Megapundit: Ottawa’s accountant vs. Washington’s poet

Must-reads: Colby Cosh on Obama’s geneaology; Dan Gardner takes on Margaret F***ing Atwood; Don Martin on Canadian asbestos; Rick Salutin on Stéphane Dion.

Must-reads: Colby Cosh on Obama’s geneaology; Dan Gardner takes on Margaret F***ing Atwood; Don Martin on Canadian asbestos; Rick Salutin on Stéphane Dion.

Get over it
Some pundits are turning their gaze to the future. Others can’t stop post-morteming the election.

The Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin understands just how impossible Canadian politicians feel it is to kill 700 jobs in a nation of 33 million people just to save a bunch of lives in the third world, but is baffled at “how Canada can argue that a commodity the government says is too dangerous to permit on domestic construction sites is okeedokee for a developing world where safety measures are far less stringent.” He speaks, naturally, of asbestos. And while he concedes a distinction must be drawn between “the old toxic fibre they’re extracting from office walls and the lower-health-risk asbestos they’re exporting as a cement additive,” he says scientists and doctors make a rather compelling case for caution. The least the government could do, he very reasonably suggests, is stop actively marketing the stuff and release the Health Canada-commissioned report on the subject that was delivered to them months ago. (The Post‘s editorial board and Terence Corcoran take the contrarian view on this.)

The Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe speaks to Michael Byers, who had his academic cap handed to him in Vancouver Centre by Hedy Fry (and Lorne Mayencourt, for that matter), about what he learned from life on the campaign trail. Among other things, he tells her, “I now realize the demands of political debating, how difficult it is to perform at that level. As an armchair quarterback, it’s easy to criticize and focus on weaknesses.” Interestingly enough, that’s something we’ve felt like saying to Mr. Byers ourselves on a few occasions…

Rick Salutin, writing in The Globe and Mail, finds himself unnerved by Stéphane Dion’s failure to aggressively sell the specifics of his Green Shift, saying it was almost as if he expected Canadians to swallow his “vision” simply because of its nobility. “Politics basically divides between those for whom it’s about ideas, about their notion of what’s best for everyone, and those for whom it’s about working with others to formulate a vision, or program, on the premise that people have the right and ability to determine their own fate,” he argues. “At the least, a leader has to work to justify his vision.” Dion, on the other hand, almost seemed to be “waiting to be elected so he could execute his great, misrepresented plans.”

“Drifting into disaster to avoid changing … spending or revenue plans is neither difficult nor a choice,” John Robson argues in the Ottawa Citizen, referring to Dalton McGuinty’s ostensibly brave refusal to balance Ontario’s budget in hard times. In all cases, he alleges, deficit spending is—to use Thomas Jefferson’s phrase—”swindling futurity.” And in many ways we are that futurity, considering the Fraser Institute’s contention that “six provinces will spend more than half their revenue on health care by 2036” thanks, says Robson, to periods of “underinvestment” followed by periods of “panicky overspending.” And unless politicians learn to cut spending coherently and sagely, the next generations will be even more screwed.

The Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson explains the practical ramifications for the global economic downturn for Canadians and their politics. No one who regularly reads a newspaper will find any new information here.

Mapping the brave new world
In the Edmonton Journal, Lorne Gunter crunches the electoral college numbers and calls the election for Barack Obama, concluding there just aren’t enough states where the Republicans can make sufficient gains between now and Nov. 4 to close the gap. But he expects it to be a victory of Clintonian and not—as some have suggested—Reaganite proportions.

The Citizen sends Susan Riley to Texas, we assume as some sort of punishment, to survey the local political scene. It’s a surprisingly staid look at a “rock-ribbed Republican” state that, like so many other parts of the GOP heartland, is wrestling with newfound doubts over the economy, John McCain’s leadership and (in the case of “one anti-abortion, pro-celibacy evangelical Christian”) how Sarah Palin could possibly have allowed her daughter to get pregnant. (She does realize the parents aren’t directly involved in the process, doesn’t she?) But Riley can’t hold her tongue when it comes to Texans’ disdain for the environment. “While the national economy staggers, Texans continue to drive their fully-loaded SUVS, shoot doves for sport and waste prodigious amounts of everything,” she reports.

It’s a curiously unexamined phenomenon that “being ‘black’ has enabled [Obama] to represent a dream of racial conciliation for all Americans more easily than being a trans-or post-racial figure would,” Colby Cosh argues in the National Post, even though he is multiracial and even though it’s “easier to show [his] descent from slave-owning American colonists than it is to establish any genealogical connection between himself and American slaves.” In fact, Cosh notes, Obama’s mother’s great-great-grandfather was one Joseph Samuel Wright, who opposed a draft Arkansas constitution in 1868 on grounds it would “enfranchise a class of inhabitants”—i.e., blacks—”totally incapable of self-government.” Fascinating stuff.

“Stephen Harper is very competent and smart and a good decision-maker,” Richard Gwyn writes in the Toronto Star. “But he is to Obama as is an accountant to a poet—an exceptionally intelligent, cool, tough, resilient and unflappable poet.” (Anyone know how to get puke out of a wool sweater?) He goes on to argue that if Obama follows through on his messianic potential, Canada may look less and less utopian by comparison and leave us with a vastly diminished sense of superiority. We’ll believe it when we see it. But the sheer volume of rubbish at the top of this column is truly amazing. Gwyn suggests “Americans will be rewriting their entire history” if Obama wins, for example. What does that even mean? And if Canadians electing an aboriginal prime minister would be the historical equivalent of Americans electing Obama, then what, we are forced to wonder, would be the Canadian equivalent of Americans electing an aboriginal president? A polar bear prime minister, perhaps?

Murder in Ontario
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford reports from the Johnson Aziga trial, where the defence seems to be suggesting the accused was incapable of understanding that he’d been ordered by public health officials to report his sexual contacts, notify them about his HIV-positive status and use condoms. But except “for the lawyer’s own colourful references to Mr. Aziga’s allegedly disturbed and traumatic past,” says Blatchford, “there is virtually nothing before the jurors to suggest that Mr. Aziga was psychologically disturbed, had any sort of mental illness or that he ever asked for psychiatric help until after his arrest.”

The Star‘s Rosie DiManno, meanwhile, files a very odd update from the murder trial of one J.S.R., who’s accused of participating in the Boxing Day 2005 gunfight that killed Toronto teenager Jane Creba. At one point she suggests a “contemporary analogy” for the chaotic scene of Creba’s murder “might be a gangsta rap video,” considering :even the firing posture of at least one participant evoking hip-hop dance movements.” Then she asks, “which came first, the suggestive rapping gestures or the modern gang-banger shootings that they mimic?” Oh lordy, can we please not go there?

Duly noted
If Mario Dumont’s Action démocratique loses just four more MNAs, Josée Legault notes in the Montreal Gazette, Pauline Marois would suddenly be leader of the opposition. And considering the ideological, er, diversity of the ADQ caucus, she says Dumont could lose them either to the Liberals (to which two decamped this week) or to the Parti Québécois. So even as Jean Charest’s case for a quick December election is strengthened by the adéquiste defections, she says he must be wary of a PQ resurgence. He and his advisors certainly weren’t planning on fighting “a classic, two-party PQ-Liberal battle,” but as recent times have shown, just about anything can happen in Quebec politics.

The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner releases the hounds on Margaret Atwood for her “slack, lazy” ruminations in the New York Times about re-establishing “fair regulations” in the financial market and how “things unconnected with money will be valued more—friends, family, a walk in the woods”—if they are. What regulations? How do you know this will happen? One doesn’t ask such impudent questions of a soon-to-be Nobel laureate, Gardner sarcastically tsks. “She’s Margaret F***ing Atwood! No one tells Margaret Atwood her writing is slack and lazy and please try again.” It’s just unfortunate for her, he adds, that “without criticism, slack and lazy writing inevitably gets slacker and lazier.” Heh. Awesome. Do Farley Mowat next!