Giornolism 101


From the print edition, my 2700-word attempt to explain the turmoil at the PMO this summer:

Twice before, Stephen Harper overhauled the team around him as he prepared to meet a new challenge. In November 2001, as a candidate for the Canadian Alliance leadership, he fired the high-priced professional campaigners he had put on the payroll only three months earlier and turned the campaign over to his inexperienced but highly motivated friends. In July of 2005, as an Opposition leader who had failed to bring down Paul Martin’s minority government, he replaced his chief of staff and fired much of his organization. The first overhaul, according to the Harper camp’s household mythology, made him a party leader. The second made him prime minister.

And now he is doing it again.

The rest after the jump…

OK, here’s the rest. Made you jump!


Giornolism 101

  1. Once again, Inkless, you’re scribing what Muttart’s telling you. Giorno is not going to allow Muttart to outflank and outrank him on strategic planning or election planning or Harper’s ear nibbling. Got it?

  2. Muttart wasn’t one of my sources. What a surprise: Anon is wrong again. We’re getting used to that around here.

  3. Yeah, right. Sure, Paul. Neither was Brodie.

  4. PW – would you compare this as well to the Harris approach in Ontario post his win in 1995? Basically knowing that they just need to keep the voters from the previous election happy in order to win again.

  5. Mr. Wells that was a great article, even for a leftymoonbat like me. I first came across Rick Perlstein in an interesting article written this year for the Chicago Reader titled Sympathy for the Devil?.

    And Speaking of Rick Perlstein’s book on Nixon, Conrad Black recently wrote an editorial for NYSun titled: Escape from ‘Nixonland’. Monsieur Black seems to complain that “The book is unrigorously and almost unrelievedly opinionated”. I thought that kind of humorous, considering the source!

  6. I would prefer a Harper majority to another two (three? five?) years of minority government purgatory.

    Question: what motivates the Tory backbenchers to let themselves be treated as battery chickens, if not the promise of a majority?

  7. The assumption in Paul’s article is that Nixonian tactics might very well work for Harper but what about the fact that we are talking about a different audiences? Or are we to believe that we Canadians are very much like our southern neighbors in our electoral behaviour?

  8. Yay! Anon’s right about one! Brodie wasn’t a source either.

    That breaks a profound losing streak for our skulking commenter, who was just as certain about being right as he always is when he predicted (July 3) that the next comms director would be Yaroslav Baran; scoffed (July 4) at my assertion that Kory Teneycke is “not much older than 30” (he’s 33); predicted (July 4) that I would get sued for pointing out that Teneycke and the CRG were key players in the Oily the Splot campaign (the Globe repeats this commonly-known fact today); offered brilliant cabinet-shuffle speculation (June 20): “Baird to transport, Kenney to environment?”; cavalierly levelled a demonstrably preposterous accusation of plagiarism at me and then folded his tent when I proved he was full of it…
    …predicted (May 22), and I quote: “Giorno won’t be the next chief of staff”..

    I could go on, but I’ve made my point. I’d hide my name too, Anon, if I was as constantly certain and constantly wrong as you are about everything.

    Probably it’s time to change your login pseudonym again, as you’ve done a few times in the last few months. Nobody will notice.

  9. “Not only can a conservative rise be fuelled by resentment, Phillips writes, the earlier liberal rise was too. The New Deal coalition “rose by directing people’s resentment of economic elites,”

    Have you ever read any of the Blogging Tories and the many, many commentators on those blogs? I think that Canadians could be very much like our southern neighbors in our electoral behaviour. Not that i’m happy about that.

  10. Gee, Paul, didn’t realize you were tracking me. I’m not sure if I should be flattered or alarmed. (Just don’t send the information to your PMO source(s), puh leeze :)

    There was a news report about Muttart being the Oily strategist (which I’m sure you’ll find), but hey if Kory created that masterpiece and wants to take credit for it, he should. Whatever.

    I’ve been wrong, sure. But, so have you, no? And I am not paid to do whatever it is that you do. I mean, come on back when you were in France, you thought Sarkozy was the answer to all that ails France.

    Look, apologies. I enjoy reading your posts. I just don’t like seeing reporters getting played.

    Your print article on the PMO transition gives the reader, or at least me, the sense that Brodie/Muttart are still directing strategy when it’d seem that if Harper had wanted that, Brodie would still be Chief of Staff, or at the very least, he would have promoted Muttart (Deputy Chief) to full Chief.

    That’s my thinking.

    But, unlike you, I have no inside sources. Just common sense, or as you point out, not much of that either.

  11. Boudica’s right that Canada in the ’00s could hardly be more different, as an electoral environment, than the U.S. in the ’60s. I try to address that difference in my article’s second-last paragraph, but reading Perlstein’s book it’s kind of stunning how different the two moments are, let alone the two countries. As always, analogies may be helpful but they’re never perfect.

  12. Brilliant article : I especially like = being hated by the right people was no impediment to political success ROFL LMAO. I have often wondered why is it that certain political leaders in canadian history bring out such strong negative emotions in a lot of people however they keep getting elected. I remember when I was volunteering for the Lib’s when Trudeau was on fire and it was simply amazing at how many people seemd to hate him with a passion and yet he kept getting elected. This goes as well for Mulroney, Chretien etc – then compare with leaders who lot’s of canadians liked say John Turner, Joe Clark and Sheila etc .. but never got re-elected – it’s very strange but I think it is because as canadians we are a very pragmatic and though we love to insult deride and generally ravage our leaders verbally when it comes time to vote we become very practical and secretly mark our X on the leader who ” Get’s the job done! ” irrepsective of his popularity. I use get the job done because I have encountered it a lot through the years whenever I have asked friends of mine who they voted for and why – and it is invariably quoted back to me – even though they didn’t like the person they appreciated their leadership skills and they ” Got The Job Done!”

  13. Blues Clair, you might have a point there. Let’s just say that I do not consider those blogging tories to be your typical Canadian.

    I have lived in the US and worked as a community organizer there. Specifically, I did a lot of voter registration and GOTV work (the only non-partisan activity you can engage in during election campaigns). The good thing about voter registration and GOTV work is that it brings you face to face with the voters and you get an unfiltered perspective of the electorate.

    One thing that I do hold to be true is that Americans and Canadians have different ways of approaching politics. I just don’t believe that those tactics would be as effective here as they are in the US.

  14. Paul, it wasn’t a criticism (scared of doing any of that given our last go-around ). I do agree that the concept of coalition-building is a powerful strategy that very much seems to be what Harper embraces. I just think that Harper is also guilty of not knowing his countrymen as well as he should. If he did, there are a lot of things that he has done in the past and is currently engaging in that he would refrain from repeating.

  15. Paul,

    I’m glad you have some useful commentary on the staffing changes, because in my unlearned opinion, it all has a kind of feel of desperation to it. The Conservatives have surprised most of Canada by: a) Staying in power for so long and b) not causing the end of the world as we know it by doing it. However, despite this, they seem to be unable to grab any sort of definitive lead in the polls. Indeed, how the Liberals continue to poll as high as they do despite the lack of direction they have baffles me. If anything, it seems to me that the Liberals, rather than the Conservatives, possess the ability to “garner pity as they wriggle free by making the enemy look unduly aggressive.” Oily the Oil Splot is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Back to my original point, which is this: Harper seems to just keep on restaffing and retooling until he hits upon a winning formula, when it’s likely going to take some sort of party rebranding to win over the country’s hearts and minds.

  16. Reptile Yuks, no amount of rebranding will help Harper if he sticks to his attack dog strategies. I think that the debate around the merits of the Green Shift perfecly highlights all that is wrong with the CPC. Rather than facing Dion with a concise rebuttal and an articulated policy proposal of their own, they used partisan attacks, insulting language and divisive strategies to win Canadians over.

    In fact, the only decent rebuttals I’ve seen have come from the press gallery. They are the ones who have put the screws to Dion and his policy, not Harper or his caucus.

    Now what’s wrong with that picture?

  17. Boudica, I think that the fact that Harper does a lot of unpopular things simply means he wants to do a lot of things that most Canadians don’t want.

    And I think he knows this very well. The art of politics for him is to do as many of the things he wants to do as possible without risking a loss of support sufficient to lose him his minority government.

    (Good article PW. The book you reference in the article sounds excellent in terms of analysis. Is it a good read?)

    – JV

  18. Haven’t read the book but have read a number of
    reviews. It seems to me it doesn’t offer a lot
    that’s new or at least not a lot that Adlai
    Stevenson didn’t unsuccessfully face. The sad
    and obvious fact is that it works,as the subsequent work of Buchanan,Haldeman,Atwater,
    and “Turd Blossom”,among others has shown.

    I also think it slides by the influence of well-
    financed third party “institutes” and “foundations” as well as a compliant press
    ownership in the whole process.

    It’s also interesting that Kevin Phillips has
    been riding a different horse for the past while.

  19. Sometimes, I get the sense that you assume the existence of a plan is evidence of its success.

  20. What it’s going to take to win over the country’s hearts and minds is simply living up to his campaign promises and statements from before.

    Now we’ve come to take it as pretty routine that campaign promises generally don’t get lived up to. But hey, what could you do, we have to have someone watching over the governance of this country, because, frankly, most of us are too busy (although the number of my posts here would have some people question that).

    Then along comes Harper with his promises of “Hey, I’m going to change that. I’m going to do what I say and say what I do!” For many Canadians, this is what we’ve been looking for. This isn’t just a campaign promise that can be sluffed off like “Oh, sorry, didn’t get around to that one..” this is a promise that should affect his entire behavior. This is something Canadians can look at proudly — “Hey! We’ve got an honest politician!”

    So we elect him.

    Then he appoints unelected senator Fortier. Invites Emerson to floor cross for a minister’s appointment. Caves to the losing US soft-wood lumber cartel. Starts taxing income trusts. Tells Newfoundland & Labrador and Saskatchewan that those promises he made about resource revenues? Yeah.. didn’t actually mean those. And as for the accountability and transparency? Apparantly that was meant to apply to lobbyists. Not to government. In fact, the new act from the conservative party removed key provisions from the previous act that required they “act with honesty” in government.

    Harper, or any party he’s part of, will never receive my vote for these blatant reversals. If he really wants to shut down the Liberals at this point, I would suggest the fastest way would be for him to join them.

    That said though, I want a government that is honest. And honestly, I don’t expect my government to have all the answers. I expect my government will make mistakes. I expect my government will take positions on certain issues that I don’t agree with. I even expect my government will have a certain amount of flat out corruption — because all government at the end of the day is simply a collection of individual people.

    But stop lying to me, and stop trying to cover up where you screw up. Any government that can do that has my vote until they change that policy. It’s more important to me than any policy they can enact. They could require we all buy coal furnaces for our homes and make Celine Dion the only legal entertainment in Canada, they’d still get my vote.

  21. Fair enough, Just Visiting, but that’s the problem, isn’t it?

    His actions and their impact on his “support” have yet to be tested. The next election will settle that one for me but I think that Harper has grossly miscalculated his chances.

  22. anon, if the vast majority doesn’t really care, why can’t Harper put any distance between his party and the LPC in the polls?

    Answer: They do care. They are watching and they don’t like what they see.

  23. As for the press pounding on Dion’s proposal, the vast majority of what I read was centered on their belief that Dion will not be able to win over Canadians with his green shift. Most of those assertions were based on the belief that Canadians are not smart enough to understand the intricacies of the said policy and/or that Dion doesn’t have the comm skills to properly explain it along with what they believe is a bad timing.

    There are a select few that offered an analysis of the actual policy. While I totally disagreed with them, they were indeed the best rebuttals I’ve seen to date.

    As for our elected Prime Minister, his fine analysis was that we are all going to be f****ed over… I mean “screwed” over by the money grabbing Liberals.

    Yeah… That one is sure to win him tons of support.

  24. After reading your article I find Harper’s baffling, pathological, obsession with the base, less baffling (though no less pathological). I have always considered Harper to be Nixon’s political heir. I am glad you see the same thing.

  25. anon, oh so now Dion is “the nice guy?” That’s not what Canadians are being told day-in, day-out. Coward, wimp, bumbling, hapless are all the words I see/hear from the press when they describe Dion.

    So the better question is, how can a coward-wimp-bumbling-hapless leader of the Opposition manage to remain tied to the Prime Minister in the polls?

  26. I have to disagree with Boudica. and a few of the other usual anti-conservative posts. The reason you do not see very much shift in any party’s polls is that at present they are playing to the converted and keeping their base happy the very worst thing to do for any of the parties is start making their bases unhappy at this point especially with the obvious fact that no party is likely to get a majority in Canada for quite some time. I caught an interview with my boy Stevie when he was down in the states awhile back now and he was asked by an american journalist about Canada and our proclivity to elect minority gov’ts on occasion and his reply was a brief analysis of our situation which was dead bang on and still is and then he added it was likely to remain so for quite some time unless of course the left does what the right did awhile back that might change things.

  27. Jason, I get your point, but in fact, my ambitions are more modest. The existence of a plan, if it’s the Prime Minister of Canada’s plan, is evidence that it’s worth trying to explain and describe. You get as much voice as I do in deciding its success: one vote.

    Since I got back from the far lands I’ve been amazed how frequently Harper’s admirers AND detractors assume they have him figured out.Among journalists I find it’s leading to some simplistic assumptions. I know only one way to challenge my own assumptions: I ask the people who know more. The kind of frankly insidery, here’s-the-thinking piece I produced this week is very common in Washington, London (Andrew Rawnsley every week in the Observer, for starters) and Paris. And it was common in Ottawa until, say, a year after Martin became PM. For whatever reason, they’re less common now. I still hope they’re valuable. But yes, Jason, you’re absolutely right: the genius of Harper will work until the day it stops working, at which point he will always have been a bum. Enoch Powell said all political careers end in failure.

  28. What more to add than what Harper said. The Dion Carbon Tax is going to screw everybody (starting, it seems, with the owner of the “Green Shift” name). It will, so you point that out and move on.

    The idea that the Prime Minister should be dragged into some debate on the intricacies of an opposition party’s plan when there is actual country running to do strikes me as a total waste of time. We can talk about the Liberal platform when an election is called. Meanwhile, its as useful as debating the political structure of Whoville with an elephant named Horton.

  29. “Not to be argumentative, but why wouldn’t it win him support? At the very least, why wouldn’t it cause people to think twice about supporting Dion? Because Dion, or others who would never consider voting for Harper, find the language offensive? For everyone else, it’s straightforward, it’s simple, it might even be how they talk themselves.”

    I realize that this is what Harperites believe and nothing short of a devastating loss at the polls will change their minds on that one. I would also suggest to you that the notion that Canadians want “simple” over “substance” is the very reason why Harper is stuck in neutral in the polls.

    “Why would you assume that most people are looking for the Prime Minister to engage in a point-by-point analysis??

    Because that is what the Leader of the Opposition has put forth. Remember, Canadians are supposed to believe that Dion is a bumbling idiot with nothing to offer so how can a “screwed over” rebuttal be viewed as a sufficient response to garner support? Harper would be wise to not allow Dion’s policy to remain unanswered, especially on something as crucial as the environment, because he will pay dearly at the polls for that.

  30. “Harper would be wise to not allow Dion’s policy to remain unanswered, especially on something as crucial as the environment, because he will pay dearly at the polls for that.”

    Dion’s plan has been answered. Merci non, is that answer. His plan has as much to do with the environment as reality TV has to do with reality.

  31. Paul you write “And it was common in Ottawa until, say, a year after Martin became PM. For whatever reason, they’re less common now.”

    Could this have something to do with a perception that MSM is hostile. If Conservative MPs aren’t leaking info how can ‘here’s the thinking piece’ be written or are journalists just getting lazier?

  32. Actaully I thought Harper already debated Dion on the Shaft : (1) everybody gets screwed(I loved this so did a lot of my friends who are now considering voting Conservative)(2) crazy idea (indeed the law of unintended consequences would steam roll right over anyone who really tried to implement this beast of an idea)

  33. So to allow Dion to continue to have a one-sided discussion with Canadians at a time when solutions to climate change are all the rage is what passes for a sound strategy in con land?

    And then they wonder why their base is not growing…

    I think Harper is keeping out of this because he has not rebuttal at the moment. Not that he doesn’t have the ability to formulate one. I just think that Harper’s success to date has been in his ability to keep what he really thinks and wants to do on these important issues out of view and earshot.

  34. I couldn’t agree more anon. Where you and I disagree is on the merits of their advertising strategy. You seem to think that Oily the Splot is a viable answer for those Canadians who are looking for leadership on the environment file.

    I’m merely suggesting that the drop in the polls your party has been experiencing might indicate otherwise.

    Just a thought.

  35. jwl, it’s true that access journalism depends on access. Some reporters on the Hill are so allergic to the current government they can’t bring themselves to develop a network of sources, and the government has been much less cooperative than its predecessors. But my own sources are not particularly exotic. I know they talk to other reporters. So that’s not all of the answer.

  36. Wayne it really shocks me that you loved your boy Steve’s “screw everybody” remarks.

    Harper don’t need to Debate Dion on the Carbon Tax. Seems the NDP, pundits, and Green Shift Inc. are doing that for him. Take a break Monsieur Harper, go fish or something. Besides that, Mr. Wells article was a real treat to read. Most anaylsis on Mr. Harper goes something like this… his eyes, wolf like, cold, blue and as eerily calm as a remote glacier lake up in the majestic Western Canadian Rockies, behold… behold.

  37. BTW, what I agreed on was the effectiveness of advertising, not your red herring argument.

  38. For readers asking about Perlstein’s book: it is an EXTRAORDINARILY fun read, and for the first 200 pages I thought I’d stumbled across the best book on American politics since What it Takes (high praise indeed). But then I realized he’s mostly rewriting the clip file from those years, and the book really is about the country more than about Nixon. So there’s page after page after page on the Berkeley riots or Kent State, and then Nixon pops up for three pages, and so on. To get what I used in the story I had to do a lot of gleaning. Still, I very much enjoyed the simple experience of reading Perlstein’s prose.

  39. “I don’t think Oily the Splot is a viable answer for people looking for a climate change solution. I imagine Conservatives don’t either. But I think you agreed that as a political tactic, it is effective at the purpose it is designed to serve.”

    Nice try anon. That’s not what I said. I agree that advertising works. Case and point, the Tory attack ads on Dion achieved their purpose which was character assassination.

    Oily the Splot, on the other hand, is an embarassment and a joke.

  40. “By the same token, I think the idealistic few who are “looking for leadership on the environment file” have probably already found it in the area that are most likely to look in the first place — one of those three parties (or four, if you count the Greens) who make it a central plank.”

    The idealistic few? When was the last time you looked at a poll?

  41. Blus Clair : why are you shocked that a person would like their PM to talk plainly? This tax grab idea of Dion’s would indeed screw everybody so where’s is the issue. Perhaps it’s the word that bothers you ‘ screw ‘ : screw is a shaft with a helical groove or thread formed on its surface and provision at one end to turn the screw. Its main uses are as a threaded fastener used to hold objects together = which describes what would happen to the taxpayer and any monies the Liberals could deftly remove from our wallets only to give some back to those particular demographics that might be stupid enough to vote for them.Hmmm stupid sounds a little harsh make it naive basically the same thing.

  42. Not debating the Green Shift (TM) or not coming up with a “credible” env plan seems to be a risky strategy because I do not buy the argument that Harper needs only a minority in the next election – his third as leader – to continue.

    It won’t take much for the Flaherty, Prentice, Ambrose, MacKay, Lord etc campaigns to get going. After all, the Libs kicked out a sitting PM who had won multiple majorities because they hoped to win a super-majority with Martin.

  43. I was joking Wayne. Sorry to waste your time, and mine reading your reply.

  44. Agreed Anon. On that point, I completely disagree with Wells. The only reason why the CPC caucus is remaining so docile is because they were told that staying prostrated before their leader and keeping their mouths shut is the only way to get a majority the next time around.

    No one will make me believe that another minority win would not lead to a caucus revolt or the beginnings of one.

    At some point, it will dawn on these MP that HArper is the reason why they cannot and will not get a majority govt. If one is to believe their spin, Harper should be able to massacre Dion in the next election.

    So this talk about not hoping for more than a few additional seat sounds like an attempt at managing expectations.

    Harper, like Dion, needs to win the next election. The only difference is that Dion will be fine if he can get a minority. Harper, on the other hand, will start getting a taste of his own medicine at the hands of his caucus.

  45. Anon : you are completely missing the point the issue of a debate is irrelevant as that is what the house is for and how much do you want to bet that if harper agreed to a summer circus (as that is what it would be) then you have to invite the NDP, The BQ and let’s not forget about the Greenies – and exactly what would any of this achieve outside of photo op’s and everyone coming away from the debate with the same views they had before the debate. Althoug I must admit I would like to see it as in a debate I think my boy Stevie would clearly come out the winner and I also think Dion doesn’t really want a debate and knows asking for one is a great sound byte but an empty gesture.

  46. Wayne, don’t be so naive. If Harper would come out the winner, he would have agreed to it or at the very least, dispatched Baird or Lunn with a sound rebuttal.

    As if Harper would miss out on an opportunity to humiliate Dion…

    The nightmare scenario for Harper is an election fought on the environment and you know it. That’s why he’s keeping his mouth shut and letting Oily the Splot (and now Jennifer Wright) do the talking for him.

  47. “All the time, actually. Doesn’t mean I think they’re worth the paper they’re printed on. ”

    Really? Then what are you basing yourself on to suggest that Dion hasn’t progressed in public opinion?

  48. “I suppose the jury is still out on that, but as far as I can tell the green shift isn’t getting much of a honeymoon period.”

    How do you know that?

  49. how can you tell?

  50. “Some reporters on the Hill are so allergic to the current government they can’t bring themselves to develop a network of sources, and the government has been much less cooperative than its predecessors.”

    I have long wondered about this. I regularly watch Duffy and Newman shows and when the journalists are on, no matter the topic, it’s always about what the Liberals are thinking. Before you started to appear on Newman’s show, Martin was the only MSM journalist who claimed to have Con sources and not very good ones at that.

  51. On Boudica’s point about debating Dion – there’s a famous Woodrow Wilson quote about his winning his second term. They asked why he spent all his time attacking Roosevelt and not saying a thing about the other guy in the race and Wilson responded:

    “You don’t murder someone while they are committing suicide.”

    On other folks points about Harper needing a majority of other Tories will boot him:

    That’s laughable. Harper’s term as PM has pleased, if not wowed, Tory supporters that a second minority win will be greeted with great happiness. Why do backbench Tories accept it? Because they are Tories. What’s happening in federal government is good and they are part of that. That’s why.

  52. Great read PW.

  53. Boudica, in being quite sure Harper can’t survive another minority, you have a great deal of company, and I may be wrong. One question, which I believe bolsters my side of the argument: in favour of which contender would the caucus and party knife Harper?

    Please understand that every prominent contender is associated with a faction in the Conservative coalition, and that factionalism bought them all 13 years in purgatory, which every one of them remembers as if it was yesterday.

    Remember also that among Conservative members who associate strongly with one of the predecessor parties, former Alliance members outnumber former Progressive Conservatives 10 to 1.

    How well would, say, a Jim Prentice-led rebellion do in that actual, real-life party, as opposed to the party Liberals prefer to presume they are facing?

    Throwing over a leader with a record of victory in favour of a random hunch has lately been Liberal behaviour, not Conservative.

  54. But proportionately, is Middle Canada as big as Middle America? Blue and red states are divided down the middle in the US.

    That’s always the Conservative dilemma in Canada. And why Conservatives have to do things they imagined they’d never have to do — like recognize Quebec as a nation. It’s the sort of thing that used to get young Steve Harper tied up in knots.

    And what’s with the Ontario strategy? They need Ontario but constantly antagonize it.

    I’m not sure this gov’t is as politically shrewd as many people think. They should be leaps and bounds above hapless Dion.

    I think the problem is Harper. He is missing that Mulroney blarney that put him over the top.

  55. Great analysis Paul. Speaking of the 60s you have reminded me of how much Stephen HArper reminds me of W.A.C. Bennett in my home province of BC. I remember everyone going around looking down on the Socreds. Then when the election came around he kept getting re-elected. Wackie had a real talent in understanding how to maintain his base while ignoring the so-called elites.

  56. I imagine anon might have not been so mistaken about the sources for this article, Paul, if it didn’t read like a Harper puff piece.

    As it is, this could have easily found a home on the blog of even the most knuckle-dragging bloggin’ tory.

    (Of if, in your lovely eulogy of Nixon’s brilliant political career, you had even made the faintest mention of the Southern Strategy. But I can undertand why not: that might have made Harper bad. Giorno, too, considering his former boss and his “issues” with natives.)

    In any case, assuming that social conservatives will remain quiet and unassuming for long in any situation is amusing. To assume that they’d do so if Harper has no prospect of a majority is just, well, adorable.

  57. One other thought: why the discussion of (sanitized) Nixon when John Howard seems to be such a better comparsion?

    Other than his getting drubbed in a climate-change-focused election by an unassuming guy with glasses that was called a “wimp” by his opponents, that is?

  58. Next, Harper conquers the World!!!

  59. “I imagine anon might have not been so mistaken about the sources for this article, Paul, if it didn’t read like a Harper puff piece.”

    I didn’t think it was a Harper puff piece so much as a Muttart/Kenney/Polievre puff piece. When you’re compared to Nixon — and I don’t think Wells compares Harper to Nixon — puffery is the last thing that comes to mind.

    My mistake – based partly on Wells’ earlier work on the 2006 election – was in assuming that he could only write about these details if he had one or more very high level sources. I don’t think any credible writer could write about Harper’s thinking in such detail without being absolutely sure of his sources.

    Unless, of course, Paul is having bedside conversations – akin to Woodward and Casey in Veil – with the Big Guy himself.

  60. I hope the Liberals caught this important point: “Few Liberals have thought much about what follows.”

    Can the Liberals afford (time and money) to get rid of Dion? Or should they stick it out like the Tories did with Harper.

    They better start thinking further ahead if they expect to be successful.

  61. “How well would, say, a Jim Prentice-led rebellion do in that actual, real-life party, as opposed to the party Liberals prefer to presume they are facing?”

    Paul, I agree with you that, at this time, it would seem that no one within the CPC caucus could take on Harper’s leadership. However, I suspect that several of them within and outside of the caucus will make themselves known should Harper only manage another minority govt after the next election. Given how Harper is treating his MPs and anyone who remotely shows opposition, those with such aspirations would keep their mouth shut.

    I just have a hard time believing that everyone within the CPC are such sheep. There must be some who understand that their liability lies with their leader. Canadians are not warming up to the man and as long as he remains their leader, the CPC can pretty much give up on the idea of ever being able to form a majority.

    If this is obvious to me and so many others, it has to be obvious to the select few with non-Borg-like mindsets.

  62. Well, Boudica, there’s no way to know. We’ll just have to wait until after the election. As a bonus, if Harper loses badly enough he’ll certainly be toast, and the question about how he’d have done if he’d barely won will remain a hypothetical. And those are always the best questions. Here’s another: how would a Prime Minister Robert Stanfield have responded to the rise of the Parti Québécois — or avoided it? I have no idea, but I love that question.

  63. Speculation is almost as fun as finding out that you were right all along.

  64. Oh, well, I stand corrected, Paul, “But it’s interesting, and frankly surprising, to read that the Dionistas are even thinking strategically at all” is certainly comparable to “Harper is the biggest conservative strategic genius in history, the press has no idea what they’re up against.”

    (Especially when one is a full-length article and the other is a quick blog blurb)

    Gotta say this is kind of funny, though:

    “Now, obviously this business of taking strategic lessons from a country on the other side of the planet can easily go too far. Differences between the two countries’ politics will always outnumber similarities.”

    Whoops. So, uh, do you think cross-country comparisons are valid or not?

  65. Me Dere Robert: Of course the Liberals haven’t thought about that question. It gets to the central problem here: Harper isn’t a strategic genius, but Liberals these days are more loyal to their faction leader than to their party. That leader getting to grab the brass ring is the goal, not what happens afterwards.

    Touching, childlike faith that the party will ascend into power if only YOUR man would become leader doesn’t require a genius to fight against.

  66. Folks seem to be confusing effectiveness with “meanness”.

    Recall when Dion first came to power he had all kinds of nasty things to say about him, many of which were quite over-the-top. But they were typical ineffective rantings you’d find from a far left blog.

    Most who are not to the bone liberals don’t believe Harper is evil. Attacking him with base insults that presume so panders to the base but that’s about it.

    Harper on the other hand attacks with substance. The latest attack on Dion’s “Green Shift” (apologies to the company) focuses on the fact that it:

    1) will do nothing to cool the earth/stop global warming/comply with Kyoto (the purported purpose), by Dion’s own recent emissions, and

    2) imposes a massive new tax which many are skeptical it will be neutral (again Dion’s advisors have as much as admitted its non-neutrality).

    The ads are spoken in the language of the average person who’s skeptical of politicians’ promises.

    In short they’re effective and speak to the Tim Horton’s crowd. Dion’s academic elitist approach in denouncing them as if they came out of the mouth of a knuckle dragging cave man, only underscores the fact that he belongs safely within the confines of a nice protective, tenured university setting.

    If Harper could have created a made-to-order response from Dion, it would have been the one Dion gave.

  67. “Harper on the other hand attacks with substance.”

    Colten, do they sell marijuana brownies at Timmy’s? I think it has been established that Dion’s Shifty Green Eyes are on the NDP and Green crowd. A faily large chunk of the electorate as a matter of fact.

  68. Hey Brian Smith : someone else in canada knows about his higness Wacky Bennett .. I almost fell off my chair. You are definitely on the right track the more I think about it. The thing is WAC is still in many circles here in BC considered a man who was 40 years ahead of his time and an Icon or a spawn of the devil… then again .. But the principle you are espousing I think is a common one in canada’s history and one that drives pundits, analysts and left wing nuts crazy with frustration. – anyways well said Brian! Canadians are amazing strategic voters which is why polls are invariable further off from the projections than in the USA. We have become very adroit voters using the dynamics between more than two parties for quite some time now and this needs to be taken into consideration as those who don’t invariably end up frustrated.

  69. … then came along wham bam Vander Zalm, and the obliteration of the once mighty Socrads! Ah, childhood in BC. What memories… Sorry about the irrevelant post.

  70. Hey Blues : Vanderzam – rats I was almost to the point of life where I forgot about him. What about Gaglardi and the highways to almost nowhere though I must admit the stretch between Grand Forks and Salmo is nice but what a hill!

  71. I know I’m a bit late, but I appreciate your response Paul. Perhaps the problem is my own assumption that you are writing in your own voice when you are (I now suspect) actually writing in the voice of the strategists.

  72. Sorry Wayne, from what I can tell Gaglardi resigned before I was even born. He sounds very interesting though. And in being a left wing nut i’m more than happy to disturb you with the thought of Vander Zalm, ha! Have a good day. That’s enough for me, with hijacking Mr. Wells interesting thread.

  73. Paul,
    There is a lot of value to this piece. I agree that most writers have produced simplistic assumptions about him that are simply not worth the paper they are printed on.

    I especially liked your comment that Harper’s coalition consists of “People who believe they pay more to Ottawa than they are used to getting from it, whether in money, programs or respect”, because I think it is true, yet I’ve never seen the slightest mention of this fact in most of Canada’s supposedly sophisticated political journalism. Most journalism seems to make the assumption that such people do not exist in Canada (maybe this is because most journalists are not conservative voters).

  74. “I especially liked your comment that Harper’s coalition consists of “People who believe they pay more to Ottawa than they are used to getting from it, whether in money, programs or respect”, because I think it is true,”

    Is that a coalition or is that Harper’s core base? Take, for example, the 10 Quebec ridings who voted for Harper in the last election. Do you really believe that they fit that description? Or do they belong to the group who were simply POed about the Sponsorship scandal?

    In fact, isn’t the Sponsorship scandal the main reason why Harper obtain power or do we believe that this coalition is what made him Prime Minister?

  75. Blues,

    You seem to assume that Dion tacking left will be …..ahem…..voter neutral.

    There’s a reason why the Green Party has never won a seat: it’s a single issue fringe party. Most Canadians actually have other concerns as well, such as their ailing or aging parents, their children’s health and education, their own economic well being etc.

    By all means if Dion wants to replace the Green party with the Liberal brand, he’s free to do so. But he’ll likely have to leave the voters in the middle (the ones in the meaty part of the bell curve) at the door as he enters his academic focused green centered paradise.

  76. A critical mistake in any form of marketing is believing you can bring the market to you,

    rather than delivering a “product” that has attributes that satisfies as many people as possible.

    Dion’s latest venture into Alberta was a good example of the former. Rather than addressing folk’s real concerns there, he lectured – professor like – on what Albertans SHOULD be really concerned about: not their economic well being, but on how they look to people like Dion.

    I suspect the arrogant tut tutting to the populace will do wonders with the fringe base of his pet issue he longs to lead, but to the rest of Canadians who are now having to decide to tell the kids they can’t go on that summer vacation they’ve been planning, or are worried about the their mother with alzheimers – you know very real and immediate concerns,

    they won’t take a lecture from the professor too kindly.

  77. boudica: “Or do they belong to the group who were simply POed about the Sponsorship scandal?”

    The sponshorship scandal was a situation where taxpayer money was wasted and stolen. The type of voter most likely to switch parties because of such an event: a voter who believes he/she receives less from government than they pay into it, in terms of money, respect, or programs.

  78. colten,

    One of the reasons the Greens havn’t won a seat is because they don’t have a strong organization. But those are real voters my friend. The all important Timmy’s crowd ain’t the only prized jewel for the kings paper crown.

  79. Paul’s one of the most well connected journos in Ottawa.

    I left the Hill over 2 years ago, but spent 15 years in the trenches prior to that. Most outside the environment don’t realize what a small town it is and what even the lowliest of staffers knows. Paul chatting with me at a a reception or in line at the bank could wind up being quoted or being background just as easily as a call with Brodie or Muttart. There are hundreds of staffers, some plugged in more than others, but all with interesting stories to tell. Perhaps knows some of this, but I think it more likely that he only wishes he did.

  80. Yes, but I don’t think Maclean’s would allow it to go to print without the sources being just a touch more reliable than a third or fourth level staffer’s gossip.

    Besides, Paul’s book on the 2006 election quoted Brodie & Muttart extensively.

    But as he says, they weren’t the sources and, frankly, it doesn’t matter. It’s a good article, Paul has an excellent writing style. I just thought the Muttart/Kenney fawning went just a bit too far. Also, the whole concept that Brodie is orchestrating this PMO reorganization is just plain risible.

    Polievre’s mention in the article was curious. It almost makes you wonder if his Indian-partook-outburst on the day of Harper’s apology was not another one of Muttart and/or Kenney’s Oily-esque masterpieces.

  81. P.S.: The article mentioning Muttart as the Chief Oily Man, I believe, is entitled “Conservatives fast-tracked attack ads, source says” by BRIAN LAGHI, published June 16 on p. A4 in the G&M.

    It’s behind a pay-per-view wall, so I can’t (and won’t) retrieve it, but I believe it said something about how the Oily ads were rushed to fend-off a possible no-confidence vote and that Muttart was behind it.

    But, I’m quoting from memory here, so –.

  82. Blues,

    it appears we both wish for Dion to continue on his single issue quest. Let’s chat after the next election and talk about how that worked out for him.


  83. “Poilievre is dismissed as a third-rater by most reporters in the gallery, and even among Tory staffers he is seen as a guy whose mouth gets ahead of his ambition. But he gets this distinction between the well-rounded and the Welkish mass in his bones. His website address is http://www.fightingforyou.ca, and here’s the odd thing about the residential-schools blunder: even if it was a mistake, and his apology sincere, his riding office has received far more critical calls and emails from voters for his apology than it has for his original gaffe.”

    Paul, “if it was a mistake”? He made it sound like those who were at residential schools ELECTED to be there!

    And having his riding office state their statistics? Not exactly scientific nor objective. When his riding office released this information I immediately wondered just how sincere that apology was since the MP would have had to allow that information to be given out, and that information totally contradicted his apology. It seems a ‘wink wink nudge nudge’ apporach— ‘yes I had to apology but you and I really know the truth, continue to vote for me.’ I wish someone had asked Poilevre why he aloowed his office to release the information… it would be fun to watch him talk out of both sides of his mouth.

  84. Mr. Wells, I found this line to be interesting: “Dion’s resignation would plunge the party into another year-long leadership contest…”

    I can’t see the Liberal party signing up for another 12-month encore edition of their last leadership ‘race’. Surely they’d be smart enough to book the convention for 4, maybe 6 months after Dion steps down, and not a full year? Wouldn’t they?

  85. Jackie, a senior guy at the party once explained to me that it’s very difficult under current rules — which can’t be changed before a convention — to compress the Liberal leadership process much past a year. Probably you could do it in eight months. But not five. That’s because you have to count backward from the end: delegates must be selected 90 days before a convention; people need time, at least several weeks, to sign up to compete for delegate spots; candidates need time to get potential delegates’ attention; candidates need time to organize.The later steps (first in my backward list) are incompressible. The first steps — organizing and campaigning — if they’re accelerated, confer a huge advantage on the best-known candidates. A six-month race would be a Rae-Ignatieff face-off, and I know enough Liberals who want no such thing that I’m sure the party executive will give other candidates time to get in the water.

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