105

A gaffe, in reverse


 

The drug of choice among political journalists is the gaffe. It is either a trivial slip of the tongue — especially, in Michael Kinsley’s immortal definition, when a politician tells the truth — or some trifling but embarrassing incident: a dropped football here, a silly hairnet there, indicative of nothing in particular but invested with all manner of spurious significance by the media herd.

It’s nonsense, of course. The only significance of the gaffe is that it fits a narrative, or rather that a narrative can be made to fit around it. A politician’s campaign is failing. He eats an ill-judged banana. Therefore the banana-eating becomes a “metaphor” for the campaign, or even a “defining moment.” Defining him as … what? As a politician who eats bananas and loses elections. It’s entirely self-referential.

Something of the same phenomenon is at work with regard to Stephen Harper’s celebrated performance at the National Arts Centre the other night — only in reverse. Here, the media has inflated the importance not of a minor embarrassment, but a minor triumph. But in all other respects it functions exactly like a gaffe. A reverse gaffe, if you will.

Instead of a campaign bus with a flat tire, we’re now finding vast import in a politician who can carry a tune. And for the same reason: because it suits our professional need for narrative. The narrative the media had settled on for this week was of Ignatieff the stumblebum, the guy who couldn’t get anything right; in contrast, Harper’s exquisitely timed appearance seemed to confirm he could do no wrong. Why, he even sang on key!

So what? It has no meaning beyond that, tells us nothing we did not know about him before, sheds exactly zero light on his ability to govern the country. For God’s sake, we’re not picking a boyfriend here. We’re choosing a prime minister.

Well, no. It tells us a couple of things, neither of them particularly worth celebrating. One, that Harper really has lost any sense of shame. The old Harper would never have lowered himself to playing the organ grinder’s monkey for the tax-funded Ottawa elite. Perhaps it speaks well of him that he is not above such things — that he is secure enough to abase himelf — though I rather prefer a politician with a sense of dignity.

But it’s the weirdly rapturous reaction of the crowd, so over-the-top, so out of proportion to the actual event (People! It’s not like he sang the “Vissi d’Arte” from Tosca. Even Ringo couldn’t butcher that five-note tune) that I find most fascinating. It wasn’t so long ago that a chill would have come over that room when he walked on stage. I think what we saw that night was official Ottawa transferring its allegiance. Power, they can sense, is consolidating in Harper’s hands. Now it was time to kneel and kiss his ring.


 

A gaffe, in reverse

  1. An effag?

    Anyhoo, I think Coyne is wrong on all but one point here (that point being the obvious: this performance had absolutely nothing with being a good PM). As for the rest:

    – Why shouldn't people find it amusing to see the PM playing a Beatles song? It's similar to seeing Tom Delay dancing – it's just not what you expect from the guy. Which makes it cool (or in Delay's case, weirdly fascinating and simultaneously uncomfortable). It has nothing to do with kissing rings or kneeling. The reason the audience didn't go all chilly and humourless is because Canadians have finally realized how idiotic the "scary guy" meme was after seeing Harper in office for several years.

    – Why shouldn't Harper perform a Beatles song? Are we some sort of class-oriented society in which the rulers can't descend to the activities of common folk? Of course not, and thank God for that.

    With one song Harper made himself seem like the kind of guy you might join at the pub for beer. Good for him. Of course, this has no relevance to whether we should vote for him.

  2. An effag?

    Anyhoo, I think Coyne is wrong on all but one point here (that point being the obvious: this performance had absolutely nothing with being a good PM). As for the rest:

    – Why shouldn't people find it amusing to see the PM playing a Beatles song? It's similar to seeing Tom Delay dancing – it's just not what you expect from the guy. Which makes it cool (or in Delay's case, weirdly fascinating and simultaneously uncomfortable). It has nothing to do with kissing rings or kneeling. The reason the audience didn't go all chilly and humourless is because Canadians have finally realized how idiotic the "scary guy" meme was after seeing Harper in office for several years.

    – Why shouldn't Harper perform a Beatles song? Are we some sort of stratified society in which the rulers can't descend to the activities of common folk? Of course not, and thank God for that. As long as he doesn't do it in the House of Commons, and doesn't do it on the tax-payer's dime (questionable, in this case) there's no problem.

    With one song Harper made himself seem like the kind of guy you might join at the pub for beer. Good for him. Of course, this has no relevance to whether we should vote for him.

    • "The reason the audience didn't go all chilly and humourless is because Canadians …"

      That's assuming the crowd was representative of Canadians, which a big assumption. In my stereotype, the people at the Gala were/are the last people in Canada who would vote Con/Harper but they cheered wildly anyways. Which is weird and I have no idea what to make of it.

    • "Harper made himself seem like the kind of guy you might join at the pub for beer"

      I think that is very much a part of Coyne's point. The silliness of competing in the public sphere over which corporation's coffee you drink, whether you want to drink a beer with the guy, etc.

      It's like negative ads. We all say it's not relevant to whether we should vote for him and that we don't vote for him based on that. But we do.

      Nothing about competence or policy or priorities or vision or direction for the country. Instead we boil it down to: coffee and beer and questioning the other guy's patriotism.

  3. The reason this was such big news was the context, which incidentally was entirely driven by Harper's detractors in opposition and parroted in the media.

    Harper, the cold, evil robot showed something robots cannot have: humility, good humour and an apparant passion for music – all rolled into one. (That we also heard of the endearing fact that he had to practice on cardboard as a child because his parents couldn't afford a real piano didn't hurt either.)

    In short, a meme was burst.

    The Liberals must now face the possibility of a leader the public trusts AND likes. A deadly duo if you're on the other side of the isle.

  4. Completely agree with Coyne's point. We're all vested in magnifying the trivial… it isn't like this is a new vocation of the media but it just seems to be guided by a higher importance now.
    And I'd hopefully like the creditors of canwest to ask the Aspers who paid for their tickets? Did it come out of the severance packs they are now refusing to pay?

    • It's so trivial, in fact, that guys like Coyne are still obsessing about it days after the event desperately trying to prove it doesn't matter while somehow remaining oblivious to the fact that their continuing obsession proves that they in fact do think it matters and matters very much. If Coyne really believed it were trivial, he'd be writing about something else.

  5. playing the organ grinder's monkey for the tax-funded Ottawa elite.

    I suspect Harper's target audience was not the Ottawa elite. This assumption is based partly on his choice of song. It wasn't a symphony or operetta, it was a well-known Beatles song. And the video of him performing went viral online, reaching a much broader audience than the people in the NAC.

  6. You must be totally confused each year after Hallowe'en.

    • Biff's hit it right on the head — a meme was burst and now its all over everything. Gumming up the works to the point where Biff can't see the tinfoil for the sky, why else would he have cracked another funny one about trusts and likes… the jury is still out on both, but both could only be fabricated through a lot of beer goggles and some very creative writing (paging John Howard!)…

  7. More of a Stones guy Andrew?

  8. Slightly OT – I thought Rick Salutin was going a little far with his recent article entitled "Narcissieff in the mirror of politics"

    In it he states "[w]ith narcissism, you barely notice [others], you bask in your own presence and assume everyone does." His thesis – Ignatieff's a narcissist.

    Ignatieff's reaction to Harper's "tour de force" at the NAC supports Salutin's thesis in spades. Commenting in a Toronto radio interview he states that Harper's singing "is not all that much better than mine."

    Mr. Salutin, you called it.

  9. You're dating yourself, Andrew….

    Anyhoo…I think the whole thing was very tin-pottish…the resident ruler indulges in his mediocrity (there is nothing wrong with being mediocre, just celebrating it) and the obedient media wildly affirm its loyalty by remarking on how brilliant it was…and the people in attendance jingle their jewelry to ensure that they won't be sent to the gulag…

  10. You Liberal partisans should show a tad more class and grace. But when your fearless leader says in reaction to Harper's performance that "his singing is not much better than mine", that may be asking too much of Liberals.

    • Hey I thought that Ignatieff's comments were unwarranted…it takes cojones to play on stage when you've never done it before, so kudo to Harper for that.

      But you guys are wetting yourselves about how great this mediocre performance was (nice to actually have a backing band with Yo Yo Ma), which falls in line with "really he's a funny guy" and "he really is a supergenius" and of course "he really is nice in person".

      This kind of fawning is too unreal…and pathetic really.

      • And let's not forget it was aimed at the demographic that so far has spurned Harper (for much of his life since puberty) — smart women. Of course, that Ms Teskey seems to have a clue may be his best bit of luck, but does she expect him to follow her gag rule out of the house, too?

  11. I thought that this was about Harper, then I remembered who you were…

    Narcissism is the realm of Harper with his self-portraits, and the CPC with its propaganda.

    • Is that true? That stuff about the self-portraits.

  12. "It wasn't so long ago that a chill would have come over that room when he walked on stage. I think what we saw that night was official Ottawa transferring its allegiance."

    That's an interesting perspective. I have been flabbergasted by msm's overblown reaction to Harper the past few days when all he did was play a simple piece on the piano and kept a tune. I did not make next step in my thinking, which is 'official Ottawa transferring its allegiance'.

    • Wonder if AC was including the media in his definition of 'official Ottawa"? Course that might include him.

      • So, the media's fawning response is because they know the Ottawa establishment has totally swung over to Harper and it's time to get on side before it's too late? I agree.

  13. If you skim the thousands of comments on Youtube and elsewhere from people who say things like: "I never could stand the guy, but this makes me see him in a better light", it seems less like a "reverse gaffe", and more like a PR triumph.

    Sure, the punditocracy likes to build narratives, but outside of Punditland real people are watching Harper's performance and are reconsidering their preconceptions of the guy.

  14. If you skim the thousands of comments on Youtube and elsewhere from people who say things like: "I never could stand the guy, but this makes me see him in a better light", it seems less like a "reverse gaffe", and more like a PR triumph.

    Sure, the punditocracy likes to build narratives, but outside of Punditland real people are watching Harper's performance and are reconsidering their preconceptions.

    • but first you've got to ween out all the CONbots who are spewing the talking points, the "I was a Liberal supporter once but…" Bet that accounts for 50 per cent of the flagilation (of course even then it still deemed successful)…

    • Bullseye. You have it exactly. And is Coyne's post here anything but a desperate attempt to save the narrative he so much wants to maintain? Harper's performance is a trivial, unimportant thing. And no one knows this better than Harper. I saw him speaking yesterday and he joked that his wife had advised him to quit while he is ahead.

      The only people who think it was important are people like Coyne who is frantically trying to get the narrative back to what it was before. And it ain't going to work; the toothpaste is not going back in the tube.

      • hello…hello…hello…Liberal echo chamber….echo chamber…echo chmeber…..

  15. It sheds exactly zero light on his ability to govern the country.

    Of course it doesn't. But this was about good politics, not good governance. Since when have good politics and good governance borne any relation to each other? They are nearly orthogonal concepts. See Obama, Barack.

  16. It sheds exactly zero light on his ability to govern the country.

    Of course it does. But this was about good politics, not good governance. Since when have good politics and good governance borne any relation to each other? They are nearly orthogonal concepts. See Obama, Barack.

    • Better yet, see Brodie, Ian and his admission that the Conservatives deliberately chose policy based on politics instead of how good the policy was. He even gave specific examples like the GST cut and crime proposals.

      • Well, for old Liberal version of same, there are lots of examples too — see boneheaded cancellation of EH1 helicopter contract by one J. Chretien. Entirely based on politics, and cost this country dearly for years afterwards. And J. Chretein didn't give a damn, because it was good politics.

    • Just like the GST cut. Nothing at all to do with good governance, as shown by the economic result. But that kind of wraps up Harper's main cause for breathing, don't it?

  17. Now it was time to kneel and kiss his ring.

    And why not? Most of Canada's media elite have been kissing a less appealing part of Harper for years.

    …real people are watching Harper's performance and are reconsidering their preconceptions.

    Anyone who calibrates his political allegiance by way of a hackneyed turn on a piano is not "real". He is surreal and, moreover, unworthy of the franchise.

    • Indeed Sir Francis, after all, who would take pleasure in the notion that one of their representatives, especially one as notable as Her Majesty's Prime Minister, would so debase his personage as to hamfistedly plunk out a specimen of the dreaded 'popular culture'…all the while feebly warbling the rather crude lyric. (It's a 'Ringo after all, ugh)

      What pathetic creature would find any measure of solace in the notion that one of his betters may deign to share his plebian bacchanal?

      Surely only a proletariat wretch would take reference from such a disquieting tableau, subsequentially re-calibrating his capricious political allegiance.

      Merely disenfranchise the changeable brute? You are too kind.

      Surreal you say? Why it's positively simian.

      Thanks heavens above we have people of eruditian and quality to point out the flaws of the filthy mob.

      Thank heavens we have people like you.

      • Wow!! That was Baird! Right!

      • What pathetic creature would find any measure of solace in the notion that one of his betters may deign to share his plebian bacchanal?

        …well, you, apparently—for a start. And I'm so glad Harper's bacchanal made your day.

        Thank heavens we have people like you.

        The heavens demand more than just thanks. They demand a sacrifice. Start by ritually disembowelling your style. Tangled within the out-flowing entrails of all that forced sarcasm, we may find some hidden wit.

    • Alas!

      You are correct.

      I awoke last night, verily bathed in the sweat of my own verbosity.

      Too wordy by half!

      And so, to some up, in the words of the immortal Harold Ramis (et al)

      'Lighten up, Francis'

      (Cheers!)

    • "And why not? Most of Canada's media elite have been kissing a less appealing part of Harper for years."

      It's their hidden agenda.
      Wow.

  18. Brilliant piece AC. The self-referrential nature of the media; Harper as the organ grinders monkey and the transfer of allegiance and power of official Ottawa to the new king.
    It's all a power game isn't it. It's you play at my gala i'll pay your tribute.
    But you left one question open. Who's playing who? Didn't Sakespeare say: all the worlds a stage…?
    Bravo Mr Coyne. When the mood takes you you're the best political journalist in the land.

    • "But you left one question open. Who's playing who? Didn't Sakespeare say: all the worlds a stage…? "

      No he didn't. Shakespeare wrote that line for a character named Jacques in one of his plays. Jacques is a shallow, trivial character. The fact that Shakespeare put those words in his mouth tells us that Shakespeare's personal opinion most likely was quite the opposite.

      • "Life is like a play – we merely go through the stages of our life acting it out."

        I disagree. In anycase his words have come to have weight, regardless of Shakespeares intent.

  19. "more like a PR triumph"

    Isn't that part of the point here: we raise the minor to the triumphal. The media certainly did but the voters do too.

  20. "So what" As AC says. We're not choosing a boyfriend here. What the hell does it have to do with his ability to run the country.

  21. "But it's the weirdly rapturous reaction of the crowd, so over-the-top, so out of proportion to the actual event … that I find most fascinating. (…) I think what we saw that night was official Ottawa transferring its allegiance. Power, they can sense, is consolidating in Harper's hands."

    This is the first time I see the full 4:00 video of the event and you really get a sense of the crowd's reaction. I recommend people listen to the linked video if they haven't yet heard this full version.

    I agree with a lot of what Andrew's written and particularly the end quoted above. Canadians have taken stock and have decided that it is Stephen Harper and not Michael Ignatieff who best represents the current Canadian zeitgeist.

    • I agree with a lot of what Andrew's written and particularly the end quoted above. Canadians have taken stock and have decided that it is Stephen Harper and not Michael Ignatieff who best represents the current Canadian zeitgeist.

      I doubt that's actually what AC said, or meant. Why don't you finish your quotes?
      I think what we saw that night was official Ottawa transferring its allegiance. Power, they can sense, is consolidating in Harper's hands." …"Now it was time to kneel and kiss his ring."

  22. "Nothing about competence or policy or priorities or vision or direction for the country."

    That looks strangely like a case of Liberal projection Ted.

    • At least the Liberals have the excuse of not being in office.

  23. " I think what we saw that night was official Ottawa transferring its allegiance. Power, they can sense, is consolidating in Harper's hands. Now it was time to kneel and kiss his ring"
    Very fine writing and powerful symbolic imagery.

  24. I agree, but there are a lot of voters out there who aren't particularly well-informed and who don't follow politics very closely.

    For many voters, it comes down to their "gut feeling" about a politician. Much like choosing a boyfriend.

  25. I agree, but there are a lot of voters out there who aren't particularly well-informed and who don't follow politics.

    For many voters, it comes down to their "gut feeling" about a politician. Much like choosing a boyfriend.

  26. I disagree that the Ottawa audience transferred its allegiance that night. It was simply Canadians being Canadians… we are way too nice and polite most of the time, not a bad thing.

    There was nothing wrong with the song. The audience was there on a Saturday night for a special evening, they were already in a good mood and Harper walks out on stage and sings a song. How could anyone not give him a polite standing ovation? Even I, as a Liberal would have stood up for him that night. Doesn't mean I'll ever vote for him.

    I agree with everything else you're saying though. I would also say the media seem to be a bit bored in Ottawa sometimes. It's their duty to cover this story but the fact that we're still analyzing it today shows we're a little obsessed about nothing. This is being treated like Harper just turned water into wine, which is kind of disgusting for us Liberals.

    • Ottawans in general, and National Arts Centre crowds in particular, have long had a reputation (apocryphal?) for giving standing ovations to most any preformance, whether mediocre or astounding. Andrew Cohen (hack) mentions it in his (hack) writing on Ottawa's chronic mediocrity here:
      http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.ht

  27. Geez, lighten up! He sang better than I would have believed, and showed remarkable composure doing. More than that, he played piano while singing, thereby disproving that any allegation that he couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. If only he could have solved middle east problems at the same time, right?

    This story is about as useful as Chretien water skiing or replenishing the case of beer on the reporters bus, but it offers a little glimpse into the private life of the PM: that they are practiced at something besides politicking. Isn't is nice to see some well-rounded characteristics in our leaders? What exactly is wrong with that?

    As for Ignatieff, his utter lack of grace and humility, following this was equally revealing. Surprisingly, Jack Layton actually got it when he congratulated the PM for having some fun.

    • Yes, it may have been Ignatieff's reaction that becomes the lasting impression of the evening.

      Ignatieff's lack of grace demonstrated a nasty streak that we had not seen before and possibly undermined his efforts to connect with Canadians.

      • Yes, rather ironic, when it's Harper who's supposed to be Mr. Angry.

  28. Harper should enjoy this moment while it lasts because I have a feeling he and his team are going to do something stupid or offensive pretty soon. When have they not screwed up when they were high in the polls? Every time they reach 40%, they either get greedy or someone in the party says or does something that drops them down to the mid to low 30's..

  29. I agree that image matters a great deal but disagree that only its only important to the uninformed.

    I think only a small sliver of the electorate completely ignore their thoughts on the character of each PM-in-waiting when it comes election time. Nowadays, it's better to be loved than feared.

  30. I agree that image matters a great deal but disagree that it's only important to the uninformed.

    I think only a small sliver of the electorate completely ignore their thoughts on the character of each PM-in-waiting when it comes election time. Nowadays, it's better to be loved than feared.

  31. Harper's liberal detractors are now learning that their sword of the petty and personal slices both ways.

    I seem to recall a picture of Harper looking odd wearing a cowboy vest, grabbing headlines and drawing rapturous ridicule from the left.

    The left has relentlessly talked about every petty aspect of his person, in an effort to derive meaning to fulfill the "Harper is mean and cold" meme. From a particular stare (highlighted in green color I recall) to his tone, to the way he walked with his son to school.

    In an instance where the politics of personal image is now drawing a distinctly more favourable picture of Harper, the left suddenly cries out for substance over image.

    The two sided sword is dangerous indeed.

  32. Did you see Valpy's article in the Globe yesterday?

    Its intro was:

    "The Liberal Leader's appeal was taken for granted when he entered politics. But now his party is struggling to reconnect with women who say they find him stuffy, inauthentic and untrustworthy"

  33. "But it's the weirdly rapturous reaction of the crowd, so over-the-top, so out of proportion to the actual event "

    Might have something to do with the subject matter. Harper appearing like a normal human being is an intoxicating novelty. It's like that time Data on Star Trek almost cried.

  34. Coyne is part of "the left"????

  35. I was referring to the commenters here.

  36. Yeah. Anyone who disagrees with Biff is clearly part of Canada's Maoist far-left…

  37. Welcome back! Loved your latest. My score was 24.

  38. Coyne: of course there are never any fluffy stories in the magazine you edit right?

    • The picture of some Liberal staffer on his birthday on one of the other blogs here is something that will resonate outside of Ottawa. Where was Michael Ignatieff singing Happ Birthday to this guy?

  39. Stephen Harper cannot make me believe that this was spontaneous. At any rate the performance was Ok, not great, and he did sing outta tune a time or two. nice to have very talented backup musicians with good voices too. It covered much of the amateurs weakness.

    I don't think he is a Beatle and I know he is no Rolling Stone. He has been gathering moss for Four years now.

    • You're aware that he has a day job, right?

      And no, it wasn't spontaneous…so?

  40. Ah ha! So you're a “ballpark” type. Were you given your copy of Atlas Shrugged? ;)

    Speaking of scores, because of my long absence, I'm sitting at a pathetic 54 on Popularity. How mortifying!

    At this rate, it'll take months to turn myself into someone who's ostensibly respected by his peers…

    • Can you hold a tune…or play piano?

      • No. But I can hold a piano and play a tune…

  41. "The reason the audience didn't go all chilly and humourless is because Canadians have finally realized how idiotic the "scary guy" meme was after seeing Harper in office for several years."

    If this comment actually reflets the mood in the country, then this week's reaction is indeed significant in political terms and Mr Ignatieff should now begin to unpack his things at Stornoway.

  42. I do agree with Andrew in some ways. It is rather elitist, that the PM has free reign to tinkle the keys like that. Any other joe jumping on stage to play a tune would be arrested. He's basking in the glow of being the top dog.

    But… on the other hand, it works, if vote-getting is the goal, and if having fun was the goal, it did look like he had fun. Harper got rave reviews across the board. And he did seem like a down-to-earth guy. So, if that's what people need to see for their vote, then that's not an indictment of him. And when it comes to elitism, this is a very mild case of it. It's a bit like the guy singing karaoke in the bar who won't sit down.

    I also think the press is going overboard on Iggy, and overboard on this piano thing. Seems like everything is exaggerated these days.

  43. I agree and disagree with you Mr. Coyne.

    On the one hand, the main impact of this PR success will be short-lived. Harper will get a bounce (maybe) and it will mostly recede. Most voters (or at least the swing voters who actually matter, rather than the partisans whose minds are already made up) are self-interested maximizers of their own well-being. Past economic performance, perceptions of leader competence and party platforms, among other things, drive voting behavior. Dropped footballs only seem to matter in a world of horserace coverage plus 3% margins of error.

    However, the politics of personality do have a somewhat important long-term impact. Politicians can make promises till the cows come home, but people are often skeptical. An increasingly cynical electorate doesn't just look for commitments, but credible ones. The knowledge that Harper is a "guy like me" is valuable. It also explains much of the apprehension towards Harper from the chattering class (they need to start asking "which candidate would you most want to drink a glass of chardonnay with"), Maritimers and French Canadians. If Harper seems like an angry right-wing ideologue, or the second coming of Wolfe (and hey, he does have a pretty square head) his explicit promises are not going to be deemed credible by folks that fear a hidden agenda.

  44. 10 months ago, every media outlet had Harper done, toast, bye bye.
    Then he walks out on stage, a survivor, an extraordinary man, our Prime Minister.
    Yah just get a sense, things are going to be ok.

  45. Canada, welcome to your Bush years.

    • Please…don't go there.

    • It's entirely possible that six years from now, the PM will be in his fifth election campaign, fighting to win his second majority and his fourth consecutive mandate, and "Harper = Bush" will still be a popular slogan amongst his increasingly desperate opponents.

      • Agreed — keep on with that "Harper=Bush" bs, and keep on guaranteeing that Harper & Co will occupy 24 Sussex. If that's the best that that anti-Harper crowd can come up with, then they deserve to be in opposition. Yeesh.

  46. "I think what we saw that night was official Ottawa transferring its allegiance. Power, they can sense, is consolidating in Harper's hands. Now it was time to kneel and kiss his ring"

    Where have I heard that tune before? Ah…

    "Madam, I surrender. Let us forget past criticisms. Let us put aside old quarrels. Your speech has collapsed my defences. You are my Commander-in-Chief" (28 Sept 05)

  47. Mr. Coyne, you and Paul Wells had an excellent forum on democracy. Hopefully, it will continue.

    Democracy today is mind manipulation. Journalists, money, spin doctors and image makers – to hell with issues and facts.

    Think about it – vote for a guy because he plays a piano in front of rich and biased supporters like the Aspers. The so-called surprise – that was planned a month in advance.

    I'm glad Harper plays and enjoys the piano – does it make a difference in my life – no.

  48. Let's see, crazy lefty opinion leaders calling him a stiff for six years costing the party hundreds of thousands of votes. Cuts to the arts costing him at least 10 points in Quebec. His image in "oh so swishy Toronto and Vancouver culture crowd" as a neanderthal costing the party dozens of seats.

    Two minutes at the NAC smashing the negative memes into a thousand pieces…Priceless.

    More over the tongue in cheek choice of material for a guy who just finessed his way through two potentially election triggering votes in the House, against the odds I might add…lighten up and cut the guy some slack, perhaps he really is what those who have bothered to follow what he has actually said and done as opposed the negative image the media has tried so hard to cultivate.

  49. I'm sure you're right about it being planned a month in advance. And, that Jane Taber Globe story saying it was all Laureen and only Laureen was pure spin that the media picked up and reported as if it were true.
    You can bet it was researched, focus grouped, and polled.
    The media still don't seem to understand what they are dealing with. They'll fall for just about anything.

  50. "Well, no. It tells us a couple of things, neither of them particularly worth celebrating. One, that Harper really has lost any sense of shame."

    Thanks for putting into words the way I feel about this. Harper's little sing-song was creeping me out, now I know why.

  51. Canadians can now rest assured that after years of diligent investigation and research, the news media has finally discovered 'the real Steven Harper'.

  52. Andrew,

    Does "official Ottawa" include the fourth estate?

  53. All this talk about Harper's singing (and choice of song) and not one mention of how it obviously portends the upcoming Tory announcement that they plan to decriminalize possession of marijuana?!?!

    Not that I really think that would happen, but man. It's my own personal bias showing I suppose, but I'd bet that alone could push them from 40% to 45%. And what the heck, given that the Tory motto these days seems to be "More Liberal than Liberal", maybe it could happen.

    • Sounds like it's not exactly the tea leaves you're reading there.

  54. I think Gilles Duceppe could score big inroads in Western Canada by singing 'Sympathy for the Devil'

    • And while we're at it, Jack Layton could gain some capitalist cred by playing Gordon Gekko in a community theatre production of Wall Street.

  55. Arg. I hate this entire concept of gaffe. I find reading about them irritating.

    What really is a gaffe? It's some inside baseball, political bs about something that happened that no one except the media cares about, and finds it easy to write about, so they do.

    Ooo someone dropped a football. GAFFE!!!
    Ooooo someone wore a cheese hat, GAFFE!!!!

    How the hell is any of this relevant to any "real" Canadian? How does this give any indication of what these politicians will do when in power? Are we trying to elect someone who belives in the same policies we do, or elect someone who is best able to be "gaffe" free, as judged by our national press gallery?

    Disclaimer: I don't mean "real Canadian" in the Sarah Palin "real American" rubbish sense, I mean "real" as in you don't live, breathe, eat, and sleep politics, and care more about, you know, what politicians will actually DO when in power, not whether or not they can stay on message).

    If there is any single newspaper out there who will report on the next federal election and not ever, once, use the word GAFFE for the entire campaign, I will exclusively read them. I think it may give me a better perspective of what's actually going on, and what actually matters.

    Anyway, that wasn't the point of your column, my apologies. Rant over.

  56. I just came across this entry. I think I can concur with most of what is said. I think I'm still out on the issue of whether or not this was dignified. However, I think the rapturous crowd was not so much genuflecting on the part of Ottawa in the direction of power — over the past two decades, the natural inclination of Ottawa audiences at the NAC is provide rousing standing ovations to anything performed on any of its stages. Rather I think it was more an action similar to Sally Fields receiving an Oscar. The Ottawa power base is really nothing more than an insecure and parochial group of grandees. To them, the usual disdain of a PM who did not play nice in their sandbox was quickly and easily reversed that Saturday night. And their joy was so great — "he loves us…he really loves us."

  57. Heyyyyy what happened to "inside the meeting that saved the world"!?

    I was halfway through it and it disappeared.

    But anyway…. the first half of it was good. :(

  58. I think it worked. It made him somewhat endearing.Like… he sang a Beattles tune! He can't be all that bad.
    Sweet!!!
    No, actually its scary as heck! The propaganda machine is rolling on stage and everywhere else.And Yo Yo Ma yo yo'd along with it.Next thing we know he will be reading poetry. Whose?
    And look at that bonnie Ms Raitt out there in her Con hockey sweater.With a hockey stick.!
    I'm gettin' the blues.

  59. I can't believe the nerve or the stupidity of some of these posters. And Mr.. Coyne is right. We are looking to elect a Prime Minister not a singer or pianist but the stupidity shines out when they haven't got a clue what really counts. BTW, in general Canadians aren't as dense as the media believe them to be. Actually, the Media is getting a bad name. But eat your heart out Reform lovers. You will be greatly disappointed when they are history slain by their own swords.

  60. Should have read; You will be greatly dissapointed when they are slain by their own swords.

  61. I didn’t see anything wrong with it and I don’t think it was undignified, it was the PM having some FUN. It showed a side of him we had not seen and did not expect. It humanized him a little. But I agree the media reaction was over the top, but then it always is.

  62. Recession is the main cause regarding the drop of paper delivery. There is a huge down and loss in the morning paper delivery.

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