Andrew Lynch: Cowen’s fighting because he cares mor
WITH his position now hanging by a thread, any normal person would surely take the hint and quietly step aside.
Why is the Taoiseach clinging to office when the only reward is to lead Fianna Fail into an electoral bloodbath that could destroy the party once and for all?
The answer is that Cowen cares more about his place in history than what people are muttering about him in the corridors of Leinster House this week.
He is desperate not to be remembered as the FF leader who was such a disaster that his colleagues would not even allow him to fight a General Election.
He wants to stagger into the campaign, fight his corner as best he can and then resign with the satisfaction of knowing he went down battling.
Cowen is also convinced that what is happening to him now is deeply unfair.
Although he must know he was stupid not to reveal the full details of his golf game with Seanie FitzPatrick long before now, he also believes that he genuinely did nothing wrong.
To resign now with so many conspiracy theories flying around, he argues, would be seen as an admission of guilt – and a stain on his honour that he could never accept.
The Taoiseach is not a stupid man. He can read the polls as well as anyone.
He knows that FF are in such dire straits now that not even a string of Obama-like campaign speeches on the campaign trail can save them from disaster.
However, it’s important to remember that Cowen actually enjoys fighting elections.
He relishes the opportunity to face Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore in a television debate, where he can take them on without a bunch of opposition TDs shouting insults at him.
He sees himself an unlucky Taoiseach who took tough but necessary decisions in the national interest – and if the voters can’t accept that now, he believes that history will.
Unfortunately, Cowen is also living in a fantasy world.
He does not seem to understand that after the last few days, his popularity has been hit further.
The toxic slime of Anglo Irish bank is oozing under the door of the Taoiseach’s office – and now that he’s contaminated, he must be immediately placed in political quarantine.
An election campaign with Cowen as party leader would very quickly turn into a farce.
Fine Gael and Labour have already indicated that if he stays on as Taoiseach, they will carry on inserting the words “Fianna Fail”, “Seanie Fitz”, “Anglo Irish” and “Druids Glen” into every sentence.
Instead of an upfront debate about the next five years, we would get bogged down in a pointless argument over what was discussed during a round of golf back in July 2008.
Frankly, the country deserves better.
A new FF leader might not win the party a single extra vote, but he or she would at least be able to offer some kind of fresh start.
Cowen is gambling everything on the notion that none of his leadership rivals have the guts to challenge him – but the situation is now so critical that at least one of Martin, Lenihan and Hanafin must be prepared to finally wield the knife.
Brian Cowen has always claimed that he puts the country’s interests first.
Today he has a perfect opportunity to do exactly that, by sitting down and writing out his resignation speech.
The ex-Taoiseach can then get on with the business of fighting his personal demons – while his successor gets down to sorting out the monumental mess he leaves behind.