A very, very good critique of Stephen Harper as PM

I like Stephen Harper very much, and could not be more grateful that he pushed Paul Martin into the dustbin of Canadian history. But he has his flaws, and Rex Murphy has clearly identified what could become his tragic one if he doesn’t get on top of it soon. From Rex’s Saturday, June 2 column:

Mr. Harper, and some at the top of his party, seem reluctant to part with the opposition mentality. In Question Period, for example, the Prime Minister gives off the impression that he’s more interested in settling old scores with the Liberals for those days, now gone, when they taunted him.

Likewise, the relentless war his party seems obsessively determined to wage on Stéphane Dion – new attack ads were released this week, the fourth in a series – is seriously over the top. Mr. Dion may have his failings as a party leader, but the Conservatives’ continuous and nasty focus on him, in their increasingly trite media campaign, may, in fact, stir Canadians to consider that Mr. Dion must have virtues to which they have not been alerted. They will certainly note that he is not a bully, that he is not brittle and angry. And they may note as well that brittle and angry is becoming the Prime Minister’s default mode.

This is where the Terminator comes in. Mr. Schwarzenegger showed, even in his brief hop to our country this week, that although he has serious business on his mind, he evidently enjoys what he’s doing. He isn’t grumpy in public. A light touch and an open manner goes a long way in politics. And if the Conservatives are really looking to expand beyond the 30 to 35 per cent that appears to be their high-water mark in the polls, maybe a little charm from their leader, and a resolution to move out of the dark mentality of their long stay in the opposition hinterland, is the way to go.

One thing is absolutely certain: They are not going to earn their way to a majority merely by periodic and ill-tempered slaggings of Stéphane Dion.

This truly is a serious problem. The Conservatives should be ignoring Stephane Dion – the rest of the country certainly is! And Harper does need to lighten up and, at the very least, engage with the press in some candid scrums. His cool, distant demeanour certainly gives him a nice Prime Ministerial aura, but it does nothing to help him connect on a visceral level with the swing voters who can grant or deny him the majority he expects.

It’s time to connect with Canada, Mr. Harper, before it’s too late. (And while you’re at it, stop relying on the former Mike Harris cronies – they just aren’t doing you any favors. Ontario doesn’t like them!)

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “A very, very good critique of Stephen Harper as PM

  1. I don ‘t disagree with Rex but I have to wonder if the competition, Layton, Doucette, Dion, were more of a challenge whether we wouldn’t see the Harper we expect. IMHO it is “a person’s performance is always better when the competition is better.”

  2. Paul

    Somehow I find it hard to believe the public will be thinking there must be a hidden inner-Dion. The public listened to the MSM repat the Liberal tripe about Conservatives being a bunch of knuckle-dragging, homophobic, racist, sexist pigs. They weren’t interested in the inner-Harper.

    Hard-nosed partisanship may get tiresome, however it goes with the territory. It is keeping the Opposition off balance and whining. Most people I know give little shrift to whiners.

    I say keep your foot on your Opponents neck, or you will regret. It is always easier to negtiate from a position of strength.

  3. Walter: I don’t think the level of competition is relevant here. Harper’s ability to connect with the public should be independent of his ability to outmanouever his opposition.

    Paul, I agree generally with the sentiment (keep your foot on the neck), but I think the first anti-Dion commercials, and his own pathetic performance, did all the damage that needed to be done. Now, we’re reaching the territory of “thou dost protest too much” – in other words, the public will start to think that if the Conservatives feel the need to attack him so much, they must be scared of him. Wheras ignoring him at this point would give the public the message that he’s so useless, he’s not even worth the time of day.

    I am a big fan of Harper myself, but I worry that Rex has identified a fatal flaw that will prevent him from achieving a majority. If he can’t get that majority, we’ll have to start looking for someone who can. If it gets to that point, I really, really hope we start looking to someone feisty on the right (Jason Kenney, Monte Solberg) and not to someone flitty to the left (Peter MacKay).

  4. EBD

    On the matter of the ads, I would agree with you, were it not for one gigantic issue that MUST be factored in: the Liberal-embed broadcast media — CBC and CTV — have closed a curtain in front of their little wizard, just as they for years comprehensively elided the LPC’s institutional/cultural/attitudinal attributes and the problems these tribal behaviours have caused our democracy and our national values. It’s a far, far more serious issue than a couple of ads.

    A lot of hard working Canadians who absorb much of their information over time from our national media would understandably think that Liberal means “good” and “Canadian” and that, as Paul pointed out, conservative Canadians are a threat to our glorious country.

    Maurice Strong, Bonano crime-family connections, Joe Morselli, the gooning of Francois Beaudoin, Oil-For-Food, Louise Arbour’s blocking behaviour at the UN in examining Oil-For-Food, modern-day LPC godfather Maurice Strong’s behaviours and his deep and profound connections to the LPC and to Paul Martin, the Murphy/Dosanjh tapes, the Earnscliffe/CBC connections, etc etc, in terms of coverage all these things have either been completely — and I mean *completely* — elided or presented as being separate from the LPC and its attributes. The word “Liberal” somehow never really found its way into the small amount of reporting done on these issues.

    Rex wrote that the Conservative ads may “stir Canadians to consider that Mr. Dion must have virtues to which they have not been alerted.” Well, if they’ve been watching TV, as they’d have to be to see the ads, all they’ve seen of Dion is the cardboard proxy Dion, who apparently, by constant allusion, stands for all the good things under the sun.

    The bottom line is, there are a lot of people who haven’t had a chance to fully grok what a horrifying prime minister he would make. On those rare, hard-fo-find occasions when you hear him in a full and lengthy interview on a variety of topics — such as the Ottawa citizen’s interview, or the Reader’s Digest interview a couple of months ago, it’s absolutely staggering how addled and scattershot and non-sequiteurial and cliche and naive and sloganistic his thinking is. In other words, he’s NOT a leader. …

    Canadians would know that by now were it not for the protective shield placed around him by the broadcast giants, who only trot him out when a particular soundbite of his can be placed — through no credit to Dion — as the proberbial cherry on top of an artfully constructed “news” report pushing the Liberal brand.

    So when it comes to a few ads, well, the Liberals have two coast-to-coast stations running what are in effect Liberal ads. The Conservatives have to rely on their own initiative — including these recent ads — to get their message across.

    As for the suggestion that Mr. Harper should lighten up, well, perhaps. But that’s exactly what the media’s “national narrative” suggested he should do when he was in opposition, when he was simply trying, against almost overwhelming odds, to point out the seriousness of a wide range of Liberal behaviours: Harper was “mean” and “fundamentalist Christian”, he’d put armed soldiers in our streets, and most importantly, he didn’t understand how very RUDE it was to even talk like that — ask Jeffrey Simpson or Keith Boag or Paul Hunter or…

    If I were in Mr. Harper’s position, and had watched fraudulent “journalists” speciously attack me for years, and had seen editorializing, senate-hungry, partisan, LPC-proxy “reporters” affecting the integrity of our democracy while pretending it’s “news”, I’d probably bust a blood vessel. At least Mr. Harper’s still standing. Personally, I like the ads, in the context of our nation’s current information flow.

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