Sunday, October 14, 2007

Manley And Partisanship

What I find amazing about this debate on John Manley, the way in which defenders take this "panel" at face value, as though it really is a principled attempt to reach "consensus". Pretty much every pundit I have read, from all sides of the political spectrum, have concluded that Harper constructed this panel, based on pure political calculation, in a shrewd effort to nullify Afghanistan as an election issue. Shoring up his weak spot, diffusing, wedging the Liberals, but not a hint of honest outreach. What is happening here seems obvious, in the most basic sense, which makes the "called to serve" defense of Manley a false premise.

I don't question character, but I strongly question judgement. John Manley may think that he is participating in a honorable way, that the issue is beyond partisan considerations. However, the irony, his presence is entirely a partisan affair, Harper uses him as front, a calculation that ensures credibility. Why someone as seasoned as Manley can't see Harper's motivations is a complete lapse in judgement. A "good Liberal" doesn't defend Manley, simply because of his party pedigree, you call a spade a spade.

Whether public, or private, the judgement is the same:
Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion publicly welcomed Manley's attempt to contribute to the divisive Afghanistan debate, but was privately fuming over what many Liberals saw as a betrayal that would help Harper build a case for prolonging the Afghan military mission contrary to the wishes of all three opposition parties.

Dion should be fuming, because Afghanistan is one of the few issues that the Liberals are well positioned. Now, we must all enjoy the spectacle of Harper name dropping, everytime the issue comes to fore. Travers sums it up:
Point, set, and maybe even match to Stephen Harper. With the single stroke of recruiting Liberal John Manley to help rescue Conservatives from Afghanistan, the Prime Minister is protecting his party from voter backlash in a looming fall election and putting knee-buckling pressure on St├ęphane Dion.

This is how politics is played when it's played shrewdly. Days before Tuesday's throne speech, Harper is neutralizing the combat mission as a ballot issue while steering the country toward the consensus Conservatives favour on a continuing Afghanistan role.

So Harper is doing what successful politicians always do: He's buying time while prepping the country for a foregone conclusion. By the time Manley reports in January the election may be over and, even if not, his findings will only make it easier for the Prime Minister to argue for a continuing, if modified, Afghanistan presence.

Canada needs a honest, public debate on our future in Afghanistan. John Manley seems to be under the illusion that he is at the center of the debate, when in fact he is being used, to ensure that debate is neutralized, to give credence to the Conservatives position. The argument that we all need to cool our jets and see what Manley comes up with is interesting, if irrelevant, because I can sit here right now and I already know the outcome. Is there any doubt? Why is that every Blogging Tory and Conservative partisan is "applauding" John Manley?


burlivespipe said...

It's in effect a re-inactment of his sham 'parliamentary debate' on the mission, with the main focus on not allowing dialogue on this major Canadian venture, but to divide and conquer.
This is right out of the republikan playbook. Take a divisive issue, hammer in a bigger wedge, and pretend democracy was at work.
Funny that, you never hear any of our blogging CON trolls comment on what a bad idea it was to re-elect Bush, nevermind Iraq...
They'll stay mum when it serves their own purposes, even on a purely discussion point as that. Otherwise, it doesn't serve their overall goal.

Greg Fingas said...

The problem is that while the pundits have indeed correctly pointed out the purely political motivation behind the group, the Libs themselves have been at pains to try to claim otherwise. In addition to Dion making public statements contrary to his own private frustration, Bob Rae's official party stance "welcomed" the creation of the panel rather than denouncing it as a sham.

Had the Libs simply taken up the prevailing wisdom that the panel is of no value, then any report could well have been sapped of any legitimacy in the public eye. But with the official opposition instead granting its public assent, it's far more likely that the report will be taken seriously - and that the Libs will end up being pressured to vote for its recommendations.

Ti-Guy said...

It never ceases to astonish me how certain nullities in the media, like Travers, hype silly little distractions like this as bold, sophisticated and cunning political tactics.

Is it a pre-requisite for a pundit to be completely lacking in imagination and creativity?

Harper's best friend continues to be the general insensateness of most of our media.

Darren McEwen said...

Regardless of what the panel actual recommends, Harper is going to do what he did with the environment... change his stance to mirror public opinion polls.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Rae said there can be no reconstruction in Afghanistan without security [...]

Same shit here*: "[...] Reinhold Robbe, the Bundestag representative who deals with military affairs said that there would be "no civilian reconstruction in Afghanistan without military protection". He added that the "two belong together and so far they have been successful".

ABSOLUTELY NOT! say people working on the ground.

* Rae is just repeating neocon-speak inasmuch as the Afghan venture is part of their overall geopolitical plan!

Steve V said...

"Had the Libs simply taken up the prevailing wisdom that the panel is of no value, then any report could well have been sapped of any legitimacy in the public eye."

I agree, I don't see why we need a happy public face. I suppose there is a desire not to ruffle more internal feathers, but strategically, I think the best plan was to undercut the legitimacy of this panel immediately.

Anonymous said...

With the recent statements from Sanchez on the US mission in Iraq being incompetent and corrupt, with nothing in the terms of this Afghanistan panel even mentioning the two key problems of Pakistan and the corrupt government/warlords we prop up, and with this panel so closely to tied to US interests, I'm beginning to wonder if the Republicans/Conservatives/NATO have some reason to keep the choas going.

Obviously nothing good is going to come in Afghanistan without dealing with both Pakistan and the pervasive corruption we support. So who does benefit from ignoring this, while keeping troops there? I suppose the war economy of the US and a lot of US military contractors. Hence, the chosen expertise of this committee for US-Canada business relations and not for their military expertise.

Karen said...

Actually, I think the Lib's have taken the right line here.

If they denounced it outright, they'd be aligned with the NDP who are whining that they aren't represented.

Where the Lib's have been clear, is that by simply creating a panel the debate doesn't stop. They've said if that was Harper's intent, he's mistaken.

Because the pundits have called it for what it is, if the con's try to hide behind it, that will be reported, supporting the Lib's who will be making the same claim.

If the Lib's were out their cheering the panel, then I'd agree with you, but they are not doing that. They are simply saying that in the grand scheme, whether Harper had appointed a panel or not, nothing has changed.

Denouncing it outright would have enabled the con's to scream, "The Lib's are not interested in a real dialogue on the mission, they just want to use this as a political football, etc"

I think they have more leverage with the stance they've taken.

I'm also presuming that Coderre has come back with info that they will waste no time bringing up in the Commons.

Anonymous said...

NDP whining about not being represented on the panel makes me laugh. Do you really think an NDP'r would keep an open mind on the study?

All the other panel members have been connected to Brian Mulroney -obviously Mulroney has had the input here - so, is Harper or Mulroney the PM of Canada? One wonders.

Just like Bush and the Baker commission, Harper doesn't have to go along with their suggestions - he's stalling for time. Why did Harper pick February for the report?

Why is he stalling? February - Auditor General report due, Status of the Environment due, deadline for suggestions of the Gomery report, etc., etc.

Also, the little scandals that are surfacing - he wants to be elected again, preferably a majority, before all this sh*t hits the fan folks.

I say we make Harper go through February.

Steve V said...

"They are simply saying that in the grand scheme, whether Harper had appointed a panel or not, nothing has changed."

That was Rae's line today, although you could tell he was biting his tongue somewhat. All the pundits see through the veneer, but they also all applaud it as a stroke of genius, so that leaves me confused. It's a talking point, and we all know Con talking points go unchecked with the media (see every John Baird interview this year). Another arrow in the quiver, I guess it will be up to the likes of Rae to make sure other avenues for debate exist.

Gayle said...

I agree with KNB on this one. The liberals have made it clear they believe the dialogue on Afghanistan should involve all Canadians.

As for the pundits, they are correct, it was a good tactical move. That does not mean they are going to allow him to get away with it. I suspect the media want to be part of the debate on Afghanistan too.

I actually agree that Manley is doing this because he believes in the mission, but I do not care.

If Harper truly wanted advice from people with the experience and training to give advice on this issue, he would have appointed people who have the experience and training to give advice on this issue. He did not.