Dion the 'Lily-Heart,' Van Loan the 'intellectually feeble'

Must-reads: Terence Corcoran on Eliot Spitzer; Greg Weston on “Stéphane the Lily-Heart”; Margaret Wente on identity politics; Lawrence Martin on Harper’s Ontario gang.

Yes retreat, yes surrender
The Liberals run away from their ostensibly principled stand on Afghanistan, and Art Hangar runs away from his job. The democracy is indeed robust.

To our minds, the Liberals pretty much caved in to the government on Afghanistan some weeks ago—but, Sun Media’s Greg Weston writes, today’s the day they make it official. Weston urges us not to believe those on either side of the aisle who “will no doubt try to characterize the vote [in the House of Commons] as a triumph of non-partisan compromise between the two parties.” A February 2009 withdrawal from combat operations was, he says, “one of Stéphane Dion’s only coherent and consistent stands on any issue of major national consequence.” Leaving operational decisions up to the generals in the field might be good strategy, but there’s no way to square it with the rhetoric “Stéphane the Lily-Heart” spouted for so very long.

In the face of Justice Committee chairman Art Hangar’s decision to literally run away from meetings sooner than have the Cadman affair brought before the assembled MPs, the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin proposes a few amendments to the Tories’ notoriously sneaky “handbook” for committee chairs: “The chair shall refuse to hear any objection to his authority when shelving a matter that severely vexes the prime minister,” for example. And, “[w]hen all else fails, the chair must pretend to hear a fire alarm.” One way or another, Martin argues, this matter has to be brought before Parliament—and not, for the love of God, in Question Period.

It’s understandable, says The Globe and Mail‘s Lawrence Martin, that Stephen Harper would have trusted the “highly skilled, brutally partisan political warriors” he inherited from the Mike Harris days—Peter Van Loan, John Baird and Jim Flaherty (plus Tony Clement, of course, whom Martin describes as “duller than a sack of barley). But the “cutthroat old school of politics isn’t selling well,” he argues, and Flaherty’s ongoing pissing match with Dalton McGuinty and Baird’s involvement with the Larry O’Brien imbroglio threaten to compromise whatever good work they do—which in Baird’s case ain’t much to begin with. As for Van Loan, if we may be permitted to paraphrase Martin liberally (but, we think, accurately), he just plain sucks.

In a rather confusing effort, the Toronto Star‘s James Travers attempts to paint Dan McTeague’s RESP proposal as “just as good politics and bad policy” as the Conservative GST cuts—even as he calls more accessible higher education “a no-brainer for a high-cost northern country competing with other knowledge-based economies.” The problem with RESPs, he argues, is that they’re aimed at the relatively wealthy. But that doesn’t make them a bad idea, surely. It sounds to us like RESPs are good policy and bad (Liberal) politics.

America, where politics are civilized
The Globe‘s Margaret Wente has heard just about enough, thank you very much, about Hillary Clinton’s “35 years of experience.” Her “experience” in Bosnia, for example, involved a junket with Sheryl Crow and Sinbad, and “nobody but her husband recalls that she ever mentioned Rwanda.” Meanwhile, Wente argues, Clinton shamelessly plays the gender card even as one of her aides, Geraldine Ferraro, suggests Obama wouldn’t be where he was but for his race. “You may recall that Ms. Ferraro was the first female vice-presidential candidate back in 1984,” Wente concludes. “Not that her gender had anything to do with that, of course. Or that if her name had been Gerald Ferraro, she’d be entirely forgotten.”

Indeed, the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington notes, Ferraro’s “remark could also apply to Hillary, who’d not be running for president today had she not been president Bill Clinton’s wife.” In any case, he writes, Obama predictably didn’t “take the bait” on Ferraro’s comments—not that it stopped Team Clinton from turning around and accusing him, bizarrely, of “bringing ‘race’ into the campaign.”

There is no underestimating the hypocrisy inherent in Eliot Spitzer’s actions, Terence Corcoran writes in the National Post. But the deposed New York Governor is nevertheless a victim of a justice system that veered out of control after 9/11, he argues. The financial dealings between Spitzer and the escort agency would never have come to light, for instance, but for post-9/11 legislation compelling banks to report large transactions to the government. “The fall of Eliot Spitzer is now the greatest achievement of these operations,” Corcoran argues, when they were supposed to catch terrorists. That Spitzer used to avail himself of just such judicial bully tactics is ironic, he admits, but it doesn’t make them legitimate.

Duly noted
The Edmonton Journal‘s articulate and insightful Graham Thomson dons his squirting flo
wer and twirly bowtie and suggests, by way of a lede, that Ed Stelmach must have “gone to carpentry school” in the last year, or perhaps taken “some lessons in furniture making.” Why? Because he’s “much better at making cabinets now than he was in 2006.” Boooooooooo! It’s big, this cabinet—”39 of the 72 Tory MLAs are in or near [it],” he notes, counting policy committees and parliamentary assistants—but it’s “more urban, has a record number of women (seven) and is less blindingly white.”

The Star‘s Thomas Walkom doesn’t want you to pay attention to any of the above. Instead, he wants you to fret about the confidence crisis in “the international financial system that lubricates and feeds the world economy.” Two-hundred billion (from the U.S. Federal Reserve) and $245 billion (from various central banks) bailouts for lenders burdened with sketchy loans are all well and good, he argues, but as yet they haven’t appeared to work. And if some of the “big institutions holding some of the dodgiest assets” are eventually forced to declare bankruptcy, he advises us to stock up immediately on tinned beans and head for the nearest bomb shelter.

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