Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Backfire

I'm pretty much ready to conclude that the Conservatives attacks on the Liberals spending plans have failed miserably. A combination of easy retort, which actually allows for a positive reminder of past deeds, as well as a media frame which is mostly suspicious, if not entirely dismissive. I would describe this piece in the left-leaning National Post as indicative of the reception:
Terence Corcoran, Financial Post

To hear the Conservatives tell the story, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has announced new budget principles that would create a new round of federal deficit spending. The Tory Web site, full of their typical putdowns of Mr. Dion, includes a visual suggesting a Liberal budget would sink Canada into "$62.5-billion in new debt."

It's just partisan gamesmanship. The Tories took a list of Mr. Dion's latest pronouncements on spending and his earlier fiscal comments, added them all together, and came up with a big number. Mr. Dion, and his finance-minister-in-waiting, John McCallum, quickly branded the Tories as thieves and liars, or something like that. Actually, Mr. Dion -- speaking yesterday in Montreal -- used the following phrases against the Tories: deliberate miscalculations, misrepresentations, misinformation, the epitome of desperation, and distortion of the facts.

I'd check the veracity of all this if I weren't already certain the Conservatives had done all of the above, and maybe more.

The Conservatives were too clever for there own good in this instance. A dash of arrogance, mixed with wild exaggeration and dicey math, the whole argument simply reaches to far, it insults the senses. There might be a point to the glossy book, but it gets lost in the bombastic, over the top, rhetoric.

One thing I have noticed, in every interview, in every response, is the confidence with which Liberals defend themselves. It's a stance rarely seen this days, completely dismissive on the one hand, denoting a sense of pride in reminding people of the record on the other. There is actually a "bring it on" posture, almost relishing the chance to point to the Conservatives ridiculous accusations. The best line of all, and one that Canadians can understand, the Liberals understand the challenges of operating with large deficits, the last thing in the world they would endorse is a regiment that would bring us back to that predicament. It is said with sincerity, it highlights a past positive, the Conservative attack brushed off with apparent ease.

These attacks were supposed to put the Liberals on the defensive, introduce the frame that Dion is a reckless spender, "not worth the risk". As this line develops, I would argue the Conservatives have actually presented a gift, an opportunity to point to a positive, which otherwise would have been seen as old news, a nothing reference. It is the Conservatives that increasingly look foolish, the argument is so extreme, it lacks believeability. The Conservative point men keep trying, but it isn't working. In fact if I were a Liberal strategist I would hope the Conservatives maintain the assault, it's actually turning out to be a delicious talking point.

25 comments:

Gayle said...

I agree Steve. I was watching Don Newman today and could not believe Jaffer is still trying to trot out that line. As you say, it gave Ruby Dhallia an opportunity to point out what a mess the cons left in 1993, and what an achievement the liberals accomplished by fixing it. Jaffer almost looked embarassed, and considering the number of times he should have been embarassed but wasn't, that is quite the accomplishment.

Better yet, it reinforces that entire notion that the cons are liars. In particular, the ad (which I have not yet seen) apparently has a quote from Dion where he says "megatonnes of money" which is a quote taken completely out of context. I will have to see the ad, but it seems to me if the cons are suggesting Dion said this as part of a plan to increase taxation they are going to be in trouble. At the very least the media have been all over them for it. (But then the media IS completely biased for the liberals, so of course they are going to point out all the con lies).

Steve V said...

"But then the media IS completely biased for the liberals, so of course they are going to point out all the con lies"

That's why I used The National Post as the media reference ;)

Gayle said...

steve, over at Joanne's Journey they are crowing about a CTV comissioned poll that shows a 12 percent gap between the liberals and the conservatives. Apparently that one is credible. The Harris-Decima poll that comes from Canadian Press is biased because it shows a statistical tie.

It would be funny if it was not so very sad.

Trevor said...

Don't act all shocked, it's not like the Cons invented this tactic. Remember a certain dithering sweaty PM Martin claiming that the Cons platform is a 50 billion dollar 'black hole'?

(from memory, may not be exact)
"I've seen the books and I'm telling you that if Stephen Harper wins this election he will plunge our country back into deficit!!!"

Sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

and his finance-minister-in-waiting, John McCallum

*shudders.

-ITC

Joseph said...

And the cries of "liberals did it too" begin, because that always gets the party faithful going.

And what does it say about your esteemed, innovative, open government? Wonder why those poll numbers are stalled, or sliding?

Joseph said...

Besides, he didn't say he was shocked. He said the strategy was backfiring, and it is.

wilson said...

What could be the strategy behind setting up Liberals to keep comparing Dion to Paul Martin....?

Because in tough times Liberals cut transfers to the provinces?

Cut health care, military and
infrastructure expenditures?

Trevor said...

"And the cries of "liberals did it too" begin, because that always gets the party faithful going."

So what?

They both used the same tactic and it was fairly effective.


"Besides, he didn't say he was shocked. He said the strategy was backfiring, and it is."

I was referring to gayle's outrage. The strategy may backfire, little too early to tell at this point. Until the Libs put out their platform with costing you can expect more of the same. It's called politics , don't act so innocent.

Gayle said...

Oh trevor - you are clearly trying to emulate Mr. Harper but teh truth is you cannot cover your mistakes by pretending I am saying something I am not.

Gayle said...

wilson - what is Harper going to do in "tough times". He has benefitted from a good financial situation he inherited from the liberals...and he spent it all away.

We all know he wants an election now because he does not want to face one after the economy tanks.

Trevor said...

"Oh trevor - you are clearly trying to emulate Mr. Harper but teh truth is you cannot cover your mistakes by pretending I am saying something I am not."

Not sure how you think I'm trying to emulate Harper, care to explain?

You said "I was watching Don Newman today and could not believe Jaffer is still trying to trot out that line.". I pointed out that it's an old tactic that has been used by both parties. How exactly have I misquoted you?

Gayle said...

You said I was "outraged".

Where, pray tell, is the outrage at pointing to an example where this tactic has backfired?

Trevor said...

Alright fine, maybe outrage was too strong a word. You were clearly stating that "I couldn't believe" what the Cons were saying. Since you failed to address anything else I was saying I'll leave you to discuss this amongst people who won't disagree with you.

Gayle said...

Did you say something else???

Did I ever say this has not been done before, because I am pretty sure I did not, so if that is what you want to argue about, you are going to have to find someone who disagrees with you first.

The point is that THIS particular strategy is backfiring.

Let me also say that according to reports, thanks to Harper, the cupboard is bare. If that is the case then he is going to have to figure out how is going to finance the crime package, which is going to substantially increase prison and court costs. I should think the cons would be more concerned about how they are going to pay for their own promises before they start worrying about the liberals.

burlivespipe said...

Typical CONs. Can't find a shadow of honesty to portray their own 'achievements' -- com'on Wilson, say it proud -- Two Years of the Smartest Man in the Broom Closet as PM and We've spent the Cupboard Bare Looking for a Majority!
Admit it Wilson, you crave the idea of 1986 all over again, when deficit and debts gave conservatives a uniting force. You could pretend oh how superior you were. You could balance a cheque book, or so you said. But when the ink runs out and the bank is dry, suddenly the only arrow in your quiver is the ol' Look Over There! A Big Spender Liberal' trick.
Funny, but this CON group and their attempt at distorting history and the present have missed it by that much.

clh said...

I agree this strategy is backfiring. I don't expect their strategy of having Flaherty (of Ontario "balanced" budget fame) attack McGuinty will go over any better.

Anonymous said...

"confidence with which Liberals defend themselves"

OK so anyone who is paying attention knows what a stupid lie this is. Problem is- those of us paying attention are hopeless politics junkies - and not likely to change our minds.

Most folks will see the headlines only and then hear the latest "poll" that tells them that Harper is a leader (and our guy is not).

So until this crew (and I supported Dion for the leadership) figures out how to put the Tories on the defensive ... Canada is screwed....
Given what a mess Harper is making (ala Mike Harris) and what an un-likeable guy he is - I'd say the fact that the polls are stalled indicates that their lies are working pretty well as intended.

wilson said...

''Admit it Wilson, you crave the idea of 1986 all over again, when deficit and debts gave conservatives a uniting force. You could pretend oh how superior you were. You could balance a cheque book, or so you said.''

(sorry Steve, OT here)
No burlivespipe, in 1986, having just lost our family business (NEP),
we were trying to save our family farm (unsuccessfully) when interest rates skyrocketed over 20%.
Thankyou Trudeau, thankyou Liberals.

For those of you who don't see Dions green plan as NEP2, and fear of Libs repeating the mistakes made in the 1980's:

'In October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau introduces a tougher, more rigid national energy program (NEP).
During a decade-long energy crisis, the federal government wants more control over the country's energy.
Ottawa also says that Alberta's oil profits must be shared throughout the country.''

She was downhill for the entire country after that.

wilson said...

p.s.
The first food bank in Canada opened in 1981, in EDMONTON, Alberta.

Gayle said...

Wilson

Being from Edmonton myself, and having watched my father lose everything in the 1980's, I understand where you are coming from.

It is an error, however, to lay all the blame on the NEP, given that Alberta was not the only place hit with a recession.

It is a lie to suggest Dion's plan is NEP II.

Finally, I believe that food bank you are trumpetting was managed by one Mr. Gerald Kennedy at one point in time.

The sad thing about the food bank is that it was only ever intended to be a temporary thing. Unfortunately, our opportunistic provincial government saw it as an excuse to cut welfare payments. Yes, our government tells people on welfare to go to the foodbank - they must rely on charity to survive. Because of this the food bank has become a permanent institution.

JimmE said...

NEP!!! Dude I lived in Calgary at the time & my friends in Denver were also loosing everything & they had no stinking NEP so lets argue history some other time. As for the Backfire, these fellas are only bringing to the mind of Ontario voters why they handed folks like Flaherty their asses five years ago; that & the fact he didn't have the basic math skills to know the difference between a surplus & a deficit. So I want to know; when are the Tories going to start calling Dion a Green Eyed Kitten Eating Monster?

wilson said...

The NEP (1980 Trudeau brainchild) did break Alberta.
Killed businesses and jobs.
What other province was so negatively affected?
Can you imagine, today, 'telling' Danny Millions he must share NFD wealth?

In 1982 (still under the Trudeau government) interest rates were 24%. I'm sure I don't have to describe what that did to the entire country.
The anti-dote was Mulroney's GST.

Gayle said...

And what were the interest rates in the US in 1982 wilson?

Dr. Tux said...

It's pretty clear that liberals are on solid ground when it comes to managing the economy.

It's also pretty clear that liberals are resilient to the attacks of conservatives on this issue.

It's also pretty clear that liberals are coming together over past accomplishments, something all liberals understand and can be proud of.

Forget the recent polls, if we plan on going to an election anytime soon, this is the issue to do it on. No other issue brings us together as much as this one.

As an organization, running on the economy gives us relative immunity to conservative attacks and points to their lack of credibility, we come together, and we have the best platform from which we can express our vision for the future of the Canadian Economy and Canadian Society.

As an organization, the liberal party is strongest (united, resilient and with a clear vision) on the economy.