Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tories Mothball The "War Room"

All dressed up and nowhere to go.

Expanding on a point knb made in another thread, CBC was reporting that the Tories have effectively mothballed the "Fear Factory". Ramped up, ready to roll, just a couple weeks ago, the Tories now prepare to cool their jets. What is particularly striking, the co-relation between the polls and the Conservatives posture. I thought Stephen Harper governed on principle, polls weren't even a consideration. Cough, hack.

If anyone caught Question Period today, they may have noticed the Prime Minister appeared decidedly sullen, clear off his game. I was trying to figure out what his body language meant, and I actually thought about the polls. Later, I hear that the war room will collect dust and his mood made sense.

I believe the plan went as follows. Release a feel good budget, with a strong emphasis on expanding support. Hammer Dion as ineffective and weak. Release a revamped environmental policy to neutralize the achilles heel and then engineer a non-confidence vote, riding the wave of increased support. Up until a couple weeks ago, everything seemed to be moving Harper's way. However, the polls, which Harper actually follows religiously, have shown, no bounce, zero momentum and little chance of a majority. How depressing, you've spent billions of dollars on announcement after announcement, you've appeased Quebec, you've held election readiness conferences, opened up your state of the art facility, ran unprecedented preamble attack ads and you get nothing for your trouble.

It must be disheartening to focus all your energy on a singular goal and then have to face the realization that you've failed. What now? When will conditions be so favorable? Dion has nowhere to go but up, you spent all the money and you can't even call yourself "new" anymore. Back to square one, and Harper knows it, if my instincts are correct. Last one out of the fear factory, turn out the lights.


Scotian said...

Interesting post. It is a not unreasonable interpretation of the facts as they are from what I can see. Harper was clearly positioning himself for a spring election throughout much of this year until just the last fortnight when the polls started falling again for the CPC. I know there are some that think this was all an elaborate bluff by Harper but I am not so convinced that was the case. He knows that the longer his government survives the less mileage he will be able to get out of old Liberal scandals like he was able to get in the last election campaign. He knows that sooner or later Quebecois Vandoos are going to get killed in Afghanistan and he must be worried how that will play in Quebec given the view of the Afghan war in that Province. He knows that the longer he gives Dion to get his feet under him as party leader the harder it will be to do unto him as Chr├ętien managed to do to Day. So it was clearly in his best interests to go this spring if there was even a half decent chance of majority.

Harper is in a very dangerous spot where Afghanistan is concerned. While it may have seemed brilliant last year to use the debate to primarily try and split the Liberals during their leadership race, the fact that since it has come out that the government did not do proper due diligence with NATO reinforcements and other significant elements of the Afghan mission leaving Canadians essentially holding the bag may well come back to haunt him hard. Especially since he threatened an election if he was not given two years AND he flatly declared that regardless of the vote of the Parliament that Canada would extend for 1 year period. Which incidentally underscores that it is not the Parliament that has this power but the PMO and Cabinet alone, which undercuts the theme about how it was Parliament that extended and not Harper and the CPC alone. It is also important to note that the more it comes out that this mission was poorly planned and organized the more Harper’s playing politics with it last spring is likely to come back and hurt him and his credibility on this issue. Which when one considers just how much Harper has tried to own this issue cannot be making his life any easier *Grin*.

Harper and the CPC have a lot of history/examples of trying to eat their cakes and then still have them like with that Afghanistan vote and the rhetoric they use as cover whenever things start going bad in Afghanistan about how it was Parliament that extended and not just the Harper CPC. The we have the idea of appointing a separatist to look into Quebec polling contracts by the federal government through one of the most intense separatist fever periods in Quebec, has it even occurred to the Harper CPC what damage this could do to the federalist cause by giving the power of examination to a separatist with a clear grudge against federalist parties especially the Liberals? I doubt it.

Harper has been making a lot of bad calls since he came to power from literally the first day onwards. I still find it amazing even now to consider he was willing to taint the ethical/moral authority of the CPC as a government by on the first day of the first ever CPC government in Canadian history buying off a Liberal elected MP right after the election with a cabinet slot AND by appointing his Quebec bagman to the Senate so he could then appoint him PW Minister. Which when one considers that the Sponsorship Scandal was in no small part because Chr├ętien used his Quebec bagman (elected at least unlike Fortier) running Public Works to give contracts to Liberal friendly firms in Quebec goes so far beyond mere irony I do not know what to call it. I could continue chapter and verse as I am sure all regulars here know, so I will close this on this point....

What the closing of the "war room" shows is that for all the money, for all the high tech tools, for all the attacks on Dion personally and the Liberals broadly Harper and the CPC cannot sustain even borderline possible majority numbers no matter what they try. This speaks volumes to how unpopular Harper is overall, and that the only reason he even came to power was to punish Liberal arrogance and corruption and not because Harper and the CPC agenda was preferred. Which is also why I said that the longer Harper stays in power without making positive and stable gains in the public opinion of he and his government the weaker his main argument for being government becomes, that he is not the Libs and the Libs deserve to be punished. Harper is still relying more on negative reasons to be given power by the voters instead of positive ones, and I think that is really a good chunk of why he has gotten no traction over the last 14 months.

Steve V said...


Those are great points on Afghanistan. It was a Liberal mission, but for some reason Harper desperately tried to make it his own, and now he may regret creating that impression. It was a curious decision, because Harper could have been supportive, but kept the political cover, instead he made it a wedge issue, his issue. Harper drapped himself in patriotism, only the Tories understand sacrifice and strong leadership. Harper has boxed himself in now, and events are out of his control.

BTW, I know the Tories had the war room leased until next year, but I've always thought that was a diversion tactic, so as to not look too eager.

Woman at Mile 0 said...

But but.....I was just starting to get all fired about an election. Are we going to wait until he manufactures some bogus Liberal poll scandal? I saw Rex's piece on it last week on the CBC. How many millions is he spending on this new passtime...it reeks like a partisan blood hunt of the worst kind. If he doesn't agree to the Kytoto Accord or a timetable for Afghanistan I think the opposition should take him down.
It's true getting out in the sun would be nice though...

Steve V said...

"Are we going to wait until he manufactures some bogus Liberal poll scandal?"

I sure hope so, because if the early reaction is an indication, it will reveal Harper for the cynical opportunist we all know. I heard Murphy too, one word "scathing" :)

knb said...

Well, Scotian certainly says it better than I did.

Harper is still relying more on negative reasons to be given power by the voters instead of positive ones

That is the part that I find most disturbing, (last thread), because it is my belief that he continues to seek the negative.

All partisanship aside, is this how a PM should concentrate his energy? That is really frightening.

I know lance, a few threads back, asked me what I thought the PM has done wrong, for the country. I didn't respond because I knew it would be a futile discussion. This is one biggie though. Harper is more concerned with image and winning a majority, than he seems concentrated on the welfare of the country. If he were a Liberal, (chuckle), I'd say the same thing. Spending your time in office plotting how you can be greater, does not look out for the masses.

btw Scotian, I could see and feel your grin. You made me grin, somehow grippng the right side of my mouth more firmly, :).

Anonymous said...

You guys missed the story about Harper's "girlfriend", the hairdresser. LOL.

knb said...

Off topic, as I am wont to do, but I just heard Zac on CBC radio saying that he would be fully prepared to testify and thinks that a full enquiry, would be the way to go. Hmmm, that goes against the con view.

So, is there something there? I don't know.

Anon...I saw the story, thought it was telling, but a bit lame. We've all witnessed the change.

BTW, what is up with Harper's red face in QP? Did he get sunburned at Vimy?

Scotian said...


I think part of the problem for those like Lance is that they see what Harper as doing as basically the same sort of negative partisanship that always went on. I think that view is held on the CPC side of things in part because of their beliefs of all the chicanery of the Liberals themselves and even the media conspiracy thing against them over the last several years, even though a good portion of that is clearly fictional, some of the rest is exaggerated while the remaining actually is a fair description of what the Libs have done to them.

The problem is though as you know Harper and the CPC he leads have adopted a much more radical partisan approach to our politics that was developed by the GOP in the USA in particular the latest variant as refined by Karl Rove and Frank Luntz. We know Harper is a fan of the culture war approach to politics and has claimed to see it as the only way for Canadian Conservativism to thrive in the 21st century only fours years ago as policy as CA leader/LOO in both speech and paper format, and he has never renounced it only stopped publicly discussing it. This requires a level of hyper-partisanship that has been shown over time to be very destructive to the American political dynamic/environment and it was always a more combative arena than ours and therefore more resistant to negative impacts than ours from such tactics/tools.

It has also lead to the clear blurring of the lines between the GOP and the State as evidenced by what has been coming out in relation to the 8 fired US Attorneys and the subsequent e-mail treasure trove on what has really been going on inside the US Justice system since Bush/Cheney/Rove came to power. This is one of the main reasons the changes to the structure of the judicial selection committees worries me so. If all Harper had done was appoint new members in replacement of the prior Lib appointees that would have been one thing, but when he gags the rep from judges by making him the chair of a (including the chair) 8 person committee with a fourth governmental appointee (as opposed to the 3 gov't 4 independent ones prior which clearly alters the balance of power from the independent members as in the old Lib format to the gov't appointees in the CPC format which is a major increase in the politicization of the process) from the police and then use that police appointment to deflect all questions as evidence of cop hating by whomever is asking, well that scares the dickens out of me.

When I combine that with the overall negative approach to governing that we have been seeing that you also mention is it any wonder I worry as much as I do about Harper? Is it any wonder why I rant as much as I do, knowing that it makes it easy for some of my detractors to claim I am overly emotional about it, or seriously overstating things or even as a partisan operative of the Libs? I know it is not to you and many others that have said that my views accurately reflect theirs on the issue of Harper and the threat he represents to all Canadians regardless of political views outside of the hard core right in our country. I just hope that lurkers are also finding my comments similar to their own and it helps firm their opposition to Harper as well. This man threatens the very foundations of what makes this country such a remarkable beacon of tolerance, diversity, respect for all and the true application of the rule of law. Indeed, his clear distaste for the Charter as we have seen by his doing all he can to ignore the 25th anniversary of its incorporation into our Constitution along with that document's repatriation is most revealing. Not to mention just how loud and telling the silence about what a remarkable document it is that other emerging democracies have studied and imitated since it was created, including South Africa.

I love this country and the potential hope it offers the world as a social lab where all the diverse cultures of this planet can find ways to manage to live together peacefully and respectfully, for if we can do it here that means it is possible it can be done everywhere, and that is what I see as Canada's greatest possible contribution to the planet. I see it as a wonderful vision and dream for the future, and it is this that Harper most threatens for me, which is why this is so important to me despite not being a partisan of any party. Harper denigrates that which makes us so good for this purpose, and that is something I can not simply stand by silently and let happen, so I do not, much to the chagrin of my detractors I am sure. Yet I also know to the benefit and hope of others that feel the same way as I do for much if not all the same reasons like yourself and Gayle and Steve V and so many others that we know from other progressive blogs.

Steve V said...

"they see what Harper as doing as basically the same sort of negative partisanship that always went on."

You can always do the point, counter-point argument, because Conservatives can easily offer Liberal discretions, I can too. Where Harper seperates himself is the question of degree. Almost everything is done with partisan consideration in mind. Harper can't even apologize to Arar on the government website without taking a dig at the former government. That sort of hyper-partisanship is simply unprecedented in Canadian politics. Every party plays games, but when it comes to message control and mean-spirited, wedge politics, Harper has no peer.

Scotian said...

"You can always do the point, counter-point argument, because Conservatives can easily offer Liberal discretions, I can too. Where Harper seperates himself is the question of degree. Almost everything is done with partisan consideration in mind. Harper can't even apologize to Arar on the government website without taking a dig at the former government. That sort of hyper-partisanship is simply unprecedented in Canadian politics. Every party plays games, but when it comes to message control and mean-spirited, wedge politics, Harper has no peer." Steve V 10:18 PM, April 17, 2007

Exactly correct, and indeed a significant element/aspect of what I refer to when I speak of the "total war" approach to politics. Very well put, and this really is one of the core ways in which Harper is something entirely different from typical Canadian politicians of all stripes, and a major element of why he is so dangerous to our future as a nation. This kind of divisive politics can only further shred the bonds that keep this nation together, and after the last 30+ years of separatist politics this nation has already had to withstand this strikes me as the last thing this country needs these days. It is also clearly based on the GOP culture war approach, a fact he made clear in 2003 as CA leader/LOO in policy paper and speech, much as the CPCers today hate being reminded of it and instead try to pretend it never happened and is all Liberal lies/propaganda instead.

Excellent comment and observation Steve V, simply excellent IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Harper's extreme partisanship, his hate and anger, his ego getting in the way of being able to give credit where credit is due indicates to me that he is not mature enough to be PM. He isn't thinking of "ALL" Canadians - only his base supporters.

I watched the speech by Chretien. Now here is the difference in maturity. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a "Canadian" document. All provinces with their various political stripes were involved. Chretien was man enough to give credit where credit was due. He was confident enough to bring out facts in the process and gave credit to, for example, Bill Davis, a "red tory". He gave credit to those involved that were not Liberals.

Harper can't bring himself to admit the impact of a wonderful moment in Canadian history. Why, because the Liberals were successful in getting this passed.

Chretien was "man enough" to say that John Diefenbaker tried and Lester Pearson tried but couldn't bring the provinces on board.

You just can't be to extremely partisan and get people to work together.

Harper is also using the "support your troops" tactic, but he doesn't seem to realize that Canadians are wise to this nonsense after watching Bush and Cheney use it over and over again until the Americans got angry and realized the partisan tactic.

Harper is using an "image maker". Richard Nixon had trouble being elected. Nixon didn't come off well in photos and TV. He got an image maker and won. But, people realized that the image WAS NOT THE MAN.

Harper wants to change Canada. But his ideas aren't new Canadian ideas. He want to use the "old" U.S. model.

Harper is too immature, too ego, too petty, too arrogant to make Canada work.