All hail Prime Minister Kasparov
The myth of the strategic genius will not die.
In the National Post, L. Ian MacDonald explains why The Almighty CROP poll is better than the Strategic Counsel poll and all the other polls when it comes to Quebec, which in turn explains why La Presse recently announced an impending Liberal “disaster” in Quebec, and that the party’s “morale is at zero,” just two days after a nationwide poll showed the Grits “in a very competitive second place” in the province. That poll, from the aforementioned Strategic Counsel, is simply wrong, MacDonald assures us—as well he might, since any Liberal gains in Quebec would reduce literally tens of thousands of words of MacDonald’s oeuvre to the status of “Dewey defeats Truman.”
Neither the myriad of stupid, self-defeating things Stephen Harper has done in government nor his party’s identical position in the polls to January 2006 is enough to convince Lorne Gunter that our Prime Minister is not a strategic genius grandmaster superhero. Don’t even bother trying to figure out why he’s calling an election now, he advises in the Edmonton Journal. If Harper visits the Governor-General on Sunday, as expected, “it will mean the master strategist sees something in the polls that was not there before, coupled with a weakness in his adversaries that may never again be as exploitable.” And yes, before you ask, Gunter does indeed employ that hoariest of clichés: that Harper “plays chess while the other party leaders struggle with checkers.”
Oh, Rick Salutin. Just look at you, arguing in all seriousness on the pages of The Globe and Mail that Harper “is calling an election now to get out from under the arts funding cloud—all the protests against his harsh cuts added onto leftover charges about trying to censor films.” How can we possibly stay mad at you? It’s just so rich in nutty goodness!
The Ottawa Citizen‘s Susan Riley returns from vacation and all we can say is, wow. It’s well-nigh impossible to even conceive of a more earnest, Pollyannaish defence of Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift—which Liberals other than Dion better get busy promoting, by the way, and which you, yes you, sure as hell better vote for or risk “a catastrophic missed opportunity” and a future in which the United States and China, yes China, “will be fighting … for world domination in alternative energy,” the Arctic will be “slush” and we’ll all be feeling our way along the sidewalks of Canadian cities in a blazing-hot permanent midnight of coal smoke. (Okay, we made that last part up.) And then, astonishingly, there’s this: “As to whether his Liberal minority government would follow through on its promise: probably.”
Dion is “more comfortable with a teleprompter” than before, says the Toronto Star‘s Chantal Hébert, his command of the English language is improved, though inconsistent, and the Green Shift is the ideal issue to capitalize on his sincere “political persona.” However: Dion’s speeches are still too wonkish and not inspiring enough, the Green Shift is too complex, and it’s “taking up too much space in the Liberal playbook.” Those in the caucus who want it “downgraded to just one of a series of key platform items are on to something,” Hébert concludes.
It makes perfect political sense that Gordon Campbell instituted a carbon tax even though the B.C. Liberals are the party of the right, Barbara Yaffe argues in the Vancouver Sun, because they’re also the party of the centre. (Last we checked, the federal Tories were looking for votes in that neighbourhood too, but we’re sure their red-faced objections to carbon taxation are just part of the strategic genius.) The diverging policies are proving a tough pill to swallow for campaigners trying to support both Campbell and Harper, however; one says he’s being asked to “quietly support Campbell’s carbon tax at the same time as we loudly oppose Stephane Dion’s carbon tax,” which is no mean feat. More than a few B.C. Liberal memberships are being torn up as a result, Yaffe reports.
It’s mostly true that “the American election will be exciting, dramatic, passionate, charismatic, meaningful and very probably historic, while ours will be bland, trivial and boring,” Richard Gwyn writes in the Star, but take heart—it’s mostly because neither Quebec separatism nor low productivity nor a sagging economy constitutes a problem so serious as to “demand a Canadian leader of heroic stature.” We “simply do not have at this time any fundamental national problems, any existential life-or-death ones.” We can scarcely believe we even read that, and humbly suggest that we have at least one whopper of a national, existential, life-or death problem on our hands.
Choose your America: hunting or pornography
“As certainly as Thomas Jefferson would be unelectable today,” Dan Gardner writes in the Citizen, “he would be disgusted” by his predecessors’ pandering to a brand of American Christianity that “increasingly resembles a primitive, irrational, millennial death cult.” John McCain “began his second attempt at the presidential nomination by kissing the ring of Jerry Falwell,” Gardner shudders; Barack Obama appeared on-stage with McCain “at the cavernous Southern Baptist church of Rick Warren,” a relative moderate, but one “whose substitution of fantasy for reason is every bit as total” as the leading nutters. Why aren’t people “astonished” by this? Gardner asks—or if not by this, then by the idea that Sarah Palin, who is religiously committed to the Bible as “the inspired, inerrant word of God,” is one election and one heartbeat away from the launch codes?
Also in the Citizen, John Robson issues a touching plea to both Democrats and Republicans for reason, self-examination and restraint. “I know it’s hard to rally the troops with a dramatic cry that while your own candidate is uninspiring the other guy is liable, on balance, to be marginally worse,” he concedes, but hardcore Republicans should at least concede (a) that they didn’t think much of John McCain until recently and (b) that neither Barack Obama nor any other Democratic candidate of years past would truly be the end of the world.
John Ibbitson has bad news for Robson: “hunting versus pornography; families versus feminists; Rush Limbaugh versus The New York Times,” he writes in the Globe, enumerating the divisions among Americans that the Republicans are seeking to exacerbate, manufacture and capitalize on while they caricaturize Obama as one of the “loft-dwelling, merlot-sipping university professors in their leafy enclaves” of which all real Americans, both rural and urban, ought to be suspicious. Camp Obama is already pushing McCain as an extension of Bush’s warmongering, economy-destroying, Constitution-shredding reign, Ibbitson notes, and if the Republicans’ divide-and-conquer strategy takes hold, you can expect the whole thing to become very nasty very quickly.
The Star‘s Rosie DiManno agrees, urging Obama to start hitting back or face the consequences. This reticence is a common problem with the Democrats, she opines—not that they can’t come out swinging, but that “they’re sluggish and off-key on the rebuttal, either too self-consciously gracious, like Obama, or too much the self-righteous dandies, sounding pompous and polemical rather than aggressive, sarcastic rather than ironic.” Prime example: Harry Reid’s press secretary calling Palin “shrill.” DiManno responds: “Might as well have called her a bitch, idiot.”
The Globe‘s Jeffrey Simpson says “galvanizing the Republican base,” which is what McCain seems to be up to, won’t win the election like it did, twice, for George W. Bush. “Democrats lead Republicans as the preferred party of government by 10 points,” he notes. “And young voters and blacks are far more charged up this time than in any previous election.” Now that McCain has conformed to just about all the GOP’s “party dogmas,” in other words, it’s going to be awfully difficult to sell him as an “agent of change.”
The Financial Post‘s Terence Corcoran hopes Sarah Palin is allowed to pursue and proselytize her views on energy independence (Drill! Drill!) and climate change (real, but probably not man-made), both of which “could be good news for Canada.”
And the Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington concludes his scattershot reaction to Palin’s speech with the following positive comparison: “She talks plainly and straight, without irritating mannerisms like Hillary Clinton’s head-bobbing, endless grinning, finger waving, cackling laugh and coloured pantsuits.” We’re not totally sure why, but that made us giggle.