Must-reads: Lawrence Martin on the Canadian election; Rosie DiManno and Margaret Wente on Sarah Palin; Christie Blatchford on getting our act together in Afghanistan.
Main Street Canadians like the status quo
How Stéphane Dion can become Prime Minister, and the 10,000 reasons he probably won’t.
We know what Jack Layton, Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe are going to do on the campaign trail, an unusually energetic Lawrence Martin opines in The Globe and Mail. The election’s result is all up to the unknown quantity: Dion. If he “appreciably exceeds his remarkably low expectations,” taking “dead aim at the Harper government” on Afghanistan, fiscal management and the environment, then he might just “eke out a two-seat minority.” But “if, as most expect, he trips over his own tongue and toes, it will be John Turner revisited.” The smart money’s on Harper, of course, but Dion has proven himself again and again as a “defiler of the odds”—that’s either a typo or a brilliant turn of phrase, we’d say, or possibly even both. And Martin says it’s tough to put anything past the man who “came out of a lunar module to win the Liberal leadership race.”
Dion certainly seemed to be taking dead aim at Harper in Winnipeg yesterday, Don Martin argues in the Calgary Herald, when he described the Prime Minister as a “secretive, manipulative, untrustworthy, intolerant, job-killing, climate-change-denying, all-round evil-doer.” All this would have gone down a little smoother if Dion hadn’t also announced alterations to his Green Shift, Martin adds, and if there weren’t “literally dozens of ridings … still without a candidate to carry the Liberal flag, including some that are potentially winnable.” But Dion, for one, appears ready to rumble, and Martin predicts we’ll soon be hearing lots of effective but “utterly preposterous” lines like, “Stephen Harper wants to give George W. Bush a third term in Ottawa.” Oh, goodie.
Dion’s Green Shift concessions to farmers, truckers and various other salt-of-the-earth types “might preserve the main plank of his election platform and appease his caucus,” Don MacPherson writes in the Montreal Gazette, “but it might also weaken his leadership further”—or the perception of his leadership, anyway, which continues to be a major plotline. (Lawrence Martin, incidentally, calls these leadership polls “idiotic,” noting that Joe Clark and Jean Chrétien overcame similarly massive deficits.) And judging by that television ad depicting wooden-faced “Main Street Canadians” declaring their intention to vote for Stephen Harper, MacPherson says this is clearly where the Tories are pushing.
According to the NDP, Jack Layton’s campaign kickoff speech won’t even mention Dion, Sun Media’s Greg Weston reports. The message, party communications director Brad Lavigne says, will be, “Whom do you want as leader: Harper or Layton?” This represents “wishful thinking on a galactic scale,” Weston quite rightly argues, but wait—the Dippers’ have a nefarious plan! Phase One: “solidify the NDP base of party faithful against the PM lefties love to hate;” Phase Two, flowing naturally from Phase One: “attract Liberal voters turned off by Dion, and by the Grits’ abysmal failure to mount any kind of effective legislative opposition;” and Phase Three: paint Stornoway bright orange. How can they lose?
“Making predictions before the campaign has even begun is about as precise a science as musing on the future price of oil,” says the National Post‘s John Ivison, but damn the torpedoes! David Emerson’s and Loyola Hearn’s vacated seats will go Liberal, he assures us, as will “at least one other in Newfoundland and Labrador,” and a last-minute conversion to subsidizing auto manufacturing in Windsor and Oshawa—which, Ivison notes, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty used to refer to as “Band-Aid solutions”—will likely be insufficient to save various Tories’ behinds. In other words, he argues, Harper’s quite right when he says another minority government is in the offing. That said, he cautions, any number of factors—including a Tory avalanche in Quebec and an as-yet unidentified phenomenon we’re going to go ahead and dub the “Thomas Steen effect“—could soon reduce this column to the ramblings of a “prize idiot.”
The Toronto Star‘s James Travers argues that the main reason Harper is so eager to go to the polls is—are you ready for this, Travers nation? Oh, of course you are—to pile another layer of dirt atop the various atrocities that occurred during the last election, which shall henceforth be known as The Election James Travers Won’t Forget and You Can’t Make Him. Please don’t get him wrong: “Ballots were cast deliberately in January 2006. Voters weary of entitlement and scandal brought Liberal rule to a bitter end.” But we still don’t know how the in-and-out affair, the RCMP income trust affair and various other nefarious affairs “affected their decisions,” and for some reason, once we go to the polls again, we never, ever will.
If one more person tells Jeffrey Simpson that John McCain’s a maverick—just one!—he’ll tear that person’s head off. “Whatever moderate social views he might once have expressed have been banished in the platform,” Simpson argues in the Globe, in hopes of keeping the neo-con vote. “It’s as if Focus on the Family, the Council for National Policy, Citizens for Community Values and every other Christian and social conservative lobby group (and the National Rifle Association) had a hand in [drafting it].” (Simpson also lumps in McCain’s championing of the successful troop surge in Iraq as evidence of his neo-con conversion, which is just plain strange.)
Surveying the barn-burnt wreckage of the XCel Energy Center after Sarah Palin’s speech last night, the Globe‘s John Ibbitson suggests the media frenzy that followed her nomination was evidence of a “disturbing shift” towards reporting on what those ghastly bloggers—ptooey!—dredge up. His contention seems to be that neither Jeremiah Wright nor Obama’s “bitter voters” remark would, or should, have been news except that all these online yobs put it out there, which seems a little odd to us. But we quite agree that as the GOP’s social conservative wing rallies around Palin, her appointment—from a purely political sense, mind you—looks less and less like a gaffe.
Margaret Wente gets it: “You can keep your degrees from Harvard, your snotty New York Times and your non-fat soy lattes sprinkled with arugula,” she mimicks in the Globe. “Sarah Palin eats mooseburgers for breakfast, and she will destroy you!” As strategy and as soap opera it’s thoroughly engrossing, she argues, but there’s the small matter of it making a mockery of American democracy. “Vladimir Putin is probably in stitches,” she writes. “And somewhere, Osama bin Laden is grinning in his cave.”
The Star‘s Rosie DiManno calls b-s on portions of that Republican-generated frenzy, particularly those that involve allegations of sexist media coverage. “You can’t have it both ways: All-American mom when it looks good and misogyny-whipped victim when it suits the party’s purpose,” she writes, suggesting Palin represents “a cunning and calculated risk” and not some kind of vetting fiasco. But whatever the reason Palin’s the running mate, DiManno concludes, last night’s speech proves she can take care of herself just fine.
The Post‘s Jonathan Kay bemoans the “taxpayer-funded nonsense” Neil Macdonald recently spewed on The National regarding baby Trig Palin’s lineage, wondering how on earth the CBC could dignify “a political hoax that thousands of humble Web surfers … had debunked a full two days earlier.” Everybody knows the Mother Corp is lousy with perfervid leftists, he concludes. “But rank amateurism is unforgivable.”
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford suggests the proper way to honour “the 94th, 95th and 96th Canadian military fatalities” in Afghanistan would be for the allied nations to pull their collective thumb out, dropping the “caveats” on their soldiers’ activities so that all can report to a single command and act with common purpose. Once and for all, she argues, we need to “squarely face and deal with the corruption of the Afghan government, the enormous opium enterprise and the insurgency that lives and breathes across the border in Pakistan.”