AT LEAST when the US and Russia were locked in a situation of mutually assured destruction during the Cold War they each had the good sense not to press the button.
Not so the Australian Labor Party.
As the Rudd camp kept saying yesterday, down at Liberal HQ enough material has been recorded in the past 24 hours to make lethal attack ads for every day of the next election campaign.
The best ammunition for the Liberals has been provided by Gillard supporters against Kevin Rudd. Minister after minister fronted the cameras yesterday in a clear attempt to tear apart Rudd's record and reputation so comprehensively that - whatever the merits of their arguments - the caucus has to conclude he is unelectable.
This is a strategy to smash Rudd on Monday and bury the idea of a second ballot at the same time.
If Rudd's ''people power'' campaign unexpectedly prevailed, the only problem for the Liberals' federal director, Brian Loughnane, would be choosing which clips to use.
Would he start with Wayne Swan calling Rudd ''dysfunctional'', ''deeply flawed'' and ''erratic'', or go for Julia Gillard openly accusing the leader she served of ''sabotaging'' the 2010 election campaign, lacking the ''discipline'' to stay focused in the tough times, and of leading a government ''paralysed'' by Rudd's ''difficult and chaotic work patterns''? Truly an embarrassment of riches.
But if Gillard wins, as seems most likely, Loughnane can still roll out Rudd explaining that the Labor Party organisation needed reform so it was ''no longer governed by the faceless men''.
You can imagine the scary red and black images and the deep voice-over: ''Julia Gillard isn't the real prime minister - just ask Kevin Rudd''.
Or he could use Rudd's attack on Gillard's decision to axe the green car fund. Until that point, the Coalition's cut to car
industry funding was a rare issue on which the ALP was mounting a successful political attack.
Or he could use Rudd's comment that Gillard had ''squibbed'' the hard decisions on health reform. And there are still three days of pre-ballot campaigning to go.
This has always been a different kind of leadership battle, unlike Hawke versus Keating or Howard versus Costello, which were bitter, but ultimately about who would be a better leader, or whether it was time for generational leadership change.
Gillard versus Rudd is a deeply personal, moral battle, with both camps casting the other as illegitimate and an existential threat to the future of Labor. Once properly joined it was never going to be a fight from which the party could easily reassemble unity.
To the extent there is a plan, it seems to be to humiliate Rudd into permanent submission, after which the party reunites behind Gillard and fights its way back to electoral contention. Given the published polls and the all-in brawl of the past few days, Labor really does look like its pressed the button on MAD.