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Post-partisan? Show, don’t tell


 

The lesson we are all supposed to learn from this episode is the need for both sides to reach across the aisle and cooperate on the people’s business. The public, we are told, is fed up with hyper-partisan gamesmanship at a time of such economic peril. The Liberals, with large sections of the media on board, have been especially critical of Stephen Harper and the Conservatives in this regard.

All right. So who is willing, not just to talk the talk, but to walk the walk? More to the point, who has shown that ability to work across party lines in the national interest? How about, I don’t know … John Manley?

The thing that was supposed to have been the biggest obstacle to his leadership hopes — that he accepted Harper’s appointment to chair a commission on the future of the Afghanistan mission — is exactly the sort of thing that recommends him for the job, post-crisis: that is, if the Grits mean what they say about dialling down the partisanship. The Manley report was a masterpiece of statesmanship, so well received in all quarters that it provided the template for both parties, Liberals and Conservatives, to come to a common position. At a time when there was real danger of Afghanistan becoming a wedge issue, with all that that might mean for the safety and morale of the troops in the field, Manley’s report showed both sides the road to compromise.

I’m just saying…


 

Post-partisan? Show, don’t tell

  1. Manley’s great except for his annoying tendency to speak out against the monarchy at every opportunity.

    Mind you, after the prorogation this past week, that might be a feature and not a bug for people in his party.

    ***

    But no — he worked with the PM on Af’stan and just aired dirty laundry in public. Might have been a good thing to do in the grand scheme of things, but that’s death for a politician.

    Makes you a McCain or a Lieberman (pick your party).

  2. Start the Draft Manley site!

  3. Nice try, Coyne, but

    Neither Prime Minister Stephen Harper nor Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe responded Friday to a plea from Parliament’s two Independent MPs for a holiday meeting of the party leaders…
    A spokesman for Jack Layton said the New Democrat leader would attend such a meeting.

  4. As much as I find myself agreeing with your broader point, and at the risk of throwing a wrench into your narrative, aren’t you overlooking the fact that Dion, Layton and Duceppe essentially “reached across the aisle” to form the coalition?

    Let’s not fall into the Conservatives delusion that lets them define their compromises as just and well founded, while demonizing coooperation that doesn’t include them as secretive and undemocratic.

  5. “the Grits mean what they say about dialling down the partisanship.”

    When they say things like that, all they mean is that Cons should stop believing in the things they do and, instead, they should dance to the Lib tune. They don’t actually mean both sides should look for common ground.

    How many Libs think of Manley as a traitor for supporting the Afghanistan mission, a policy initiated by his own party? Manley is far too reasonable, not very partisan and that’s why I don’t think it’s going to happen. But I agree Manley would be a great choice if Libs hope to win an election anytime soon.

  6. Sean,

    It’s only non-partisan if you’re working with the Conservatives. No one else.

    Working with any party other than the Conservatives is anti-Canada, possibly treasonous, and certainly anti-democratic.

    Haven’t you been paying attention? Have you learned nothing from this attempted coup?

    Geez.

  7. “aren’t you overlooking the fact that Dion, Layton and Duceppe essentially “reached across the aisle” to form the coalition?”

    Sean S

    All they seemed to agree on was that lots of money needed to be spent. There were no economic plans drawn up and they didn’t agree on anything else a government might have to deal with over the course of 18 months. I thought the idiocy of this coalition was revealed yesterday when I watched NDP spokesman talk about Afghan, he said something that didn’t match with what Libs are saying, and dipper said the Coalition didn’t have to agree with one another on anything but spending on ‘stimulus’.

  8. Partisan non-partisan: “Start the Draft Manley site!”

    There’s a blog, I see, but it’s oddly quiescent; last post was on October 26th.

  9. the Coalition didn’t have to agree with one another on anything but spending on ’stimulus’

    Of course, working with the Tories only means agreeing to one thing too.

    Doing whatever Mr. Harper tells you too.

  10. How about a Dump Dion site? That’s what I’m looking for. Is there one?

  11. jwl,

    I don’t happen to think the coalition is/was cursed with an abundance of creative thinking and long term strategy. Nor do I happen think that throwing a bunch of my children’s and grandchildren’s money into the abyss is going to help much.

    At the same time, they managed to put aside radical differences and unite in an effort to address what most Canadians agree is something of a major crisis. Which is more than Harper and the Conservatives can say, as they were busily trying to kneecap the opposition.

  12. They don’t need Manley ….. they have Ignatieff ….. looks better too. now, if he just wouldn’t , you know,.. talk.

  13. The Manley report was a masterpiece of statesmanship,…

    *sigh* It was a white-wash and you know it. This charade of consultation, fact-finding and “bi-partisanship” to dupe Canadians into accepting foregone conclusions is what was intolerable.

    I don’t have to accept t any government’s attempt to manipulate me, either directly, or through surrogates in the media.

  14. Shawn in Mtl: “How about a Dump Dion site? That’s what I’m looking for. Is there one?”

    If one exists, it’s hopelessly ungoogleable, owning to the massive number of news stories about “Liberals desperate to dump Dion,” “Liberals mobilising to dump Dion,” “everybody prays hard to God to dump Dion,” etc.

  15. How about a Dump Dion site? That’s what I’m looking for. Is there one?

    Why would one of those exist when Dion has already agreed to step down once the party selects a new leader. Now where’s the Dump Harper site? When you consider that the only thing that will save this Conservative government from being replaced by the coalition is if they dump Harper there should be one up and running by now.

  16. I should say, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying that the Liberals should reach out towards the 5.2 million Canadians who voted Tory instead of to the 4.7 million Canadians who voted for the Bloc , the Greens, or the NDP. That’s obviously a legitimate position to take. And maybe (probably?) the smartest political move. It’s just this notion that one move is principled post-partisanship and the other is a crass abandonment of principles that bugs me.

    If there are 5.2 million Canadians to the right of the Liberals, and 4.7 million Canadians to their left, it seems to me that which way they move is a toss up. However it also seems to me that a lot of people are couching this in terms that somehow suggest that moving to the right is the more high-minded and principled thing to do.

    And as one of those people who didn’t vote either Tory, nor Liberal, I’m not sure I like what that (and this whole episode) implies about me, and millions of my fellow Canadians.

  17. Robert McClelland: “Now where’s the Dump Harper site?”

    My favourite: Draft John Baird.

  18. Manley jumping at this stage would upset the Liberal cart immensely. If he could do it quickly and blodlessly then he probably solves Liberal problems, may not win government but the Liberals would be on a less rickety path. Both Iggy and Rae would be smote (smited?) (Biblical imagery is required here) due to age.

    I just dont think he’ll do it, not if the convention is in May, too far out, too uncertain for him. Manley needs the abilty to strike quickly. I just dont think he will.

  19. “I’m just saying…”

    Very well said, sir!

  20. It’s like an elephant in the room. Okay, Mr. Coyne, I’ll accept Mr. Manley as leader of the Liberals. Who is going to be leader of the Conservatives? You can’t say the Liberals (and NDP and Bloc) need to tone down their partisanship and try working with the Conservatives, when they already DID that. And what did they get? An attack on women, labour and themselves.

    I’m willing to accept just about anyone at all credible as leader of the Liberals in an attempt to compromise, work together, and unify my country. What are you putting up? Because if I’m the only one compromising, working together and unifying our country–that’s called caving. Is that what Conservative’s mean when they talk about ‘working together’?

  21. The panel was rigged. It had a right-wing Liberal who was disenchanted with Dion more then willing to head it.. and it had an entire panel of former Conservatives on it. .. with no representation that would have provided a diseenting POV.

    And we’re supposed to cheer that, Andrew? Get real.

  22. Here is what I think (as honestly as I can, because, yes, forcing the mind to cooperate is not always easy)

    I think that Harper really respects opponents who have something of substance to offer. I think that Harper is most willing to talk about most anything, and is willing to tolerate most anything, as long as it has substance attached to it. He is up for the challenge, that’s why the man went to Ottawa.

    Mr.Manley is within that same sort of character. I don’t think Manley takes fools gladly, and perhaps decided to sit out the Liberal race for that reason.

  23. Jenn.. this is very similar to the Republicans in the Bush era.. as well as the beltway media down there. (David Broder being the prime example). “Compromise” down there means caving to the Republican POV.

    That apparently is now no different up here with our Conservatives or their media friends.

  24. Hey Andrew,

    So what do you think of the following economic stewardship under Harper and co.?

    Seeing this can anyone honestly say that the CPC know how to handle this crisis?

    This is just nuts…

    Austin

  25. Lesson of comments section: we don’t want to be led by a post-partisan figure.

    And really, when have we ever?

    Trudeau? He told a Tory to F-off on the floor of the House. Diefenbaker? Ha! Mulroney? Never! Chretien? Don’t make me laugh.

    We want a shrewd SOB as leader. (Of the party, of the country.)

    “Post-partisan” figures triangulate off of their own parties for influence. That doesn’t make for a good leader.

  26. “You can’t say the Liberals (and NDP and Bloc) need to tone down their partisanship and try working with the Conservatives, when they already DID that.”

    Oh, come on, Jenn. What proof do you have for saying that the NDP and the Liberals had offered anything of substance toward the Conservative party before or after the financial update had been presented? Why had they not offered some constructive critisism when the Conservatives were proposing party funding cuts, the right to strike and women’s issues? What exactly is the Liberal’s and NDP position on that front.

    The financial update was not asking for all labour movements to lay off for a while. But btw, during economic hardships in the recent past, labour movements then too had accomodated certain necessaties for coming together toward the public good.

    As for women’s rights and equal pay, that is not as straight-cut as some make it out to be.

    Why should shouts for Harper’s resignation be taken seriously? Because he was man enough to not stand back from taken on a weakened party? Since when is taking on a weak opponent in politics a reason for resignation? Or do you think Mr.Chretien was only capable of playing it ‘nice’.

  27. Holy crap, Andrew! And for those of you who don’t follow links unless you know they are Conservatives ones, Andrew is linking to the Financial Post.

    Didn’t you guys really like that talking point about how “Canada’s financial instutitions are the best in the G7”? Because by the sounds of this, we’re about to lose that.

    I don’t mean to question the abilities of the Financial Post reporter, but is there seriously no way anybody can find out what ‘other’ consists of on the financial statements of the Bank of Canada? Really? What about our handy-dandy independent budget officer?

  28. Scott Tribe,

    ….and so Dr.Manley’s will not be able to provide the right cure either.

  29. Andrew, would you ever support a Liberal if Manley was in the leadership run??

  30. Francien, I honestly expected better of you. Do I have proof that the NDP and the Liberals offered anything of substance? No, they didn’t copy me on their correspondence, nor have I gone to Hansard to see if they itemized their suggestions in a speech in the House of Commons. I have, however, heard about the meetings each of the opposition parties had with Mr. Harper where they explicitly laid out their suggestions. Do you have any proof they are all lying?

    I suppose you are right in the sense that the opposition didn’t provide constructive criticism on the party funding issues, the right to strike and the women’s issues. They also didn’t provide constructive criticism on plans to annex Neptune, drain the Great Lakes and fill them with champagne, or install a Bigfoot as the next GG. Of course, it wasn’t until the FU was presented that they found out any of these plans were under consideration.

    The FU wasn’t a draft! It was the Government’s assessment of where we stand and where we are going, and what we’re doing about it. Here’s something I found out this past week. You cannot place an amendment on a bill that would contradict the bill itself. So I’m not sure what good providing constructive criticism AFTER THE FACT would have done. As I understand it, they had two choices: accept it or vote non-confidence.

  31. “They also didn’t provide constructive criticism on plans to annex Neptune, drain the Great Lakes and fill them with champagne, or install a Bigfoot as the next GG.”

    Scary stuff! Better check that out before ‘they’ pop some more hidden agendas.

    The point is Jenn, that the opposition parties are not the ones to wring total control out of a governing party. I am sure if the will of the opposition parties had been there, if they would have gone to PM before, and had offered him a reasonable list of ‘demands’ Harper would not have ignored them completely.

    But the notion that the opposition parties thought they could set all and everthing to be included, is absurd. And besides, it was financial update, not a complete budget.

    And why would doing away with un-wise spending be such an awfull thing? I believe the Liberal party during the elections, had promised to find as much as billions of dollars of savings coming out of un-wise spending promises. And now that Harper presented a few of those un-wise spending habits to be cut, he gets the boot. Where exactly did the Liberals expect to find the cut backs, or un-wise spending habits for that matter?

    You have to turn this around for a moment. What if the Liberals had been in minority position, and a financial update had been read, you think they would not have come up with un-wise spending cuts? Or are only the Liberal decisions on spending cuts acceptable. According to the voters the Conservative party had been selected to give us an overview this time around.

  32. The strength of the Liberal opposition to the Afghanistan thing is always a surprise to me.

  33. I’d support Manley. Even liked his realistic no-nonsense positions and replies to the SPP/Nafta “super-hypeway” when Maude Barlow, Elizabeth May, David Orchard etc were blowing gaskets about it last Three Amigos meeting in Quebec.

    Not sure he’d be good for the prospects of an NDP/Bloc coalition or for Elizabeth May’s senate plum, but, as as Margaret Wente noted today:

    Personally, I’ll sort of miss Stéphane Dion. Not since Kim Campbell has the gap between public opinion and a politician’s self-regard yawned so wide. Mr. Dion must be the only person left in the country who believes it’s a tragic mistake he’ll never be PM.

    She obviously received and read yesterday’s ho-hum GPC press release/travel brochure: “Elizabeth May Leaves for Poznan “ [Poland to watch climate change negotiations, and visit old friends from NGO activist days, one presumes ]

  34. “who is willing, not just to talk the talk, but to walk the walk?” Obviously not Stephen Harper.

    As far as I’m concerned, the main lesson learned from this episode is about the character of Stephen Harper. The need to cooperate and let up on the partisan warfare was obvious before the beginning of the crisis, to me and proabably others if not to Messrs. Harper and Coyne. I don’t think we’re likely to see much cooperation in the near future, given the level of anger and suspicion this thing must have engendered.

  35. By the time the lefty leaning liberal layman get through stomping on Manley for speaking out against the big red machine he will look like a conservative.

  36. If John Manley was/is serious about Liberal leadership, he should have entered the leadership race. He had two opportunities, but he chose not to, presumably based on his own calculations. During this particular time of crisis, he chose to speak publicly to denounce to Dion, if his intention is to “test the water”, which remains to be seen, he is an opportunist.

  37. The thing that was supposed to have been the biggest obstacle to his leadership hopes — that he accepted Harper’s appointment to chair a commission on the future of the Afghanistan mission — is exactly the sort of thing that recommends him for the job, post-crisis: that is, if the Grits mean what they say about dialling down the partisanship.

    Andrew,

    How many posts did Aaron Wherry make this week about the nastiness on Parliament Hill? Maybe 10? How many were criticial of the Conservatives? Probably all 10. How many criticized the Liberals for their nastiness? Maybe 1 or 2…

    Aaron is representative of the rest of our media…I’m not saying the Conservative were angels; some of their behaviour was disgusting. But with a dynamic like that, why on earth would the Liberals want to tone the partisanship down? They can ratchet it up as far as they want and the Conservatives will get all the blame for responding.

  38. “If John Manley was/is serious about Liberal leadership, he should have entered the leadership race. He had two opportunities, but he chose not to, presumably based on his own calculations. During this particular time of crisis, he chose to speak publicly to denounce to Dion, if his intention is to “test the water”, which remains to be seen, he is an opportunist.”

    So it doesn’t matter that the issues facing the Liberal party have changed dramatically from when Manley opted out. He is an opportunist for running when he could, you know, win. Spoken like a true Dion Liberal – if you are winning you must be immoral.

    “You have to turn this around for a moment. What if the Liberals had been in minority position, and a financial update had been read, you think they would not have come up with un-wise spending cuts? Or are only the Liberal decisions on spending cuts acceptable. According to the voters the Conservative party had been selected to give us an overview this time around.”

    No no, you simply don’t understand the nuances of Canadian politics. When you gouge tens of billions of dollars in transfers for healthcare and education, you are gouging healthcare in order to save it. It is, I should add, impolite to mention this fact at parties. When you cut 40 million in arts funding, you are a horrible trogladyte that wants to destroy the fabric of Canadian society.

  39. “Aaron is representative of the rest of our media…I’m not saying the Conservative were angels; some of their behaviour was disgusting. But with a dynamic like that, why on earth would the Liberals want to tone the partisanship down? They can ratchet it up as far as they want and the Conservatives will get all the blame for responding.”

    Exactly – Harper gets attacked for running negative ads in elections and in-between them. Here are the titles for Stephane Dion’s ads from the 2008 election:

    1. Denial: Don’t trust Harper now. Vote Liberal: the only way to stop him
    2. The Liberal Plan (positive)
    3. Target Ontario: Harpernomics targets Ontario
    4. Tailspin: as our economy goes into a tailspin, what’s the NDP plan?
    5. The real agenda: What’s harper really planning?
    6. The choice on Canada’s water (attacks the Conservatives and NDP on water)
    7. Harper, Howard, Bush and Iraq
    8. Harpernomics and Bush
    9. Harper and the war on Iraq
    10. Harper and the war on Iraq
    11. Falling behind: do you really want more of this?
    12: Harpernomics and you: Do you really want more of this?
    13: This is Harpernomics: do you really want more of this
    14: Liberal leadership: with Canada’s Liberals, Canada leads (positive)
    15. The real Harper: do you really want more of this
    16. Turn the page: the Liberal plan turns the page. (it isn’t clear but it is an attack ad)

    So you have two positive ads, and 14 negative ads from the Liberals. Oh, but the Conservatives are poisoning the atmosphere in parliament and in Canada.

    Here is my take on the media theory of non-partisanship: it is okay to attack Stephen Harper because most of the attacks are true. They generally do not buy Harper’s arguments for things because they MUST reject them, or be labeled conservative class traitors among their circles of friends. I’m a grad student in the US (a far more conservative country), and even I tend to have a negative reaction to learning somebody is conservative. I always preface my ideology by pointing out that I like gay marriage and abortion, as if I am apologizing for deeply held values like equal federalism and fiscal prudence. It is probably in the same way that an auto worker in Oshawa may not want to mention he supports gay marriage. Our politics have increasingly become about our identities – we are partisan because we surround ourselves with fellow travelers, get our news from friendly news aggregators and so on. Politics isn’t about what we should do as a nation policywise, but rather, what our identity is and which side gets the pie.

  40. “The Manley report was a masterpiece of statesmanship, so well received in all quarters that it provided the template for both parties, Liberals and Conservatives, to come to a common position. At a time when there was real danger of Afghanistan becoming a wedge issue, with all that that might mean for the safety and morale of the troops in the field”

    It’s a pointless war no matter whose commission you think is the bee’s knees. Just goes to show how the ship of state can go lurching along with a “mission” for years after anyone remembers what its purpose was or why it was worth so much money (and so many lives).

    The “wedge” is the one being jammed into the taxpayers’ pockets. And of course there is a bitter spike driven into the lives of the families of the soldiers getting killed for … for what? For the mayor of Kabul? For the billions in weapons contracts buying replacements for all the equipment worn out and ruined in central Asia?

    You think the Manley report wasn’t an example of partisan gamesmanship. But it was partisan gamesmanship – one party being the government ganging up on and pulling the wool over the eyes of the other party, the public. It’s going to take a lot more partisan games to ignore and cover up a fiasco this big.

  41. horsetohoosier
    you point out some useful facts here. libs are pretty slow to recognise their own hypocracy[i’m a lib]. The adds tell a tale. For one thing it’s dumb to put all your focus [ no mattr how true] on demonizing your opponent, it puts you in the losers corner, always. As for other point, ithink your real target should be political correctness, a malady that affects all of us these days, not just conservatives.

  42. Statements of _facts_ are considered “negative”…?

    You guys just crack me up!

    Austin

  43. My New Years Wish..that the coalition step back take a deep breath…and look favourably on the upcoming budget..and get back to peace, order and good government…

  44. was talking with wife last night about how recent events seem to polarize us back to our childhood camps – lately I’ve been scouring for blogs, articles, commentators who agree what my perception of ‘right’ is – coyne happens to be one – but don’t hold that against him.

    I don’t know all of the things that fuel it… I suspect fear and pride are in there but here’s the question folks:

    How does a leader/how do parties/how do we as folks who care about our country and those that lead it, move past the ‘fear and loathing’ of each camp -> and truly serve?

    Maybe this is to wishy/washy and should be left for the inside voice… a moment of weakness, forgive me – but interested in what others think.

  45. The biggest obstacle to a Manley leadership candidacy is the Liberal Party itself. The party has lurched so far to the progressive-left, I suspect most members would gag at the thought of a John Manley, who is something of a fiscal and foreign policy hawk, getting control of the party. They’d rather see the party die a slow death from disorganization and extremism than tolerate a decent leader who would drag them back to the political centre. Can’t say I’m too concerned.

  46. But since we’re dreaming about a Manley leadership bid, I will say this. (In fact I blogged about it last night.) I think having a legitimate Leader of the Opposition (i.e. Manley, instead of a wimpy half-wit waaaaaayyyyyyy out of his element, like a certain Monsieur Dion) would force Harper to finally grow up and start focusing on actual governing. As opposed to, you know, beating up on the nerdy kid in Opposition everyday. Because I can guarantee you that “Not-a-Leader” crap would never have worked on someone of John Manley’s stature.

    Manley would be a real threat to win the next election, which would have the wonderful side-effect of forcing the entire Conservative Party caucus and cabinet to start doing their jobs, and proving to the country why they should keep them. And the Tories would have to find some other way to blow their massive war-chest (maybe running ads promoting actual policy proposals – GASP!), since imbecilic attack ads would not work against someone who already possesses an established and respected reputation with the general public.

    For my fellow Conservatives who might believe that this latest near-death experience will be enough to set Harper and his staff and MPs straight, I don’t share your optimism. As long as the Liberals keep offering up low-hanging fruit, whether in the form of Dion, Rae, or even Iggy (yes, Iggy will be a freakin’ joke, and I think we already know that), there is no way Harper & Co. will resist the temptation to show up to Parliament each day armed with more ways to make him look like an idiot.

    I’m not blaming the Liberals for the juvenile tactics of the Tories. Only the Tories can account for their own behaviour. But certainly the Liberals must take some of the responsibility for the chaos in Parliament, in that they insist on offering up such irresistible targets. Attract a strong leader, (like Manley) and you won’t have to be so frustrated by Harper’s brutish tactics anymore – because THEY WON’T WORK. You wouldn’t send a circus clown to work as a funeral director. You wouldn’t send an out patient from a mental hospital to negotiate a new trade deal with Europe. Why would you consider choosing another bumbling wind-bag to lead your party? If you want Harper to stop reducing Parliamentary debate to the lowest common denominator, stop providing the lowest common denominator.

  47. >>>would force Harper to finally grow up and start focusing on actual governing. <<<<<

    I think Harper can’t wait to have an opponent worthy of debate. Harper is an intelligent debater but won’t suffer fools gladly. Against Manley, this country will come to see the very best of Harper. He will rise to the occasion. It is sad that up untill now he’s never had that chance. Like I said: he doesn’t suffer fools gladly. But who would?

  48. The pre-fab report on Afghanstan should have marked an embarassing end to John Manley’s public career, instead the Canadian media buried the story in favour of their pre-written narrative.

  49. Against Manley, this country will come to see the very best of Harper. He will rise to the occasion.

    That’s what I’m hoping for Francien. However, the Liberal Party rank and file will make sure we’ll never get the chance to see that. They’ll put another pinata at the helm, and hand Harper a big stick.

  50. “For the Conservatives, the most damage in the past week seems to have come from the province of Quebec, where a plurality believe Mr. Harper should resign as leader of the party and a majority blame the Conservatives more than anyone else for the parliamentary crisis.” Dumb Harper was foolish enough to attack the coalition government blame on Quebcers and he is now continuing to pay the price for it. He Harper cannot win without the support of Quebec, east.. nor can the Liberals

    http://thenonconformer.wordpress.com/2008/12/06/the-laws-still-do-need-to-be-enforced-in-reality/

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