Five takeaways from Justin Trudeau’s 60 Minutes segment

From a near-flunking to a quote from ‘Rocky,’ Trudeau’s slim 60 Minutes segment offered only a few moments of note

If this was to be Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most significant introduction to American audiences, it was to be far slimmer than the show’s name would suggest. A 13-minute 60 Minutes segment about Trudeau—the first Canadian politician featured on the show in 13 years, timed for just before his state dinner at the White House on Thursday—felt more like it lasted 60 seconds, a weightless introduction to a country that has been invisible on the United States’ No. 1 news show.

The reality, of course, is that Lara Logan’s 60 Minutes segment was not for Canadians, despite Canadians’ thrill that the newsmagazine was set to join outlets like Vogue and the New York Times to deign to cast a light on Canada. Nevertheless, the segment offered little new insight into Trudeau, spending swaths of time on his family and his affection for boxing in the wake of his 2012 fight against Patrick Brazeau. Here are five takeaways from the piece:

1. Margaret Trudeau is not Kim Cattrall.

The segment spent a large chunk of its time on Trudeau’s personal life, setting him in the context of a father that may still resonate for American audiences. But during a mention of his mother Margaret’s history of mental illness, 60 Minutes sent up a B-roll image of Kim Cattrall, the actress that Pierre briefly dated. In a segment that ends with Trudeau suggesting that Americans should “pay attention to us from time to time, too,” it’s a bit of an embarrassment.
Last word on this to Cattrall — for now:

2. Justin Trudeau is a fan of 2006’s Rocky Balboa.

“People think that boxing is all about how hard you can hit your opponent. It’s not. Boxing is about how hard a hit you can take and keep going,” he said, linking his politics to his love of the ring. But if it sounds familiar, it may be because you’re a completionist of the Rocky series of films: In the movie Rocky Balboa, an aged, retired Rocky delivers those lines, nearly word for word, to his son Robert. (For whatever it’s worth, the 2015 follow-up Creed revealed that Robert moved to Vancouver; perhaps in the Rocky universe, Robert passed on this advice to a ski-instructor pal?) The lines about boxing don’t sound too different, either, from what he told Globe and Mail writer Ian Brown in his profile during the campaign; he regurgitated another story, too, when he tells Logan about the awkward conversation with his father when he asked him to teach him about politics—a tale he’d previously woven for the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge.

Related: The true sign of Canadian cool? Not caring if others think we’re cool

3. Trudeau nearly flunked out of school—and sees that near-dropout as a leading example of his failure.

The show’s most revealing clip may have come in an online bonus extra. In a “60 Minutes Overtime” video online, Logan asks Trudeau whether he’s ever “tasted failure.” He pauses, then says he nearly dropped out of Grade 12, feeling the pressure of following in his father’s high-achieving footsteps. “I went through a real period of wondering whether or not I was a worthy son, or even a worthy individual,” he said. “It repeated a few times at moments throughout my life where I was faced with uncertainty about whether or not I was actually on the right track, or actually even a good and worthy person. And quite frankly, through public life, the connection I’ve managed to establish with people in actually making a difference and helping and learning has done a really good job of having me understand that maybe I am a good person with things to offer and meaningful contributions to make.”

4. Trudeau took another swipe at Donald Trump.

Logan asked Trudeau whether or not he was concerned about whether refugees represent potential terrorism threats. In his response, Trudeau couldn’t help but take an unsubtle swing at the Republican Party’s frontrunner: “Ultimately, being open and respectful toward each other is much more powerful as a way to defuse hatred and anger than, you know, layering on, you know, big walls and oppressive policies,” he said. It’s not the first time: When asked to repudiate Trump’s beliefs at Maclean’s Town Hall, he did so, saying, “I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear.” On 60 Minutes, he also spoke of rebuking the supporter of a particular male presidential candidate for her failure to care about the global picture. These are rather daring interventions into a heated U.S. political race, and there are those who believe it’s best for Trudeau to stay out of it, to see how things shake out.

5. A glossing-over of some real issues.

Sure, there are only so many things you can do and say in 13 minutes. But it is odd to hear Logan describe the arrival of 25,000 Syrian refugees—which came months after the campaign-promised deadline—as achieved in an easy fait accompli. It is difficult to agree entirely with the claim that Pierre Trudeau “famously made Canada one of the most progressive countries in the world” when he suspended civil liberties by invoking the War Measures Act during the October Crisis. It’s odd to hear Logan suggest, largely unbidden, that the withdrawal of jets from the fight against ISIS represents a “deeper engagement in the war.” And it’s unusual to hear that Canada is more than hockey and cold fronts when Trudeau is not, it seemed, asked about his agenda for his important visit with Barack Obama.

But then again, Trudeau wouldn’t need to do these get-to-know-you interviews if Americans were already up to speed on Canadian politics. The segments weren’t for us, at home. And even if these profiles have proven to focus more on the telegenic leader than the country itself, it is impossible to argue that it’s not a useful exercise to try to raise Canada’s profile. He is asking America to—in the words of his father—just watch him. And so, we will: The real test starts this week, in Washington.

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