Old friends who never met

Just going over the last time Mulroney testified — well, I was going to say under oath, but this time he really was: at his 1996 deposition prior to his libel suit against the government of Canada. The testimony is notable for the number of things the former prime minister did not know or could not recall:

– He had “no specific recollection” of his first meeting with Schreiber, though he could say it was “in a business context” (he told the ethics committee it was “through the political process”)

– He didn’t remember whether it was in Alberta or Quebec

– He had “no idea” whether he was a political contributor

– He did not know of any relationship between Schreiber and Airbus (“not at all”) nor did he know of any commission sales agreement between them (“never”).

– He did not know that Schreiber was a friend of Franz Josef Strauss, although he said he read it later.

Talking of Strauss, what Mulroney did not know about Schreiber paled in comparison to what he did not know about Strauss. “I did not know Strauss myself,” Mulroney said, “nor did I know any of his family.” Mind you, “I knew of Franz Josef Strauss,” but “I didn’t know him personally. I never met him.”

What did he know of him, then? Well, not that he was chairman of Airbus, that’s for certain (“no idea”), although he knew that he was premier of Bavaria, and had been minister of Finance in the Federal Republic of Germany.

But met him? Never. Didn’t know him. Nor any of his family. What are we to make, then, of this recollection of happier times from Pat MacAdam, Mulroney’s longtime aide, in a recent newspaper column?

I remember the first time Karlheinz and Brian Mulroney met in 1984. The office of Brian’s longtime secretary, Ginette Pilotte, was on one side of Mulroney’s office and mine was the other bookend. We were the “gatekeepers.”

Max Strauss, the son of Bavarian premier Franz Josef Strauss, paid a courtesy visit. Brian and the senior Strauss were old friends. Karlheinz Schreiber, who was unexpected, accompanied Max.

Emphasis added. Could Pat’s memory be playing tricks on him? Getting on a bit, isn’t he? Except here he is saying the same thing on CBC Television in the fall of 1999.

“I met him [Schreiber] when he used to call on Mulroney. He was looking after the Franz Josef Strauss interests. The father, Franz Josef, was a good friend of Mulroney’s in years gone by. The son used to call on him as a courtesy call. I was the gatekeeper then, and kept the appointments, and he’d come in with Max Strauss … oh, maybe five, six, seven times a year.”

Good friends? Six or seven times a year? How could MacAdam be so mistaken? Or has he not had time to read Mulroney’s testimony?