The power of speech
The pundits offer advice for Barack Obama and sympathy, at best, for Hillary Clinton.
All Obama has to do tomorrow night, L. Ian MacDonald opines in the Montreal Gazette, is “deliver on what the first George Bush called ‘the vision thing’, … tell his story to those Americans who haven’t heard it, … [and] confront the nagging doubts of whether America is ready for a black president,” and do it all in a speech that’s better than any he’s made thus far. No small task. Thus, MacDonald suggests Obama consult John F. Kennedy’s 1960 nomination acceptance speech, in which he “squarely addressed … whether America was prepared to elect a Catholic president,” and Bill Clinton’s in 1992 for inspiration on how to tell his personal story.
The Toronto Star‘s Thomas Walkom heard very little about Obama in Clinton’s speech last night and a whole lot of “cold logic”—i.e., that Americans who want “things like … universal health care” should want a Democrat in the White House, flawed and male though he may be. In other words: “Forget your reservations about Obama; he’s better than the alternative.” But Clinton’s attempt to sell suspicious female voters on Michelle Obama as the woman’s voice in the White House must have been galling, Walkom suggests, given that in emphasizing “her loyal brother, her stay-at-home mom and her two daughters,” Mrs. Obama had “chose[n] to pander to America’s ingrained prejudice against strong-minded women.”
We haven’t been watching the convention, so we’ll leave our readers to judge whether Walkom’s account or Jeffrey Simpson‘s—in which he claims Clinton “showered praise on the Democratic nominee during her prime-time speech” and that Michelle Obama positioned herself as “someone prepared to turn being a first lady into something more than an ornament”—is the more accurate. (We will, however, note that Walkom has an amazing habit of being at loggerheads with Globe and Mail scribes.) Simpson also suggests that Canadians simply don’t understand gender politics in America because “only men run provinces, and every big-city mayor is a man,” and we’re “a country of political chauvinists hiding behind the mask of moral superiority.” Yowzah!
“There was a time,” Rosie DiManno writes in the Star, “when I thought liberals—or Liberals, as in the case of the Democrats—were, to their credit, the party of the party-animals, the rogues, the roués, the bacchanalians, the hedonists, the broad-minded, the sophisticated, the unconventional, the free expressionists and free lovers, the ones without a 2-by-4 up their butts.” Denver, with its recycling patrols, rampant sobriety and overweening earnestness, has disavowed her of this notion forever.
The Obama campaign will not be swift-boated, the Globe‘s John Ibbitson reports. Its vigorous response to an advertisement linking Obama to the “unrepentant terrorist” (in the words of a McCain spokesman) William Ayers, who’s now a University of Illinois-Chicago education professor and a “champion of education reform,” may even include seeking legal remedies to have it pulled. Not all Democrats are convinced this is the way to go, however; some feel it amounts to “fighting the last campaign.” But if yesterday’s anti-McCain vitriol from Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy was any indication, Ibbitson concludes, the Democrats are ready and willing to fight this one in the trenches.
Pin the tail on the dysfunction
Stephen Harper seemed curiously unable at yesterday’s press conference to provide any specifics about this Parliamentary dysfunction he so abhors, Lawrence Martin notes in the Globe. In fact, Martin argues, this “has been one of the more functional minority Parliaments in memory.” Furthermore, Harper’s claims of his agenda being thwarted at every turn by the opposition parties are belied by the fact that he doesn’t have an agenda beyond “get[ing] the election out of the way” before the Tories lose a bunch of by-elections, Julie Couillard tells all and a beacon of hope is installed in the Oval Office. “As flummery goes, it’s quite a load,” Martin argues, but he’s sure Harper will get away with it—and we’re sure he’s right. Who other than ITQ readers remembers what brought down the last government? How many Canadians even know about the fixed election date legislation?
The dysfunction, Chantal Hébert rather cleverly argues in the Star, lies in “the Liberal failure to act as a full-fledged Official Opposition.” She also compares the Grits’ recent behaviour to that of a “lobotomized brain” incapable of controlling its right and left hands—one of which “has been pushing Canadians to vote the Conservatives out of office” while the other “is trying to stop Harper from actually calling one.” As such, she argues, only the spirit of the fixed election dates legislation could give the Governor General any pause whatsoever before dissolving Parliament if and when Harper comes calling.
Suddenly, notes the Calgary Herald‘s Don Martin, David Emerson’s rumoured departure from federal politics becomes a burning issue. “Be it Russia’s revived military belligerence, China’s diplomatic displeasure …, free trade complications following the American presidential race or the apparent deterioration in Afghanistan security, Emerson has been a reassuringly candid diplomatic force on every foreign affairs file,” he argues—unlike Peter MacKay before him and very much unlike Maxime Bernier in between. If Emerson doesn’t think he can win Vancouver Kingsway as a Tory, which is not an unreasonable belief at all, Martin says there are plenty of other west coast ridings he could parachute into. Even for a government that’s clearly confident in its top-down power structure, he argues, Emerson’s loss would be a huge one.
We don’t normally read David Warren, as he angries up the blood, but judging by the comments on Michael Coren’s Monday column it seems our readers enjoy debating the more, uh, strident members of the Canadian punditocracy. So, here goes: in the Ottawa Citizen, Warren takes note of the latest human rights complaint filed against Ezra Levant and of misgivings expressed by the American Political Science Association over holding a conference in Canada, lest their members run afoul of the human rights commissions, and decries the sheepish docility with which Canadians accept the censorship that “has spread rapidly through many Canadian institutions, under tireless pressure from activists of various kinds—feminist, homosexual, Islamist, and miscellaneous leftist.”
Sun Media’s Greg Weston returns from an extended and, we hope, pleasant holiday, to fill us in on the latest in the global medical isotope saga. Seems the five reactors that produce “almost all” of the world’s supply of isotopes were, as of yesterday, offline—and only the “52-year-old relic” at Chalk River, Ont. was scheduled to come back online this week. Shortages are possible in the meantime, Weston advises, and further breakdowns could be disastrous.
The Citizen‘s Dan Gardner objects to the “Cold War caricatures” the media and politicians have used in their grossly oversimplified reaction to the situation in Georgia, not to mention the “anti-Russian sentiment so crude it verges on bigotry.” A people’s right to self-determination and a nation’s right to territorial sovereignty are “not necessarily irreconcilable,” Gardner argues—indeed, there exists “a large body of law, research and precedent” to guide us in determining who can and who cannot legitimately redraw national boundaries. But we’ve heard nothing about it, he claims. “Why complicate such a satisfying morality play?”