Friday Classic Clip: "Shit Happens"

On Wednesday, Tony Abbott became Australia’s 28th Prime Minister.

That he would become prime minister seemed unlikely in February 2011, after he was caught on video seemingly minimizing an Australian soldier’s death in Afghanistan by saying, “Well, sometimes shit happens.”

Mr. Abbott was right, of course: sometimes, shit happens in war. But his statement struck a lot of people as cruelly dismissive—particularly because the victim was a married 28-year-old soldier who left behind a young daughter and a second child on the way.

You might think the Friday classic clip is the video above. It isn’t.

The classic clip is from what came next, when an interviewer from Australia’s Channel Seven asked Mr. Abbott to explain his remark.

Instead of apologizing or explaining his comments, Abbott went silent for 26 painful seconds.

As you’ll see in the clip, an Australian political editor named Laurie Oakes summed it up this way:

“To say nothing, to just glare at the reporter for 24 seconds, was ridiculous. It revealed Mr. Abbott as a  politician who’s totally flat-footed when he gets into trouble, and now that he’s exposed as a politician who bungles something this badly, you can expect some serious talk about his leadership of the liberal party…I think Tony Abbott will pay dearly for it.”

Tony Abbott

Mr. Oakes was right about the first part of his statement. But Mr. Abbott—now Prime Minister Abbott—paid for this gaffe (and others) by earning a promotion. And that serves as a helpful reminder to us pundits to think twice before counting a politician out.

Photo credit: MystifyMe Concert Photography (Troy), Wikimedia Commons