Lawrence Martin on Stéphane Dion, Sept. 12, 2006:
Mr. Dion, a logician, didn’t light up the convention hall with his words. It was his spirit, his demeanour, the sense of honour he embodied that the party admired. He was, in his self-effacing nimbus, as far removed from darkness as RFK was from Richard Nixon.
Is there something in the air, a new awakening in our political culture as 2006 closes?
Much appeared to change during that weekend in Montreal. The old guard was drowned out by quiet noises. Generational change was on the way. A leader with a trace of the mystical, with the potential to change so much, was born.
Bobby, one can imagine, would have approved.
To dance with the dissenters is probably the only way for the besieged professor to get out from under his nimbus of vulnerability. … To put maximum emphasis on his high-powered team, Mr. Dion should announce in the middle of the campaign his future cabinet – tentative picks of the leading portfolio holders.
If there is one thing Canadians might be attracted to after so many years of one-man bands, it is a big-team approach. We have had what was called the friendly dictatorship of Jean Chrétien, the little bouncer from Shawinigan. In the past two years, there’s been a similar approach minus, until this campaign, the friendly part. …
Mr. Dion should have been showcasing his star players since the day his campaign kicked off.
Martin on Barack Obama, Dec. 27, 2007:
The perception in Canada would instantly change [were he elected]. Disgusted by the Bush-Cheney years, Canadians would have their faith in the U.S. restored by an Obama triumph. His moderate, inclusionary vision is in keeping with our values. His arrival in power would alter the tenor of the relationship, not because of any specific bilateral policy but because of his philosophical breadth. He would make Canadians want a closer relationship with their neighbour instead of fearing one. …
The mind of the exceptional leader is free of ideological chains. It thinks outside the box. Its freedom lures new perspectives. It allows, for example, a Mikhail Gorbachev to look at the irrationality of the Cold War and say, Let’s end it. It would allow a new U.S. president to think beyond the clash of civilizations. …
But what a signal to the world America would send through the very act of electing this man. What a statement of the country’s greatness, its capacity for change, its return to its ideals. Can anyone imagine a Barack Obama approving torture?
Moments like these come along rarely. As in sport, politics delivers up a truly exceptional force only once every generation or two. Now is one of those moments – the best opportunity for a new Camelot era since the arrival of John F. Kennedy.
…and on July 10, 2008:
It wasn’t so long ago that Barack Obama, in Martin Luther King parlance, was talking about the “fierce urgency of now.” And here he is now, moving from inspirational idealist to a middle-of-the-road panderer. On guns, on wiretaps, on election finance, on war, meet the new Senator from Illinois. A peddler of convention. An American conformist.
Let no one say that Mr. Martin isn’t a national treasure. (Let no one say it in the comments to this post, for example.) His laments for the sepia-toned days of intelligent, civil politics long past; his pollyanna-ish pleas for intelligent, civil politics in the future; his columns complaining about the media focusing too much on political optics rather than substance, any of which could easily be followed by a column focusing entirely on political optics; his ability to fall head-over-heels in love with the likes of Obama and Dion, only to be jilted yet again by their inevitable, shameless kowtowing to the realities of unintelligent, uncivil politics… there’s just so much earnestness in every piece, so much potential for crushing disappointment. Lock him and Susan Riley in a room for 24 hours, we’re convinced, and they’d emerge with a fully-costed plan to convert Canada and its citizens to pure energy—and they’d be bloody furious if the government didn’t make it happen within a year. And how many writers, we ask you, would use the term “ritualistic cocoon” even once in their careers? Martin recently used it twice in two months! Our minds are often boggled by his arguments, but we always look forward to the next batch.
However, as our friend Edward Michael George illustrates today, there are some among us who don’t appreciate Martin. In fact, George declares himself to have been thoroughly nauseated by Martin’s original hagiography of Dion, and he gesticulates wildly at today’s about-face, in which he’s been reduced from RFK-of-the-north to a “besieged professor” begging for help from those who should rightly have bested him in Montreal nearly two years ago. George suggests Martin “fold his [original] column between two pieces of pumpernickel and see how long he can keep the lot down.”
It’s the sort of thing we might have said ourselves about a lesser columnist, but not about Martin. Tsk tsk, Mr. George.