Friday, February 23, 2007

The Worm Has Turned?

Watching CBC's reporter roundtable, it was interesting to listen to various media outlets all discussing Harper's "problems". No talk about Liberal division, weak leadership or rising Tory fortunes. Instead, what became crystal clear, Harper's behavior this week was so egregious that it flipped the entire mood.

Remember all those polls that showed Harper as the clear choice compared with Dion? Forgotten, the results really demonstrated Harper's inability to grow. The Tories should be quite worried, that despite "the perfect storm", disgruntled Liberal supporter parks their votes elsewhere, suggesting an apprehension to Harper. Dion hasn't failed, Harper has failed to attract support- he is still below his election score. Ceiling?

Harper re-affirmed the nagging concern of Canadians that he isn't really "a nice man". Hardly flattering when a reporter refers to the Prime Minister as a "shark", that knows how to "go for the jugular". Mean-spirited, distastful, all those old complaints are re-born with a new, glaring example. The media has tended to fall for the message control and crafted appearance, but this incident pierces the brainwash, and allows for naked assessment. If I read the panel correctly, it was as if someone poured a bucket of ice water and woke them from their slumber.

I don't want to read to much into the recent change in tone, but nor should we ignore it, there is a significant opportunity given. Liberals need to keep the issue of this government's character, or lack thereof as the case may be, on the frontburner. Pull out all the Harper pontifications on restoring honor and dignity to office and ask the PM the pointed question- "In your view, do you think you have upheld those commitments?" Make Harper defend, on ground of our choosing, as opposed to the usual reactive posture. This new newscycle lasts as long as we keep up the pressure, because it was confirmed to me today, the media is sympathetic to this angle.

Fluff off Dion's problem as unfair, give the man some time to adjust, use historical precedent, whatever, but counter with Harper's "problems". Dion's greatest strengths are his honesty and decency. Develop the talking points, get everybody rowing together, and juxtapose Dion's "style" with Harper's classless politicization. Frame Dion as the anti-politician, unscripted, casual, sincere. In my mind, Harper's greatest enemy is Harper, Canadians clearly haven't been "sold" quite yet, despite the onslaught of orchestration. Speak to Canadians cynicism and offer a different tone. It will be up to Liberals to decide if this week was a brief setback for Harper or a watershed moment that changes momentum.

11 comments:

Orchard said...

Character.

That's the word that jumped out at me from this post. This week has reminded us - under no uncertain terms - of the true character of the current government.

In a way, we might look back at this as a watershed moment.

Sassy said...

Well said Steve. We can at least sleep well for a few nights. (and dream of a time when this nightmare will end)

Steve V said...

Character is Dion's central strength, with quotes from rival leaders as evidence. I think our best tactic make the distinction between Dion's class and Harper's lack of it. It's time we start with the aggressive "defining", and the bonus, it's all true.

Scott Tribe said...

I liked what Dion had to say today about the "soft on terror" slur the Tories are trying to paint him and the Liberals with:

The charge of opposition "softness" was repeated in the House of Commons by Tory House leader Peter Van Loan. Dion called it a disgraceful slur.

He said political parties should be allowed to respectfully disagree in their approach to terrorism, and said that approach should not sacrifice democratic freedoms.

"(That's) an awful accusation. That is very worrying for me and it says a lot about the kind of prime minister we have," he said.

Dion noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made that same accusation - that the opposition is "soft" on crime - because they oppose parts of his law-and-order agenda, and also his plan to let police officers help choose judges.

"I will not be intimidated by him," Dion said. "I will say to the Canadian people, and to the Parliament, what I think is good for Canadians in the free society we are trying to protect."

Original article here

Steve V said...

"He said political parties should be allowed to respectfully disagree in their approach to terrorism, and said that approach should not sacrifice democratic freedoms."

Thanks for that Scott. Harper may be painting himself into a hard right corner, ala the neo-cons, while Dion looks reasonable, mirroring a moderate approach. The SC decision today makes the government look radical and provides legitimate cover for Dion's balance.

I like "respectfully disagree" because it implies an intellectual debate on merit, as opposed to the Tories preference for accusations and overblown rhetoric. Dion sounds more and more the adult in this conversation, which is a nice development, given all the hoopla about a house divided earlier this week.

burlivespipe said...

The contrasts are very clear, although it is a shame that Dion doesn't have a little more 'relaxed ease' in english. The kind of natural ability to give something close to a 10-second sound byte with a little charm, that even Chretien could pull off.
However, back to the worm. It is very interesting how the NaPo spent a good piece of space defending their chosen one and tackling all the evils of Liberal gov'ts in the past. Of course, this was just a repeat of their past year, a recycle of gnawing that had been previously dissolvable as right-wing observation; Now its as though the smell of disgust is very strong and the Con-core are ignoring it: "After a while, you'll wonder how you ever lived without the smell of melting hog fat."
But they still managed to change the channel from their judicial appointment scam...

Steve V said...

burl

This sums up the NP.

Title "Tories top Grits in latest poll"

Oh, oh. But then immediately you read this:

"the ruling Conservatives and the rival Grits locked in a virtual tie in public support, a new national poll says.

leaving the two parties in a statistical tie, said pollster Darrell Bricker."

Imagine if the Liberals were up by 2%

Title "Dead Heat"

ottlib said...

I like Darryl Bricker's statement that the Conservatives seem to have the momentum.

Uh huh.

The margin of error on this poll is 3.1%. The change in the estimates for the Liberals and Conservatives is 3%.

So not only is the difference between the two parties statistically insignificant but the change in the estimates, from the last poll, is also statistically insignificant. (Just)

Hardly an indication of momentum for any party.

Miles Lunn said...

I think the ceiling for "conservative" support is probably close to 45% if they were more centrist, but only around 35% due to how ideological the current bunch are. Had they chosen a leader from the former Progressive Conservatives instead of Reform/Alliance wing we would likely have a Conservative majority now.

I also think this tough talk on terrorism will actually hurt them more than help. Canada has a very different political culture on national security than the United States and trying to use US style approach will have the opposite effect. When you are large superpower, you see things through a different lens, then as a small middle power like Canada.

Scotian said...

"When you are large superpower, you see things through a different lens, then as a small middle power like Canada." Miles Lunn 12:45 AM, February 24, 2007

Which is one of those areas where Harper clearly does not understand the Canadian dynamic. His attitudes are those of one that thinks we are a major power if not a superpower, and quite honestly that is complete fantasy. At best we are the top of the middle (developing) powers in the world, we only get first world status s a courtesy and not because we truly are one. This is something a lot of folks just don't seem to get.

As Miles also correctly notes the kind of rhetoric about being "soft on terrorism" is not likely to play well outside of his core base in this country, this is not America where that kind of polarizing rhetoric on such a serious issue will tend to work to the advantage of the one using it. No, in this country it is more likely to be taken as proof of contempt/disrespect for those being branded/labeled that way and as a sign of weakness and immaturity by those advancing such a notion. Combine that we how many Canadians have spent the last five years listening to the GOP and Bush in America go to this well time and time and time and time and time again to denounce his critics about anything to do with the issue of terrorism and how his government is really doing in preventing/reducing its threat to America. I'd say this has more of a chance at backfiring against Harper and those advancing this than against its target, the Libs.

This shows yet again how Harper is unable to truly understand the Canadian context/culture/society and instead sees us essentially as America North with few differences and most of those only superficial, whereas I would and have argued our differences may be subtle but they are profound and therefore quite significant. We shall see which one of us is correct Mr. Harper, so far though signs tend to support my POV about Canadians society than it does yours given your lack of success to date. Even with all those shiny smear tactics you imported from the GOP experts and the fact the Libs have that 13 year record of power until 13 months ago you cannot get near majority territory, nay you have a hard enough time maintaining the territory you reached in the 2006 election results. That does not bode well for you nor your understanding of Canadians PM Harper.

I wonder assuming Harper does go down in defeat in the next election (something to be devotedly prayed for and worked towards IMHO) will he blame the Canadian public for not recognizing his genius or his good intentions or will he accept that it was his own actions and words that did it to him. Properly he should accept the latter but for some reason I suspect it will be the former. We shall see if/when this happens in the next election.

Miles Lunn said...

Scotian - I think we have some similiarities with the US in terms of what demographics are more likely to be conservative and what types are more likely to be liberal, but this is all relative as our centre is to the left of their's. That means the Conservatives can be as far from the Canadian centre as the Republicans are from the American centre, but since the Canadian centre is much further to the left, the Conservatives must be if they wish to succeed.

If Harper loses, I suspect his concession speech will be gracious as all defeated leaders are, but once he steps down as leader, I suspect he will start being quite nasty towards Canadians for rejecting him. I almost wonder if he will try to undermine the next leader if the next leader tries to distance himself from him. At least in Ontario, Mike Harris has been gracious enough to not try to undermine John Tory for distancing himself from him. I don't think he believes his reforms were wrong, but at least accepts that the public never really bought into them fully and takes personal responsibility for failing do that rather than blaming the public. Now it could be argued some ideas just cannot be sold.