Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Coyne Misses The Point

Andrew Coyne scoffs at the plagiarism story, listing reasons why it's all irrelevant, contrary to what many of his colleagues argue. I think his arguments miss the point entirely:

If Harper had knowingly plagiarized, in Parliament, a highly-publicized speech by a sitting Australian Prime Minister, delivered just 36 hours before, it wouldn’t call into question his judgment — it would call into question his sanity. It was crazy enough when Joe Biden did it, a hundred million years ago (I’m estimating). But this was in 2003, well into the age of the internet. Is it really to be imagined, knowing everything we know about Harper, that he would be so foolish as to think he would not get caught?
I don't seem to recall anyone saying Harper KNOWINGLY lifted the lines, so Coyne creates a defence that was never necessary.

Since when does Harper need to steal anyone’s words, or thoughts? He’s famously opinionated, and notably articulate. I’ve read his stuff over the years - newspaper articles, magazine pieces, speeches. He has an unmistakeable voice, a clear writing style, analytical sharpness. If he hadn’t been a politician, he’d have been a fine pundit. So if he wrote the speech in question, it would be an odd departure, to say the least, for him to suddently start borrowing whole paragraphs from another person, even ignoring point 1.
That's great Andrew, Harper's articulate and well spoken. So what?
But of course, he didn’t write the speech in question, if we believe the confession of poor Owen Lippert. Certainly, it is more persuasive to me to think that as the newly elected opposition leader, with a million other things on his plate, Harper would have started using a speechwriter, rather than write them himself.
Harper busy boy, so natural to think he had some help. Got it, again, so what?

Now ignoring the tertiary defences, the only real point. This wasn't just any speech, this was the speech that all the Harperites lauded, his guru Flanagan called "eloquent", so impressive it was copied and sent out to the masses, picked up by publications. In other words, this speech is Harper's supposed SHINING MOMENT, his foreign policy coming out party, the historical MARKER. Maybe Harper is an eloquent man as Coyne states, but isn't it kind of sad that your signature speech was VERBATUM Howard, whether aware or not, surely the least you can say is EMBARRASSING, or lessening in stature. What would Coyne say if the Beatles signature tune Hey Jude was really written by Mick Jagger? McCartney can still sing, remember all those other songs, it was Ringo that actually fed me the lines?

Having a speech writer is one thing, but to say Harper had a million things on his plate, so please understand, is weak. This wasn't some side issue, this was about Canada participating in the Iraq war, if Harper had a full plate, this was the 32 ounce steak, NOTHING was more important, this speech demanded full attention. And yet, we find out Harper's defining moment was nothing more than a copy and paste job, NO INPUT from him at all, just feed the words, here you go, try to look stately. It's one thing to have a collaborative effort, quite another to have a lip sync.

So, nobody thinks Harper is lying here, nobody thinks he's crazy, everybody understands speech writers, everyone gets it. What Coyne doesn't get, Harper's "moment", as described by his supports, was really a shallow, robotic message, crafted by others, taken from someone who could find his own words, on the defining "moment" of that time. At the very least, Harper appears a little smaller, another sign of manufactured messaging, which we see EVERYDAY with this outfit.


Edward G. Hollett said...

If Harper didn't need to plagiarise, then if we accept the official version, an experienced speechwriter for two first ministers) thought that in 2003 he could sneak one past people.

Pull the other one again. It's got bigger bells on it.

Anonymous said...

"if Harper had a full plate, this was the 32 ounce steak, NOTHING was more important, this speech demanded full attention."

Great metaphor.

janfromthebruce said...

And that Harper aped a conservative-LIBERAL party leader in Australia, and where Iggy the deputy leader of the Liberal Party also supported the Iraqi war. This is irony of it all.

Steve V said...

Oh jan, you're such a silly hack.

Anonymous said...

Dude - dial back the faux - outrage. Christ your guys ACTUALLY sent LIVE Canadians to DIE in Afghanistan (not once, not twice but three times) and your head is spinning like linda blair because he copied a speech about a war we didn't get into.

Shall we chat about Mr. Ignatieff and his support for the Iraq war. Like Christopher Hitchens he was one of the 'progressives' that were trotted out to shill for the Bush admin.

Maybe you should go to the tubes and see what is up there. The links below are from attacks ads created by other liberals during the leadership campaign. So this is friendly fire not NDP or Tory war room stuff.

Carrie said...

I'm more concerned that he said it in parliament. I think it would be easier to brush off if it was some speech he gave at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. But it wasn't. It was supposedly the view of Canadians he claimed to represent. Clearly, that was not the case at all. He makes up what we supposedly think and believe in and want, and then throws it out in government sessions.

One reason this wasn't caught until now is that nobody in their right mind would have done this in parliament! Outside of a session, fine. But during government daily operations? Unf'ing real. So I don't blame them for not catching it earlier. And I definitely see this as a negative against Harper's character, or lack thereof.

Steve V said...


Oh goodie, another Iggy reference, how entirely predictable. Too funny.

liberazzi said...

It's a waste of energy to respond to these silly Con rebuttals. Point is you got burned, move on. Point is the entire CPC/Reform supported sending troops to Iraq and probably still do.

Anonymous said...

Saw the latest Nanos. Rae's catapulting of a dead cow over the castle wall yesterday has not budged the Liberal numbers. Oh well, maybe Couillard's revelation that Harper likes Pepsi will help the Liberal cause.

liberazzi said...


"Former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier frequently bad-mouthed Prime Minister Stephen Harper and once asked his girlfriend to dispose of confidential NATO briefing papers on trash day, Julie Couillard writes in her highly anticipated autobiography.

Couillard's book, My Story, released to the CBC and other media organizations ahead of its arrival at bookstores on Monday, portrays Bernier as a narcissistic womanizer who expressed disgust at Harper's eating habits viewed Quebec's independence as an acceptable inevitability."

It calls into question Harper's judgement and dare I say leadership skills.

I would say at this point that Harper can kiss his majority good-bye, since the numbers are status quo.

Note that Dion has finally surpassed Layton on the leadership index.

liberazzi said...

Note to the "hacks", if you want to start digging up ol youtube moments and quotes, then we can play the same game on a lot of your guys, especially Harper. Firewalls, culture of defeat, Ontario is the last place to invest etc etc

Mark Francis said...

What Coyne misses is that strategically this is really about dramatically reminding people the position which Harper and his party took regarding the Iraq war.

And so what that there's some Liberals who supported the war? That's old news. The point is, the Liberal Party didn't!

I don't recall any Conservatives smart enough to see through Bush's muck. The best they could do was to worship their international idols. Bush and Howard.

liberazzi said...

Getting Iraq Wrong
The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president. But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion. Many of us believed, as an Iraqi exile friend told me the night the war started, that it was the only chance the members of his generation would have to live in freedom in their own country. How distant a dream that now seems.

Apparently, Iggy is capable of admitting his mistakes. Harper not so much.

Anonymous said...

Couillard's book, My Story, released to the CBC and other media organizations ahead of its arrival at bookstores on Monday, portrays Bernier as a narcissistic womanizer who expressed disgust at Harper's eating habits viewed Quebec's independence as an acceptable inevitability."

Sounds like Bernier is a shoo-in in his riding. Thanks for the heads up.

liberazzi said...

Some other gems from our great leader regarding Iraq. Not sure if he actually wrote them or not:

“Canada remains alienated from its allies, shut out of the reconstruction process to some degree, unable to influence events. There is no upside to the position Canada took.”

“We should have been there shoulder to shoulder with our allies. Our concern is the instability of our government as an ally. We are playing again with national and global security matters.”

“The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade.”

“On the justification for the war, it wasn't related to finding any particular weapon of mass destruction.”

“I don't know all the facts o-n Iraq, but I think we should work closely with the Americans.”

Another good one with regards to the Martin govt:

“And I think the real problem that we're facing already is that the government doesn't accept that it got a minority.”

“If you want to be a government in a minority Parliament, you have to work with other people.”

Some other gems:

“Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status.”

“You've got to remember that west of Winnipeg the ridings the Liberals hold are dominated by people who are either recent Asian immigrants or recent migrants from eastern Canada: people who live in ghettoes and who are not integrated into western Canadian society.”

This in a nut-shell is what our great leader stands for.

If you want to read more go to:

Steve V said...


Well at least one Con Quebec Minister is safe, oops...never mind.

Demosthenes said...

I, uh, kind of think he's lying.

And I think Coyne's argument amounts to "there's no way I would think this is a good idea, and therefore there's no way somebody could have done it." Which is absolutely ridiculous. Of course Harper is arrogant to think that he can get away with something like that; hasn't Coyne been paying attention?

But it's not like pundits like Coyne don't project their own though processes into the minds of others. If it's good enough for Friedman and Brooks, certainly it's good enough for Coyne.

JimmE said...

I dunno Steve, AC may be right, no story here, nope.
Or, er well, there is a story here - on the NY Times site, so, well ... never mind!

Anonymous said...

If anyone thinks the Bush White House didn't provide the speech, where have you been for the last six years? The putative king of Canada has no clothes, but some media sycophants still try to convince us he does.

JimmE said...

Thomas Walkom doesn't get it either:
"But that Harper once cribbed from an Australian prime minister's speech is trivial."
... sigh, my loving wife, who is not the sophomoric partizan that I am; well she gets it! Her comment was "people have to be responsible for what they say as well as what they write."

Gayle said...

Have any of thse people noticed that Iggy did NOT win the leadership race?

Since some of those videos came out during that race, do you think maybe his position on Iraq may have affected the outcome for him?

Harper, on the other hand, openly expressed those views and STILL won the CPC leadership race.

Jerry Prager said...

The question is, do the Canadian people get it, or care ?

RuralSandi said...

I think Coyne deliberatly likes to swim against the stream just to be contraversial.

Harper's speech writer, an author and very experienced didn't have to ability to plagiarize but change the wording enough to it wouldn't be obvious? Doesn't pass the smell test.

I think he's willing to take the heat for the cause so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Canadian news media coverage of this story definitely doesn't pass the smell test. As a number of bloggers have pointed out with lists of links, the international press is sufficiently impressed to carry the story - the NY Times story says the Canadian reaction was 'tepid' - but the reaction here is mostly, 'yawn' (except, of course, Kady).

Steve V said...

"Have any of thse people noticed that Iggy did NOT win the leadership race?"

Why let reality get in the way of a good dodge and weave.

Scotian said...

I stopped having much respect for Coyne back when he ran with the Grewal smear and then went silent for months once the fraudulent nature of the edited recordings was made clear. Not to mention his inability to acknowledge he was way wrong in what he said during the first three weeks of that scandal until the full recordings were released and then the editing was discovered.

For him to say that this would be crazy would be the same as when he thought it would be crazy for the CPC to release fraudulent material to claim a sitting PM and senior cabinet members were committing specific criminal acts, and we know how wrong he was there.

Sorry Steve V, Coyne is something I simply do not respect and rarely read anymore because of his inability to be accountable and honest about when he and those he supports are in the wrong. For him to defend this nonsense and act like it is no big deal (especially given the reaction of the global media) is yet more reason why for all his supposed intellect he is a hack who when push comes to shove places defending his political side above intellectual honesty and moral integrity as this latest example clearly shows.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, the point Andrew Coyne missed here is the context!

One would think when a leader is pitching something as significant as making a case for war, they would at least be original. Again, one day after the story broke here in Canada -- it was on the BBC World Evening News tonight with the headline "Canada's PM Plagiarizer?".

Not good for his reputation abroad, which is a more important point missed by Coyne.

Constant Vigilance said...

Another excellent post.

I felt you took it easy on him by not pointing out something he said in the last paragraph. That the Iraq war is a just war. I did my best to call him out on that one.