Must-reads: James Travers on the incredibly unedifying election we are about to endure; Rosie DiManno, Margaret Wente and Andrew Cohen on the much more interesting election Americans are about to enjoy.
So lonely and sadly alone
The Canadian media have descended upon Denver en masse, but don’t worry—we’re holding down the fort.
The Globe and Mail‘s Margaret Wente thinks Michelle Obama is “tough, direct and disciplined,” and “a terrific asset” to her husband’s campaign. And even though she’s toned down her well-known stridency for the convention—”edited her image to suit the occasion,” in Wente’s words—her personality says a very good thing about Obama himself: namely, “that he desired an equal partnership with a strong, outspoken woman.” The voters must decide which of Barack and Michelle or John and Cindy are “the real elitists,” Wente concludes, but she finds it mighty tough to pick Michelle Obama over the “living cliché of an Arizona Republican’s wife.”
The Toronto Star‘s Rosie DiManno saw Michelle Obama’s speech last night as “connecting the tapestry of her parents’ working class virtues to the principles espoused by her husband,” and as a sort of Cole’s Notes version of the campaign’s main thrust “for those who maybe didn’t quite get it yet.” She’s a “steadfast daughter of Chicago’s South Side,” says DiManno, and unlike her husband has spent her entire life in the U.S. As such, DiManno suggests she might represent Obama’s “passport to that Middle America of big shoulders and hard work rewarded.” (Also, have you ever wanted to know why Mrs. Obama doesn’t wear pantyhose? Come on, sure you have. “Long legs,” DiManno explains. “Can’t get them to fit properly.”)
Obama is a perfectly conventional Democrat in just about every sense, Jeffrey Simpson argues in The Globe and Mail, but the “novelty” of his “experience” means some Americans have “to consider their own attitudes” before they can vote for him. As such, he says the convention is all about “framing” Obama—”about trying to make the uncommitted and undecided more comfortable.” That’s all the more important, he adds, considering “how the reptiles of the Republican right are framing him”—i.e., as “a dangerous lefty, suspiciously Muslim, decidedly un-American and not to be trusted.”
“The polarization of American politics is killing Republicans,” Andrew Cohen reports in the Ottawa Citizen, and if you want proof, look no further than New Hampshire (where he happens currently to be located) and the rest of the northeast. Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York were once home to “progressive Republican” governors and Senators, Cohen argues, but their numbers are dwindling as their wing of the GOP loses influence and the “political centre” gradually disappears. This makes swing states like New Hampshire all the more critical.
The Globe‘s John Ibbitson finds plenty of good old-fashioned Democratic discontent among Clinton supporters in Denver, and chronicles the party leadership’s feverish attempts to reconcile the Obama and Clinton camps even while “febrile” media types pick at their respective supporters’ scabs. “There is little sense that the Clinton loyalists, having no support from Ms. Clinton herself, will be successful in organizing resistance at the convention,” he concludes. “Journalists, however, will be listening for boos and catcalls and points-of-order when the vote is finally taken to formally make Mr. Obama the nominee.” Jerks.
The Star‘s Thomas Walkom paints Ted Kennedy as a “wastrel”-cum-“passionate advocate of universal health care, abortion rights and a better deal for the working poor,” and suggests it may be difficult for Canadians to truly understand the gravitas he and his last name bring with them to Denver. “He is the icon of liberal America,” says Walkom, “and, to many here, the best president the country never had.”
Former Liberal MP-cum-academic Ann McLellan explains to the Vancouver Sun‘s Barbara Yaffe what Canada needs to do to cope with a “highly protectionist Congress”: namely, do massive “proactive” legwork on “streamlining border operations in the north” and placate environmentalists in Washington and Sacramento with promises to cut emissions from the oilsands. Sounds a little too simple to be true to us—and with all due respect to McLellan, we’re sure Obama isn’t promising “a return to an America that is committed to multiculturalism.” But anything’s worth a try!
Harper? Dion? Are you guys still here?
The Star‘s James Travers thinks Harper’s accede-to-my-demands-or-feel-my-electoral-wrath gambit “is about as close to win-win as politics provides.” If the opposition refuses to talk turkey, “he gets to blame them for an election Conservatives want in the bag before the economy or Afghanistan get worse,” and for some reason no one in Ottawa, “a capital that thrives on illusion,” seems willing or able to call him on it. The Liberals should have “immediately shrugged off the threat and the command performance,” he argues, “telling the Prime Minister [they] would see him in Parliament if he doesn’t see the Governor-General first.” Instead they’re playing possum, allowing themselves to be sucked into Harper’s game and foreshadowing an election that’s “almost certain to turn more on the perception of strong leadership than on where that leadership is leading the country.” Which is bad.
The Tories’ decision to throw Ken Epp and his unborn victims of crime bill under the big blue bus is “the surest sign yet they’re scrubbing clean the political decks for a September trip to the polls,” Don Martin argues in the Calgary Herald. He suspects they’re “being warned they’re vulnerable to smears from their past, particularly among women voters,” and thus they’re willing to do just about anything to protect themselves: introducing a new, apparently superfluous bill protecting pregnant women without offering any justification for its necessity, for example, or hammering away on crime when “the crime rate is at a 30-year low.” We still think hammering away on crime is entirely legitimate, for the record, but it’d certainly be nice if they did so with a modicum of respect for the facts.
The Montreal Gazette‘s Don MacPherson says if Marc Garneau brings up the NDP’s support for extending Bill 101 into federal jurisdiction, then you’ll know the Liberals are worried about losing Westmount-Ville Marie in the upcoming by-election. Thus far, it appears they are quite reasonably unconcerned—especially, MacPherson notes, now that Garneau has mastered the art of “campaign[ing] differently in French and English at the same time.” (Recent campaign literature on infrastructure referred in French to “the municipalities of Quebec and Canada” and in English to “Canada’s municipalities.”) Now if Garneau can only learn “how to say different things in two languages at the same time without getting caught,” MacPherson quips, he’ll be home and dry.