Monthly Archives: October 2006

Principled outrage or just cheap partisanship?

“You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dawg.” Before I became familiar with the oeuvre of the late Elvis Aaron Presley I vaguely assumed this song insulted a woman’s appearance. Later I realized that Mr. Presley would not do such a thing and the song really is about a dog, which he despises because it won’t hunt.

I bring this up not only because I prefer culture to politics. It pertains to a recent sour note in Canadian politics. I don’t care for political celebrity gossip, but silly episodes can illustrate serious points. With North Korea testing nukes, Iraq sliding into chaos, government budgets out of control and parliamentary accountability in a shambles, how can our political class go into conniptions over a cheap heckle and come out of it looking so uniformly pathetic?

It’s no big deal that Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay apparently responded to a strangely unintelligent taunt during question period with a low, unflattering comment about the lover who left him for a cabinet post. But his decision to deny everything was unwise given the existence of this here new-fangled recording technology. Continue reading

Have hope, and children

Mark Steyn, counting out western civilization, has reached about “seven.” In his new book America Alone, excerpted in the Oct. 23 Maclean’s, he says the Islamists won’t even have to kill us. We’ll just die off for them. Except in the Great Satan, we can’t be bothered reproducing ourselves because we’ve lost any reason for existing beyond transient pleasure. I say we may yet bounce off the mat.

His thesis is, regrettably, not absurd. Listening to elite rhetoric, you’d think western Europe, and Canada, were the last word in human excellence, not the last audible word from the junk heap once called Christendom.

You must have seen the statistics Mark cites: Greece has a fertility rate of 1.3 children per woman; Italy 1.2; Spain 1.1. (To stop population shrinking, given slings and arrows, takes 2.1). France nearly tops the European charts at just 1.86. But did you see the headline in Wednesday’s National Post? “‘Frightening’ surge brings U.S. to 300M people” on a story starting “The United States welcomed its 300-millionth inhabitant yesterday amid concern the country’s burgeoning population and unchecked consumption could place impossible demands on natural resources over the next few decades.” Continue reading

Cleanliness is next to Godliness in political life

Washington is all a-twitter over Mark Foley, the disgraced gay alcoholic Republican who had to resign over “overly friendly” e-mails to congressional pages. And while I just finished complaining about too much gossip in place of news coverage, there’s a big issue here worth pondering. It’s what The Wall Street Journal online’s James Taranto has called “political hygiene”: how well parties avoid things that they would clearly see were despicable if their adversaries did them.

Democrats in the United States can barely conceal their glee over this particular scandal and aren’t trying very hard, because it hits the Republicans right in the hypocritical breadbasket. Not because they had a renegade in their caucus, which could happen to anyone. What has the Democrats smelling gains in the November elections is the accusation that some senior congressional Republicans knew about the e-mails, and the sender’s unsavoury reputation among pages, but covered it up for partisan purposes, even letting him remain co-chair of a congressional caucus on children’s issues. Family values indeed.

Now a real partisan might say that the Democrats would cry cover-up regardless of the facts. And they might. Cries of “resign” are lamentably common in politics, there as elsewhere. But it doesn’t mean a lot of politicians shouldn’t in fact resign. And here there is pretty strong evidence that some Republicans knew Mr. Foley was chronically up to no good, and turned a blind eye or even winked. Certainly, and this is my key point, there is enough evidence that if it were the Democrats I would call it a scandal. So how can I do otherwise when it’s the Republicans? Continue reading


Is the venerable New Democratic Party going out of style like bell-bottoms and orange shag rugs? Plainly, left-wing politics is not entirely on the way out in Canada. But does the NDP risk replacement as the locus of left-wing thought and political action?

It can be argued that the NDP faces a perfect storm of a shrinking voter base, inept politicking, and ludicrous policies –the most obvious and recent being leader Jack Layton’s suggestion that, rather than fighting the tyrannical Taliban in Afghanistan, we invite them to peace talks. The foreign policy attitudes articulated at the party’s Sept. 8-10 Quebec City convention (for instance, tabling a resolution comparing Canadian soldiers to terrorists) provoked scorn across the spectrum. It might not matter if they enraged people who wouldn’t vote for the NDP even if Layton himself enlisted in the army. But editorial cartoonists not generally sympathetic to George Bush still painted Layton floating beyond Pluto in an elf suit (The Globe and Mail) or cheerleading for Lenin (the Ottawa Citizen). And veteran CBC commentator Larry Zolf declared it no longer the party of “fervent anti-Communist” David Lewis or even Bob Rae.

As for Layton, three years ago he looked fresh, energetic and engaging after two dreary scolds. Many now find him so slick he’s grating. And despite periodic surges in its popular vote and in Parliament, the party always seems to collapse just when things look brightest, and can’t get anywhere in Quebec. Its old core of prairie populists and industrial unions is shrinking. The Federal Accountability Act threatens to cut off critical funding from labour unions. And if the United Church is, proverbially, the NDP at prayer, its own demographic decline is equally ominous. Continue reading

Media insult us with leadership coverage overkill

Oh stop it. The newspapers are full of how Michael Ignatieff has 30 per cent of some semi-committed Liberal delegates, Gerard Kennedy must sprout French, Bob Rae may not be a portable catastrophe and Stéphane Dion … zzzzz. Can I just say “Paul Martin”?

Reread the breathless copy about his battle for control of the Liberal party. Would you wrap a decent piece of fresh fish in it today? That his party could swoon over such a man might strike future historians as worth half a line. But day-today fluctuations in politics mean about as much as they do in the stock market, and those of us paid to explain public affairs shouldn’t cover them just because we can. It insults readers’ intelligence. It insults our own.

In Wednesday’s National Post someone devoted an entire column to why we don’t know what the Liberal’s weekend vote means. I can be ignorant more concisely. Besides, I’m devoting my column to why I don’t care: If Mr. Ignatieff wins we’ll find out. If he doesn’t, why waste all this ink? Continue reading