schedule of the tournament confirms my belief.

  39. Badchefi,

    The trouble is that Key has been deceitful. He’s indicated that he couldn’t attend the baseball and the funerals. In fact, he could easily have attended both. He didn’t need to miss any of the 4 matches involving his son. Not only is he weak for treating the slain soliders with indifference, he is also duplicitous for suggesting that he couldn’t attend both events. The mainstream media should be asking him some hard questions upon his return, or even while he is in the US.

  40. key didnt attend the funerals of kirifi mila or douglas hughes, both killed in afghanistan. no fuss was made then. pablo wasnt mortally offended on behalf of the nation. were kirifi and douglas not worth it?

  41. Key has used his son before. When he was confronted with conflict of interest shares (Tranzrail?) he said ” I tried giving them to Max but he didn’t want them!” Anyone else remember that?
    This awful man manipulates us at every term.

  42. Pingback: Interesting week « The Standard

  43. insider:

    If what you say is true then Key is a serial shirker of his responsibilities as head of government, at least with regards to honoring those who serve and die on his watch.

  44. The worst bit was what i found out this morning. The funerals were on Saturday, the tournament dosent start til tuesday

  45. So, Key could have attended the funerals. Clearly, he simply didn’t want to go, his brand can only be associated with good news and pull-together patriotism. And the success of the hollow men in building the carefully nutured PR image that is the cult of Key is actually right in front of our eyes in the tone of the vitriol both in this very thread and on Kiwiblog, where is it very much personalised into an adoring fan base base playing the man rather than addressing the issue.

    My take is I think this is simply further confirmation that key doesn’t take the responsibilities and duties of being PM seriously. The evidence for this now obvious to any critical thinker. From back-tracking on his promises to families of the 29 miners, to using the police to indulge his vindictiveness when he felt he was crossed over the tea pot tapes to doing tawdry deals with casino operators that failed to follow proper processes of accountability to his uncritical acceptance of the ethical weaseling of John Banks over donations and now to this, John Key simply applies the moral and ethical standards to being prime minister as he would to being CEO of some two-bit mid-sized corporate operation. The corporate bureaucratic mindset manifested in the lack of imagination and ambition that characterises his government starts at the very top.

    To me the damning evidence he simply didn’t care enough to be bothered going to these two dead soldiers funerals was revealed in the language he used to justify not attending. Using the word “sacrifice” to describe his families supposed travails since he became PM, and equating it with being killed in action on a dusty battlefield in a distant land was a grossly offensive and thoughtless thing to do. Since we must take him on his word that he does actually think HIS sacrifices as PM – a job, it is worth repeating, he voluntarily stood for office to do – exceed those of those killed doing their duty at his direction I think it raises serious questions about his general competency to do do the job of prime minister of this country to highest standards that we as citizens and patriots should demand and expect from our poltical leaders.

  46. Sanctuary:

    I could not agree more. It was the language that he used in his standup IV that set me off. Th equation of sacrifice, the “someone is going to be let down” calculus, the playing on the family values meme at a time when issues like marriage equality and single parenthood are hot button issues–it all smacked of deliberate PR spin simply because he wanted to take a 10 day winter vacation in his preferred country.

    I have been excoriated for using the words disgrace and despicable to characterize his actions. To that I can add another word that starts with “d:” deplorable.

  47. Sorry to correct that the teams first game was 5.30pm Sunday USA Maine time which was about now 930am (monday Morning NZ time) Yes he could of done both. The 7.15pm AirNZ flight would of gotten him to LA at 12.15 lunchtime Saturday Us time giving him over 24hours to get a 7hour domestic flight over to the east coast to watch their first of four tournament pool games

  48. Martin:

    Your basic point was always correct. I fly to the US east coast regularly using the daily Air NZ or Qantas evening flights (unfortunately QA just stopped all direct AK-LAX flights). It is 17-18 hours of flying time plus 2-3 hours layover, with a day in hand due to the date line. Flying east is easier than flying west in terms of jet lag. So there are no excuses on that score.

  49. Pablo, thanks a lot for that,i was quite concerned that i had put people wrong. Many thanks

  50. Hi Pablo, i suppose he would be flying the more helpful for jetlag- business class too

  51. Ps i included in my calculation the deduction in hours from the summer time zone difference between LA and Maine of 3hours

  52. My problem is Key effectively saying that it’s fine for his son to make many sacrifices for his job, but somehow honouring the death of soldiers is a sacrifice too far.

    So he’s saying it’s fine for his son to put up with every other sacrifice, those ones are worthy, but this one isn’t.

    I’m shaking my head at the irony of people exhorting Key as a family first man, when it’s clear from his own admission in this saga that he has put his family second for many things less worthy than soldiers who have put their lives on the line for our country’s interests.

    Another way of saying that the business interests Key has put before his family in the past are more worthy than the soldiers he won’t put before his family now.

  53. Gary:

    That was an observation my partner made. He appears to be trying to make up to is kids all of the times he missed family occasions as a money trader, but now that he is in public office he feels he can make time for them regardless of his public obligations. Even so, I find his equation of the sacrifices made to be the most galling aspect of this affair.

  54. I was prepared to cut him a little slack until it became clear he could have attended both. That makes it disgusting, if I am allowed another “d” word.

  55. Three more soldiers dead for no apparent reason. I hope their funerals don’t clash with King’s college school play season.

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