UPDATED: Frank McKenna: The critics are raving!


“McKenna strides across the landscape of memory like a mythic hero on a grail-quest!!!!”

— Alec Bruce, The Daily Gleaner

“Intellectual prowess and indefatigable drive and determination!”

— Alec Bruce, The Daily Gleaner

“A preternaturally powerful orator — in both English and French — who can work a room of supporters, skeptics, and the undecided voters like Barack Obama on his best day!

— Alec Bruce, The Daily Gleaner

“Many back-room Grits are now convinced that the man from Apohaqui, N.B., is the best candidate!!!!

— Alec Bruce, The Daily Gleaner

“A man who has had virtually everything in public life, except the chance to literally reinvent the economy of his own country!!!”

— Alec Bruce, The Daily Gleaner

UPDATE: And now a preternaturally powerful word from the grail quester himself:

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UPDATED: Frank McKenna: The critics are raving!

  1. I don’t get it – was this a really bad speech or something? I thought it was fairly well spoken for the crowd venue. I mean it’s not a barn-burner, but was it supposed to be?

    I’m not getting the connection between listing all those quotes of hyperbole, and then displaying a random speech-sample?

  2. Riley, did you find the speech…what’s the word I’m looking for here…grail-questy?

  3. Zeus’ Beard. I know little about McKenna and, after reading Alec Bruce’s love letter, I was expecting something great in the video.

    I thought the video was weird, a joke. He’s talking but no one seems to be listening. He tells a couple of jokes that fall completely flat and it goes downhill from there.

    I don’t know how Bruce could have written that article with a straight face. I thought the first sentence was hysterical: making it seem as though the ‘trappings’ of being the vice-chairman of the TD Bank are nothing compared to what you experience while in politics.

    Is a McKenna run for leader of Libs really serious? I get the impression that he just likes to have his name in the paper and he will staying where he is no matter how ‘dire’ the trappings are.

  4. How about, one thing is not like the other, Riley?

    Regardless of venue, a powerful orator is always a powerful orator. As to all the other decriptors, the Gleaner seems to be rife with keeners.

    McKenna, like others, no doubt has something to offer, however I think the party would do well to ‘keep it real’ at the moment.

  5. I should say that I have always found Frank McKenna to be a perfectly pleasant fellow. His record of electoral success in New Brunswick speaks for itself, as does his modest but real record of achieving economic development there. The speech — the only one I could find on Youtube, and I’m sorry it contains no French, because you should really hear his French — does not represent McKenna swinging for the fences. It’s a random corporate morning. This should not be taken as a representation of top-tier McKenna oratory. But I honestly do not recall ever hearing a Frank McKenna speech that was, say, three times as exciting as this.

    Alec Bruce is perhaps an extreme case, but this is simply a reminder to partisans on all sides that whoever your guy is, he is probably not as tremendously exciting to others as he is to you. Especially if he’s been out of politics for a decade.

    In the Frank McKenna story I like to tell, he badly mishandles a confrontation with Lucien Bouchard in 1997 and the PQ brass are quite literally toasting his ineptitude on the terrace of a hotel restaurant in St. Andrew’s. Then Stéphane Dion saves his bacon by writing the first of his open letters to Bouchard. I’ve been telling this story since 1997 (not frequently; it’s not that great a story), but it suddenly has new currency, because I’m not entirely sure why I’m supposed to get excited about a guy who needed saving by Stéphane Dion when he was in his prime.

  6. Maybe he’s one of those guys that aren’t very good at politics, but are good at policy. We should give him a chance, guys!

    Ahaha. He seemed like a good premier, though, I lived in NB during part of his term, and I also lived in the US during his ambassadorship and I found him pretty enjoyable as Our Man In Washington. Though now that I do some quick checking, it looks like the Americans don’t agree:

    Amb. McKenna came south with the reputation for speaking frankly; I conclude that is a Canadian euphemism for throwing barnyard products at a banquet. I suppose a McKenna speech is akin to the question of the tree falling in the forest; if no one in the U.S. hears him, does it matter that he spoke.

    (David Jones, Hill Times, 17 Oct 2005)

  7. The first comment at the Daily Gleaner sums up the article and the sad state of opinion journalism in general.

    Wow. I thought a columnist’s job was to offer opinion and insight, not rant on like a giddy 12 year-old girl with a crush.

  8. This WAS a barnburner for the Irving newspaper created not quite fully bilingual, Meech Lake killing, Bay St. banker, McJob Frank.

    Pinball in a sweep.

  9. When it comes to Liberals, more than a fair share of Cdn. “journalists” get the proverbial “tingle up their leg”.

  10. Freom the original Grail Quest:

    Large Man: Who’s that then?

    Dead Collector: I dunno. Must be a king.

    Large Man: Why?

    Dead Collector: He hasn’t got sh*t all over him.

  11. McKenna’s french is horrible. But the Libs don’t have too many choices.

    Rae is a non-starter in a down economy.

    Manley has killed his political future by dancing with Harper.

    Ignatieff’s wife has a strange name – Zaruska, or something. It’s the elite thing – he oozes it, and it doesn’t work well in elections.

    McKenna might be the best of a bad lot. Really, who else is out there for them?

  12. What’s your point, Bud. When it comes to Conservatives, more than a fair share of Cdn. “journalists” get the proverbial “tingle up their leg” too.

    That’s the problem. The world is in the midst of a tsunami of stupid that is washing away all rational thought.

  13. I truly hope that the Liberals are not going to look for the “candidate of hope” type of guy who is nothing more than a polished speaker in an empty suit. I saw the Star pimping Pinball Clemons as a future political leader and almost lost my breakfast.

    Say what you will about McKenna and Manley; they both have a serious record of accomplishment and outstanding credentials. Are we really going to tie an albatross around their necks because they don’t speak like Barack Obama?

  14. I’m an NB’er, and granted I’m bias for McKenna, but he once introduced Bill Clinton at an evening event in Halifax in the summer of 2006 and he did more to electrify the crowd than Clinton did. He gave a barn-burner of a speech on U.S./Canadian relations, and seemed to know more of the topic than Clinton did.

    I think it’s a little crafty on your part Paul, to set up this guy with quotes that are clearly exaggerations of reality, and then air a random sample off of youtube.

    The guy was giving out money at a charity event. He wasn’t campaigning, or running for anything. Look, I think you’re the best journalist out there right now, and I routinely sing your praises, but I guarantee that you’re not always at your peak performance in every single interview or piece you publish.

    There was nothing bad about that speech, just like there was nothing incredible about it. Maybe that’s your point, that he’s just a regular guy and not the messiah. But not EVERYONE is in the tank like this Bruce guy, and some of us just see him as a gifted, honourable guy who could be a great leader of the Liberal party.

  15. For additional and pertinent commentary on electing a new LPC leader, Google “Dennis The Constitutional Peasant”

  16. Someone should write an article investigating this strange, cultish following that McKenna has. I can’t understand it for the life of me. I usually don’t put a lot of stock in conspiracy theories, but if someone told me that it had something to do with mind control serum, or magical pixie dust, I would 100% believe them.

  17. His French is wonderful, certainly good enough to handle a hostile Quebec press corps in a media scrum. Not.

    Or maybe not

  18. Think the McCult is just a result of the media looking for a great right hope to lead the Liberal party. We saw the same thing with PMPM & Iggy Flop.

  19. The fact that McKenna’s name is making the rounds so prominently shows how desperate the Liberal party is for a consensus leadership candidate. Doesn’t bode well for Iggy or Rae.

    What they might do is build McKenna expectations up to Paul Martin 300 seat majority type proporations..how did that work out?

  20. McKenna’s name is making the rounds because it’s the anglos’ turn for a Liberal leader, per tradition, and it’s commonly thought that they need someone from outside Toronto. Really, who else is there? I suppose you could count Gerard Kennedy, who grew up in the West and moved to T.O. in 1986. Wasn’t I hearing Carole James rumours for this same reason?

  21. Bingo for DCT. I’ve been caught up in the McKenna hype many a time. Now it just seems to eerily similar to the hype Martin had all those years. Another implosion like that would be disastrous for the party! And as for McKenna’s “modest but real record of achieving economic development” wasn’t it mostly call centres? I’m sure that fact will warm the hearts of millions of Canadian voters….particularly those on the now on the no-call list….particularly those who think the no-call list has too many loopholes!

  22. If you rearrange the letters in Alec Bruce, they spell “Frank McKenna.”

  23. Why McKenna? Simple. He has a good track record in provincial politics, and he hasn’t gotten that much in trouble.

    Problem? He hasn’t *really* been tested as a federal politician, not in the way that either Rae or Ignatieff or even Dion have been.

    Also, too many Liberals still think that all that’s needed is a charismatic leader, and everything else (financing, migration of talent, policy formation) can be fixed later. The problem with that approach is, once the party has a leader those problems have a tendency to be ignored. They were ignored during Martin’s time because he was focused on establishing his own legacy; they were ignored during Bill Graham’s time because he didn’t want to hamstring the next official leader; and they were ignored during Dion’s time because Dion couldn’t be bothered until it was too late.

  24. Ignatieff wife has a weird name? She Hungarian decent and her name is Zsusanaha (sp?) – English version would be Susannah. Strange reason for someone not to win.

    Hey, if it was Myrtle…maybe

  25. More electric than any speech Ignatieff could give. McKenna is the one candidate that Liberals could count on. He has the Liberal history. Rae and Iggy became involved in the Liberal Party in 2006, just for a power grab.

  26. He chose…poorly.

  27. It was Carol Taylor, not Carole James, and she said no.

    The reason that there is no candidate from west of Thunder Bay is that there are only 25 Liberals to choose from in Western Canada and all of them were busy.

  28. One reason all the dudes and dudettes may be gathering ’round the bonfire for McKenna is that he isn’t:

    (a) yet another arrogant professor telling us he knows better than us what is good for us

    (b) a former NDPer wanting to take the party even further to the left

    I can’t imagine who might fit the above two categories, but the Liberals would be advised to choose someone else.