Friday, July 11, 2008

Conservatives Playing Risky Game

It's supposed to be about the Liberals, but more and more, Harper's libel case is becoming a debate about the Zytaruk tape. Word yesterday, that Harper's lawyers plan to summon Zytaruk to testify in the defamation suit, primarily on the question of the tape's "authenticity". Today, Zytaruk pens an article in response to all the controversy. Once again, Zytaruk comes across as genuine, but he asks one question:
If ever there was a classic case of shooting the messenger, I'm it. Isn't this case supposed to be a legal case between Harper and the Liberals about something that appeared on the Liberal's website? If so, why is Harper's legal counsel systematically throwing kitchen sink after kitchen sink at me?

I think I can answer that question. In focusing almost entirely on this tape, the obsession is an admission of it's potential damage. One aspect that seems to be lost here, you don't throw the "kitchen sink" at something that is really much ado about nothing, as Harper's defenders have consistently argued. It really is a risky game for Harper, because the entire underlying premise of all the attacks is an implicit recognition that the tapes contents, if credible, clearly show Harper implicating himself. It's just common sense really, the tape must be savaged, because if it is left to stand as is, it raises serious questions, which apparently don't come with adequate answers.

If Harper really did make benign comments on this tape, which surrogates like Moore have repeated over and over, then the explanations are simple, nothing to worry about. If however, and the assault on Zytaruk speaks to this, the comments are quite suspicious, somewhat indefensible, then your only recourse is too "shoot the messenger". Focus all of your legal firepower on throwing the "evidence" into question, then the focus becomes a discussion of believability, rather than what the contents say. It's a dangerous tactic for Harper, because if Zytaruk is able to maintain his credibility, then it is the Conservatives who have elevated the contents to a higher level. It's an aggressive strategy, I see it as a desperate one, but it has real potential for blow back, because it essentially acknowledges what a huge PROBLEM this tape is for Harper, as it exists today.


WesternGrit said...

I think election strategy had everything to do with this strategy. The Cons were potentially hoping to snub this whole issue in the courts, just long enough to squeeze out another election. Problem is, we Liberals were a little er... "lacking the cajones" to pull the plug. They goaded us, and shouted at us, and called us nasty names... They laughed at us, and poked fun, but now that time has passed, the trial may do more damage than anticipated.

Look for Mr. Bungles the clown to try to force an early election, and perhaps NOT delay the return of Parliament at all. Good chance he'll try to have the election pre-empt the end of the case...

Steve V said...

I wonder if they would suspend the case during an election? Is there any precedent for such a thing?

Gayle said...

I tend to agree with WG. I think that once there is an election this whole thing will just quietly go away.

I maintain Harper is trying to push the LPC to settle on his terms (which would probably be an apology, an admission of wrong doing and no money). I also like W's theory that this could be about pre-election posturing.

I would not be surprised if, after an election, Harper drops the whole thing with the comment "I made my point".

Gayle said...

Hope you had a nice holiday, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that it's been nothing but games and stress and hatred and childish nonsense since Harper took the helm.

Why is everything file and issue he touches turn into chaos, secrets, trashing, bashing?

Isn't he suppose to make govern, make good policies and decisions?

Steve V said...

Thanks Gayle.

It seems that this case is going to get interesting, starting in September. Is Harper trying to get the Liberals to settle, what with the 1 million extra, so that it's over before a campaign.

Ron said...

Or maybe it is to force the release of the original tape. To date no one has been able to determine if the multiple copies floating around are a true representation of the interview or a doctored version. If, as Conservatives claim, it was doctored, by whom? Harper, nor his legal team, are stupid. If they are going through all this, you can be assured it is not good news for the Liberals -- if it comes to light Dion & friends used doctored tapes, made false allegations and ignored the basics of reasonable care and concern over their charges, Liberal donators are going to have to dig deep to come up with 3.5 million for the Consevative coffers.

Steve V said...


Blah, blah, blah. I was wondering if you could point to on time, even the big presser with the "experts", where anyone denied that Harper uttered those words? Even the people saying it is doctored, have never once suggested that the "I understand there were financial considerations" wasn't an intact quote, with no breaks, Harper's voice. It's such a boring game you guys are playing, not to mention WEAK.

Anonymous said...

I think everything at this point is about getting in hits where they can, and spreading enough dirt, obfuscation, smoke, mirrors (i.e., anything) to deflect from their own actions.

On one level it does make me wonder if they do know there are strings to be found if the right person can happen upon them so they want to make the water as muddy as possible now.

More likely, though, I suspect they are hoping by the time this goes to trial, they can at least get Zytaruk on the stand to find quibbling differences with his story and then to have him under oath say he does not have any evidence that Harper was aware of any bribe to Cadman.

That way, when the case folds, they will have dragged the Liberals threw the mud. Winning would be great, of course, but losing is just as good if you can use the case to claim it proves your "innocence" and to claim those nasty Liberals were misleading the public.

Steve V said...


That sounds plausible. It's either that, or trying to apply as much pressure as possible pre-trial, so this never comes to a public airing. Uping the damages seemed a clear signal of that possibility.

knb said...

I think there is a huge risk here for the Con's.

If they cherry picked their analyst's, which of course they did, when Zytaruk produces the original, you know that there will be many who will state that it was the typical on/off that a reporter does with a recorder that will come out.

With respect to Mr. Zytaruk, he doesn't strike me as a guy who 'agile'. By that I mean, he may have stumbled in turning the tape on and off, but that hardly amounts to doctoring.

So, if the tape is deemed legit, that speaks to the credibility of the Con's. More important though, is what Zytaruk is raising in the article. Democracy.

This has huge potential to highlight just how much the Con's have subverted such quaint notions.

Tomm said...


Did you read Paul Wells this week? He compares the Harper public personna to that created for Richard Nixon.

If that is true, Harper is looking to be seen as the ugly duckling, the one that isn't being invited to the right parties and being made the butt of jokes by the beautiful people.

If that is true, than the fight against "injustice" is the means, the end, and the result.

I think Paul Wells has a point. It alsao explains the "nature" of the attitude from the governing party.

Read it if you get a chance (@ Macleans).

Gayle said...

a"Harper, nor his legal team, are stupid. If they are going through all this, you can be assured it is not good news for the Liberals -- if it comes to light Dion & friends used doctored tapes, made false allegations and ignored the basics of reasonable care and concern over their charges..."

Well they are not stupid, and they understand how baseless posturing plays in the media, but none of that means they are going to win the case.

I have been around enough lawyers in my time to know about how many of them employ posturing in order to try to scare the other side into settling. In many ways it is like poker.

And, of course, there is absolutely no evidence the liberals have ever had any access to the original tape - in fact all the evidence is to the contrary. I suppose the fact you would suggest otherwise is a testament to how effective baseless posturing can be to sway public opinion - because not even Harper has alleged the LPC doctored the tape, he has just allowed that suggestion to sink into the collective (un)consciousness of his brainless supporters...

Tomm said...


You said:

"...brainless supporters..."

Thanks. I've been insulted.

I feel less brainless than the truly brainless supporting other political parties during this pivotal time in history.

The longer Harper stays, the more he gets to change Canada in ways it truly needs to change. Hopefully we won't be seeing a Liberal government until after President Obama leaves office after 8 interesting years.

Paladiea said...

Hopefully we won't be seeing a Liberal government until after President Obama leaves office after 8 interesting years.

Good thing that will never come to pass (having the Conservatives in power for 8 years).

Steve V said...


I missed the Wells piece, but I'll check it out.