Megapundit: Begin the wooing of Frank McKenna

Must-reads: None. Okay, maybe James Travers.

Did somebody order a hero?
It will take more than bellyfire to lead the Liberal party.

Stéphane Dion’s decision to stay on pending a leadership convention is “a gobsmackingly bad move,” Don Martin declares in the Calgary Herald, predicting he’ll make an easy target for “gloating Conservatives across the Commons aisle while economic issues, which are hardly his forte, dominate parliamentary debate.” Dion may finally realize that “federal politics makes mincemeat of honest, high-road sincerity,” but he doesn’t yet seem to accept his own culpability in the Liberal collapse, says Martin. Given two years to “invigorate the Liberal fundraising operation,” “gel with his caucus and install a solid staff organization,” and “frame the Liberals in the centre with rational mainstream policies,” he did none of those things. The idea that he could help them do so as a “lameduck loser” is, therefore, laughable.

The Montreal Gazette‘s Don Macpherson speculates that Dion may be hanging on in anticipation of pulling a Trudeau—i.e., announcing his impending departure, engineering the defeat of the government and then marching to an improbable victory in the 41st general election. If that is indeed his intention, Macpherson advises he be disavowed of it at the party’s earliest convenience. His caucus has neither the money nor the patience to brook such shenanigans, and the various contenders for the crown—Macpherson has Michael Ignatieff as the favourite—would surely lead their troops in revolt.

The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe makes a very important point—that choosing a new leader isn’t an expression of the collective party will but a democratic process, and as such just as likely to install a “compromise candidate” as leader as either of the frontrunners. We happen to believe that installing either Rae or Ignatieff would quickly make up a good deal of the open water between the Grits and Tories—and, as such, it must be frustrating to have to beg outsiders like Frank McKenna or John Manley for help. But the faction that believes “it best to pursue stars beyond the caucus” may well be right, says Yaffe.

The National Post‘s Jonathan Kay suggests Dion’s fate may point at an inherent Liberal flaw. “The sort of candidate who inspires kudos from the party faithful and high-minded observers at convention time” is useless in the heat of an election, while “the centrist, corporate-minded alpha male bereft of any electorate-scaring hobby horses” that they need on the hustings “is incapable of whipping up convention-floor fervour.” The party is, he suggests, “caught between members’ desire for ideological purity”—Ideological purity? He’s talking about the Canadian Liberal party?—”and grandees’ fixation on power for its own sake.” Perhaps what they really need is a leader who can distract everyone from all this with “good looks, youth, bilingual fluency and, oh I don’t know, some kind of impressive family pedigree.” It’s too bad—well, it’s fantastic actually, but it’s too bad for Kay’s argument—that the fellow in question has already declined to run.

If McKenna opted to run for the leadership, Sun Media’s Greg Weston believes the “odds are [it] would quickly become a coronation.” Other than “flawlessly bilingual,” the former New Brunswick premier invites all the important adjectives: “intelligent, affable, accomplished, energetic and politically savvy.” Also “philanthropic”—he recently took time away from his cushy job at TD Bank Financial to slog “through muddy hell in Haiti” with Matt Damon, delivering emergency supplies to a village destroyed by a hurricane. (Visiting a hurricane zone with Matt Damon is our idea of hell too.) But his comfortable, fulfilling life is precisely what might disqualify, Weston warns. “A friend says McKenna is being tugged between those who are saying the country needs him, and his experience in the grind of politics saying: Who needs it?”

Both Ignatieff’s and Rae’s pitches for the leadership “should be stronger this time,” The Globe and Mail‘s Jeffrey Simpson believes: the former has sufficiently repatriated himself, recanted on Iraq and been vindicated on Quebecois nationhood; and the latter’s “unhappy tenure as NDP premier of Ontario” is “fading in memory.” (Suggested campaign button: “Bob Rae in ’09! Come on, guys, that was years ago!”) As for McKenna, Simpson sees no concrete signs he’ll run and several indications he won’t. John Manley, however, may be a more distinct possibility. “But does he have the fire in his belly? Could such a moderate, sensible chap be persuaded to put himself again into the fray?”

The Toronto Star‘s James Travers warns that while the next leader won’t be as vulnerable to Tory scare tactics and attack ads as Dion was, the Conservatives will still hold a massive financial advantage, as well as that of incumbency. As such, he says “scrutinizing vulnerabilities” is as important as “assessing capabilities” when it comes to picking the next leader. And while they scrutinize and assess, he urges the Grits to “look south to grasp how hi-tech is opening new funding and strategic portals.”

Andrew Cohen, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, disputes eight election shibboleths, from the idea that “nothing has changed in Ottawa”—not so; Harper “has learned the limits of his appeal” and is moving slowly along his incremental path to majority glory—to the contention that the “Green party has enriched national politics.” Poppycock! says Cohen, who seems to have a bit of an anti-Green thing going on. “They elected no one, including their naive leader, who chose a hopeless riding and vows, stupidly, to run there again,” and they Nadered away “enough votes from like-minded parties to elect a government whose environmental policies they detest.”

Duly noted
The Vancouver Sun‘s Vaughn Palmer notes that whereas Dalton McGuinty seems prepared to entertain the idea of running a deficit during recessionary times, Gordon Campbell remains dead set and very publicly against it. A deficit budget is illegal in B.C. under penalty of MLA pay cuts, but as Palmer says, “that which the legislature does, it can also undo.” It’s just a tricky proposition when the NDP is still claiming—speciously, in Palmer’s view—that the existing budgetary surplus will be enough to fund its campaign promises, including getting rid of Campbell’s carbon tax.

The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford provides a useful primer on the murder trial of Johnson Aziga, who’s accused of deliberately infecting women with AIDS by not disclosing his own HIV-positive status to his sexual partners despite repeated warnings from the public health department that it was incumbent upon him to do so.

The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington suggests the Americans may have delisted North Korea as a state sponsor of terror because a more moderate and sane bunch is running the show while Kim Jong Il convalesces or, possibly, rots in the ground.

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