That Dion interview, in full

I cannot believe we are discussing this. But for the record:

– The question was clumsily phrased, but clear enough in the broad strokes: If you were in Stephen Harper’s shoes, what would you do differently? You’ve criticized him for doing nothing in the midst of a financial crisis. Fine: If you were prime minister today, what would you do? Does he mean if you were just elected, or had been in government for the last two-and-a-half years? Who cares? Pick one, and answer it.

– That Dion was unable at first to offer an answer has nothing to do with any hearing problem, and I would judge is only marginally to do with English being his second language. It’s mostly a matter of over-thinking the question. So, okay, he has an embarrassing moment. Who cares? Why is this news? Show it bottom of the newscast, as a “whoops” story, maybe. But convening a panel of MPs to analyze it? Reading all sorts of deep significance into it? Lordy.

– It’s probably true to say that if an English-speaking politician had as much trouble with a French question, the francophone press would be all over him. Who cares? Is that going to be our standard: thin-skinned, language-obsessed ultra-nationalists? It’s also true that Dion’s English is less than ideal. Voters, in whatever part of the country they may live, are entitled to take that into account. They are also entitled to ignore it. Either way, it’s hardly news.

– When he did finally answer the question, Dion did not give a good answer. But the bad answer he gave is the same bad answer he’s been giving since the French debate: If elected, I’d convene some meetings. That’s worth exploring — the Libs have been denouncing the Tories for doing nothing, but offer next to nothing as an alternative — but it doesn’t warrant the “aha!” tone of the coverage of this particular non-event.

– Duffy was way offside in giving this so much attention. But it doesn’t bear comparisons with the Chretien “face” incident. And it doesn’t warrant some of the personal attacks on him that have appeared on this site.

– As for the Chretien “face” incident: we’re all total hypocrites. We all agree the Tories were terrible people to have made sport of his lopsided face in 1993. And in private we all do the same. Be honest: have you not at some point imitated Chretien’s speaking style? And did it not involve speaking in a heavy Quebecois accent, while shoving your mouth out to one side? Is that not the image we have seen in a hundred thousand editorial cartoons?

– Final point: our hypocrisy in this regard is completely defensible There’s a time and a place for offensive humour: at a private party, or a comedy club, or in an editorial cartoon. These are and should be sanctuaries, where we are (more or less) free to say what we please, without fear (within limits) of the judgement of others. Political campaigns are not that time, or that place.

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