I can't see the public becoming very engaged in this whole Mulroney "bags of money" inquiry. As a matter of fact, apart from media fascination, this is such a stale, done to death story, that it really won't resonate in any significant way. Simply put, most people already believe something, somewhat shady or gray occured, whatever "tarnish" is on Mulroney, this inquiry does have much prospect for introducing anything particularly new or riveting. Mulroney is OLD news, ancient in fact; so this argument that Harper has distanced himself admirably, while simultaneously leaving Ignatieff vulnerable because of his "affection" is pretty much rubbish.
There are relevant issues at hand, and this is why I see no downside in Harper sparring with Ignatieff over Mulroney. I wouldn't recommend Ignatieff keep commenting on Mulroney, but his actions to date come with little political risk. Harper was on the defensive yesterday, speaking about his party's internal strife, about his treatment of a hero to many Conservatives. In attacking Ignatieff, all he achieves is a further irritant within his own ranks, nothing more, nothing less. The storyline is a complete loser for Harper, he can't really win and Ignatieff can't really lose. Nobody really cares, apart from Conservative loyalists, Harper speaking is just more fodder.
This is the theme, and the more it's kept in the news, the better it works for the Liberals, against the Conservatives:
Robin Sears, Brian Mulroney's spokesperson, says at least six MPs and cabinet ministers called the former prime minister to express their sympathy and indignation regarding the kerfuffle over his Conservative party membership.
It seems these calls are in direct defiance of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's order. He told his caucus to have no contact with Mulroney.
Back in November 2007, Harper said: "I think it will be incumbent upon myself and also members of my government not to have dealings with Mr. Mulroney until this issue is resolved."
At issue is the business relationship between Mulroney and businessman Karlheinz Schreiber. The Oliphant Inquiry is delving into their dealings and last week, as the inquiry got underway, word came from Harper's office that Mulroney is no longer a member of the Conservative Party.
Mulroney was dumbfounded.
Through Sears, Mulroney said the allegation was completely untrue. " I will be a conservative until I die," Mulroney insisted.
Sears says not only have many Tories called to express their dismay, but Liberals Michael Ignatieff and Bob Rae also called Mulroney.
Sears says it's not wise to push Mulroney's patience.
"At some point, he may feel he has to say something publicly. That's something I hope that those who are thinking about launching another attack think carefully about before they do."
Canadians are thinking about the economy, job losses, etc. About the last thing on ANYONE'S mind is whether or not Ignatieff was wise to wish Mulroney a happy birthday. In other words, there is no political price to pay for saying Harper shouldn't be so petty with a former Prime Minister, to consider that possibility is really a tertiary consideration. What is relevant, HOW Conservatives are reacting to the tension, HOW the media is scurring around looking for "anonymous" Conservatives to weigh in on the family squabble.
The above link highlights the meat of the discussion, and Ignatieff, then Harper's reaction to Ignatieff, just keeps the cycle going. Can you find one news item that doesn't rehash the Conservatives internal strife within the "moral compass" accusation? The Conservatives are playing defence here, Ignatieff just gave a mild poke and Harper's taken the bait, incorrectly thinking he can transfer the debate into a verdict on Ignatieff. It doesn't work that way, and I would suggest the tone of the coverage proves it.
This is a Conservative story, a negative internal dynamic that just begs for more media examination. In addition, this angle of internal divisions will be the main focus during this entire inquiry, mostly because it's the only fresh aspect to this saga. Ignatieff should get out of the way now, but I don't see Harper's tirade yesterday as anything more than a measure of damage control.