Simon Bridges needed to do two things today when he fronted the news media about allegations of hacking Treasury and he did neither.
He needed to say, at least in general terms, how he received the leak of Budget of documents.
And he needed to say he had contacted the police to offer them any assistance they needed in their investigation.
Instead he fronted up with deputy leader Paula Bennett and finance spokeswoman Amy Adams and did no more than Grant Robertson did last night – hurl insults and smears and accuse the Finance Minister of lying.
Bridges strenuously denied doing anything illegal to obtain some of the Budget figures which he released yesterday.
That was not nearly enough.
Tellingly, he admitted that National had not sought legal advice before releasing the secret figures.
Bridges may have 100 per cent confidence in his own ability to navigate the minutiae of internet, privacy and hacking laws but there is no reason others should.
It is 10 years since he was a Crown Prosecutor and that job did not imbue him with knowledge of a specialised part of the law.
If Bridges had built up a well of credibility in his 15 months in the job, it might be a different matter.
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But given a series of miss-steps, scandals and questionable judgment, "trust me, I know what I'm doing" does not cut it.
He needed to seize the moral high ground today, and he failed to do so.
National had several alternatives open to it when it found itself in possession of Budget numbers.
Doing nothing was not an option. This is politics after all.
It chose to politicise its windfall and make a big deal about it being "Winston's Budget" by using a set of fairly unspectacular figures.
It gave the party an instant hit and threw the Government into chaos and gripped by a sense of revenge.
National could have highlighted the clear vulnerabilities of Treasury instead of revealing figures but that would have targeted Treasury only, and not the Government.
Treasury's Makhlouf notified the police last night - on the advice of the National Cyber Security Centre - when at 6pm he found out there had been 2000 attempts to hack Budget documents since Sunday night.
As Bridges lashed out this morning, he impugned the motives of Makhlouf. Is he going to impugn the motives of the GCSB's National Cyber Security Centre as well?
Certainly the Secretary to the Treasury will not want to admit that what should have been Fortress Treasury may have been built upon the sand.
It is in Makhlouf's interests to have the matter sorted before he leaves on June 27 to take up the role as Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland.
That however, is out of his hands now that the police are investigating.
Bridges and National are already the subject of a Serious Fraud Office investigation over electoral donations.
With his leadership already under a cloud, Bridges needs nothing short of complete exoneration.
He has done nothing to help his cause today.