"Sometimes, even a brilliant tactician can be too clever by half."
I'm not sure when "Harper, the brilliant tactician" became part of the Canadian political vocabulary, but it seems the assumption has taken root. Can you really prescribe the label "brilliant tactician" to someone, who, despite a budgetary balance sheet to die for, a great economy, an official opposition in almost unprecedented turmoil, can't raise his popularity to the weak minority status he won in an election against a tired, old Liberal Party, bereft of ideas and long on scandal? You mean the fellow who decided to wrap himself in a military mission that wasn't his choosing, despite the obvious political pitfalls? You mean the guy who sat on his hands for months, despite the fact poll after poll showed the environment as a frontburner issue, then released one of the biggest turds in legislative history, from a over her head Minister of his choosing?
Don't get me wrong, Harper has demonstrated certain political instincts and show himself able, but for ever "master stroke" I can point to the "political tin ear" or blunder. In other words, I'm not sure the reputation is warranted. The terminology seemed to take hold as a result of the last election. No offence to our Prime Minister, but he was handed gift after timely gift, all within an overwhelming environment that sought change. Given the conditions, a weak minority is hardly a powerful statement on prowess. If staying out of the way and trying not to look scary while your opponent implodes translates to brilliance, then the term has lost most of its meaning.
I don't under-estimate Harper, but more and more people tend to over-estimate his abilities and just assume. Harper is a tactician, but given all his "moves" and the lack of any progress, I don't think he deserves the master moniker.