In short, look


An abridged version of the Prime Minister’s interview with Tom Clark.

“But you know, look … Well look, Tom … Look … Well look, Tom … Well look … Well look … Look … Well look, Tom … And look … And look … Well, first of all, look … Look, Tom … And look … Look.”


In short, look

  1. LOL perhaps Harper should take his own advice. He might be able to see recessions coming that way.

  2. Obviously.

  3. Let me be clear

  4. In a 3,163 word interview, the Prime Minister uses the word “Look” 14 times. That is some good, honest, no snark reporting there Wherry.

    • Well, to be fair, he used it 9 more times than he used the word “economy”, and 9 more times than he used the word “Canada”.

      • Very true, but if “economy” was Harper’s verbal crutch instead of “look” he’d probably be saying it 14 times as well. It seems a little mean spirited to go after the way a man talks, expecially by a blogger who seems to otherwise take political journalism seriously.

        • When the speech pattern used is a little inarticulate, or corny, or hesitant (ahs, and ums) or some such I might agree that going after a politician for how he talks might be a bit below the belt.  However, imho, the “Look, Tom” and “Well, look…” and “Obviously…” moments come off as condescending and patronizing, and I have less of a problem with people criticizing the PM for coming off as condescending and patronizing.

          To me, this way of speaking doesn’t come off as a “verbal crutch”, it comes off as the speech pattern of a man who is frustrated that so many silly people just aren’t paying close enough attention to what he’s saying, and stubbornly insist on not agreeing with his every point, despite the obvious correctness of his every point.  

          I’m sure if I took the time to really look at what the PM is saying though, I’d realize how obviously wrong I am. :-)

          • I guess my problem with Wherry’s post is that it comes across as more condescending than Harper’s speech patern, which personally I see to be less condescending and more just a style of speech, but to each his own!

          • Look, EP, Harper’s way of speaking here is obviously condescending.


    • It is a verbal tic of the PM. Anyone who watches an interview with him will notice it. Nearly every answer starts with ‘Look’.

  5. Ah… I see.

  6. He also uses the word “obviously” incessantly to denote ideas that he believes to be true that he feels others, obviously, should agree with. He uses the word obviously nine times in that interview.

    I guess the idea is that if what he says is obvious, then “the fact of the matter” is obviously, who needs facts.

  7. To repeat here again what I have written many times : of all the English-speaking prime ministers I have heard, and my memory goes back to the Diefenbaker years, Stephen Harper has the poorest command of the English language.  Or does it betray a clouded mind?

    • A clouded personality?

    • Seriously?  Harper is just as lucid as Paul Martin, and both Harper and Martin have a command of the English language that is vastly superior to that of Jean Chrétien.

      • Yes, but Harper’s a Conservative, so he’s evil, bad and stupid.  I think that’s the important point here.

        • Indeed.  It always boils down to that.

          • And neither of you talked to Chretien privately.

          • Oh, but you have spoken to both Harper and Chretien privately? However Chretien may have spoken in private has nothing to do with his public display of the english language.

          • @78082c4cdb671f9ad67515fb98ee5952:disqus 

            Harper no.

            Chretien, yes. His English is fine.

            His public accent was part of what people liked about him.

          • OriginalEmily1:
            I think we could argue needlesly on the merits of Chretien’s accent; it’s one of those arguments that won’t go anywhere and is ultimately silly :). However, all I was saying is that how Chretien speeks in private doesn’t really matter in an argument about current and past Prime Ministers public speaking styles. Which come to think of it is kind of a silly argument as well.

          • @78082c4cdb671f9ad67515fb98ee5952:disqus 

            All politicians have a public persona…part of the image buildup.

            Chreiten’s accent is like Harper’s supposed love of hockey….all part of the schtick

          • OriginalEmily1:

            Sure. If we want to get a bit crazy we could even speculate that Harper’s use of “look” has been tested with focous groups. Again though, I don’t want to argue over Chretien’s accent except for my original point that when it comes to the amazingly important debate of which PM can speak the best whether one of those PM’s is intentionally sabatoging himself does not really matter. I do though understand the intensity of this critical debate and your need to continue to press the point. 

          • @78082c4cdb671f9ad67515fb98ee5952:disqus 

            I doubt you even understand this last post you just wrote.

          • I’m guessing that marks the end of our earth shattering debate? Well in that case its been a pleasure. I really think we’ve done a great service to our country with the substance in our arguments on such a critical issue.

          • You don’t think at all Bacon Fat….you’re just bored.

            However, I’m busy. Ciao.

          • I can suffer attacks on my nation madame but do not mock the weight of Batman. When you can punch Superman in the face with a kryptonian ring, well, then you may mock the Great One’s weight. Until then dream big. Dream Bat.

          • Mmm the main problem on the rightwing….batshit crazy.

          • Pun!

          • Pun!

      • If you understand what his message is why don’t you tell me what Harper meant when he wrote in the National Post that: 

        Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country, boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status.

        • Yawn. I used to roll my eyes every time I saw a Harper-hater recycle that lame, two-decade old quip, but then I got eyestrain.

          • Yes, please, let us all, commenters and politicians alike, put an end to the use of outdated quotes.

            At the same time, can we please put an end to the use of out of context quotes?

          • Absolutely. I should add that Loraine Lamontagne’s favourite Harper quote is not only outdated, but also taken out of context.  

            Generally speaking, resorting to out-of-context quotes is the last refuge of the partisan scoundrel, which might explain why all the major parties–Conservative, Liberal, and NDP–rely so heavily on their use.

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus

            Wrt context of the Harper quote:  Oh?

            What was that context?

          • @Crit_Reasoning:disqus 

            Are you sure you linked to the correct speech?  I mean it seems close and all – the fifth paragraph in particular – but I didn’t explicitly notice the “…Canada appears content to become a second-tier socialistic country,
            boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask
            its second-rate status…” quote.  Perhaps that exact quote comes from some other speech, and that the one speech is a refined and/or cut and pasted version of the other?

            In any event, I certainly didn’t notice any ameliorating comments in the linked speech.  Or are you saying that the context is the audience, and because (I gather) the audience was made up of American (big C?) conservatives, we should take that into account?

            So at this stage I’m leaning away from wry humour.

            As you know, I’m basically gathering ‘other’ POVs, and trying to reconcile those with my own POV.

    • I thought that one of Paul Martin’s problems being a leader was his too-limited vocabulary. I figure he is not particularly well read much beyond economics and business literature.

    • He’s probably the most argumentive Prime Minister I can remember. 
      “Look”   “Well look”   “Let me be perfectly clear”   “Obviously”   “First of all”   “The fact of the matter is”
      These are all words/phrases denoting a defensive/argumentive attitude.  Whenever I encounter someone who uses these types of phrases it really annoys me – people who speak in this manner never want a conversation, they always seem to want a confrontation.

      • They don’t want either. They want obeisance.

  8. Name that PM:

    “fundamentally…it’s fundamental…the fundamentals…fundamentally…fundamentally.”

    • Martin, I’d wager?

  9. I am convinced that the Stephen Harper Conservatives were so obsessed with just occupying the office, just dumping Liberals, just making sure THEY had the levers of power that they really didn’t have a plan what to do once they got there. I’m tempted to say that if we give them a second majority, we’d actually see some governing from them, and not just Liberal-style politicking. 

    • That’s like saying “Let’s take another round at that Russian Roulette, just to see if we can find some brains..”

    • I guess the word ‘look’ got a lot more emphasis than ‘think’.

  10. I haven’t seen so many “looks” in a limited context since being force-fed the equally articulate Dick & Jane primers of my early school days:

    “Look, Dick, see Jane looking at Spot. Look, look, look.”

  11. So this is what it`s come to—-Harper Haters line up behind each other to critique the speaking style of the PM.

    OK, whatever gets you through the night.

    Meanwhile, in the real world–Bills will pass in Parliament with or without the help of the opposition, foreign leaders will look on our leaders with respect and envy, most Canadians will be happy with a competent government and will leave the nit pickin to those above, and voters will send Harper back with a larger majority in 2015.

    • Unlike

    • “So this is what it`s come to—-Harper Haters line up behind each other to critique the speaking style of the PM.”

      Yup, this is what it’s come to…”Harper Haters” have learned well from “Harper Lovers” who, IMO, have never missed an opportunity to attack style rather than substance. Recall, if you will, the ceaseless mocking of Iggy’s delivery, which Cons characterized as effete and academic.

      How is this worse?

      • If one of the four conservative journalists in the country wrote a blog or report that mocked Iggy`s effete delivery then that was wrong and equally petty.

        • Oooooooh…. the unfair leftist unbalanced media meme. That’s devastating.

    • I see your blue-tinted glasses are being put to good use.

      • No, not blue, just clear glasses.

    • Language has meaning, not just in the words, but in the context.

  12. Try to see it my way.
    Only time will tell that I am right and you are wrong.
    While we see it your way,
    There’s a chance a fact or two will come along.

    We can work a doubt! We can work a doubt!

    Time is very short to deal with crime, so I won’t ask you once again….

  13. Wherry’s next incisive (and utterly non-biased) post:

    Harper’s Hairstyle – Why it’s further proof that he’s evil and Hates Canada

    • Harper must find a way to force everyone to like him.  Maybe a pill?

      • Alcohol might work better…lots of it.

        • Alchol is a sin as is the god that created it. If you understand the truly relevent doctorine of the church of Harptief then you will see the way to damnation, but if you drink from the cup of moustache, then… then you will be free.

  14. I..ah .. reject the .. ah, premise … ah, of his assertions …er, clearly ..

  15. Meh.

    I can’t get at all worked up about these verbal ticks – many folks have them, no big deal.

    I’m much more interested in (sometimes pleased and sometimes disappointed) the words that follow these introductory phrases.

    For example, this exchange between Harper and Clark finds Harper correctly defending socialism…good on him:

    TC: Let me ask you a more general question about what’s
    happening in Europe. We were asking – the G20 was asking, for some
    pretty fundamental changes in the countries, the way many of these
    countries operate.

    It is presumably the beginning of the end of
    the European welfare state. I suppose I should ask that as a question
    than a statement. Do you see it that way? Is this the end –the beginning
    of the end of the –

    PM: Oh, I think, I think that’s too strong a
    statement. Look, I think that European countries, in fact most
    countries, certainly most developed countries are committed to providing
    good social services and social safety nets to their citizens.

    think in some cases, there is probably some evidence that those have
    been excessive and that problem’s going to have to be tackled.

    But I don’t think there’s going to be an abandonment of the concept of social services or the social safety net.

    has to happen is Europe has to live within its means and has to get its
    deficits and debts under control. And that’s going to be, I think, a
    combination of tax measures, some spending measures, and ultimately some
    structural reforms to the economy.

    But it has to be done because the debt levels are just unsustainable.

    This is balanced off by this segment:

    TC: …..I just want to, we had a comment for example from Graham Hudson in Toronto, and here’s what he said:

    imminent economic instability, why is so much money being put on crime
    legislation that is not likely to produce anything of value, and is
    going to cost a lot of money.”

    And I guess added to that, you’ve
    got now an additional problem with the premiers of Ontario and Quebec
    saying they don’t want to pay for their share of what will be a new bill
    for crime. How do you square the circle for Graham Hudson.

    Well look, what I say to Graham Hudson, and what I say to most other
    Canadians, is first of all, the crime measures we’re proposing are
    overwhelmingly supported by Canadians.

    They’re not, in our
    judgment – we put the numbers before Parliament – they’re not terribly
    expensive. They obviously cost some money, but compared to the cost of
    having dangerous and repeat offenders walk the streets, they’re pretty

    And this is a fundamental responsibility of government
    to make sure there’s a criminal justice system that does what it can to
    protect people. And all the data I’ve seen has suggested that whether
    it’s Quebec, Ontario or anywhere else in the country, these measures are
    popular, they’re supported.

    They’re certainly supported bylaw
    enforcement people across the country and we were elected, and we’ve
    been promising these a long time. We were elected specifically to move
    forward on them, and that’s what we’re going to do.

    Overwhelming support for these crime measures?  I doubt it.

    The proposed measures are cost effective when compared to cost of ‘Do Nothing’ alternative?  Well no, actually the proposed measures are NOT cost effective, that is exactly the point of the critics.

    You were elected specifically to move forward on these crime items?  Well no, you were elected because, on balance, after voters had considered all of the campaign promises and all of the other sources of information and the other contenders, more of them chose CPC than any other party – nothing more and nothing less.  The CPC has a clear mandate to govern, but they didn’t actually receive a specific mandate to take ANY particular action.  A minor quibble?  No, I consider it to be a deliberate misrepresentatiion of the truth.

    • Oh yeah, and this chunk is also interesting:

      TC: You’ve attended a lot in the last couple of weeks. Are they, in your view, achieving what they could achieve? Is sitting around a table with 20 people, sometimes with competing interests and competing ideologies – is it reaching its potential?

      PM: Well look, Tom. It’s not a secret that some summits are better than others. You know, some, it depends who’s at them, it depends how many voices there are. Some summits are certainly more worthwhile than others.

      What I would say is though, is one of the things I’ve learned since becoming prime minister is the degree to which all problems, especially economic problems, but to which all problems really are global.

      And there is no alternative, ultimately, to leaders sitting down face to face and hearing each other out. Hearing what the other guy’s real thoughts are, his real priorities are, and trying to work towards solutions.

      And look, people will point out, they’ll say, “Well, you get together for a few hours. What can you really accomplish?”

      But the very fact that the meeting takes place means that there are months of meetings that go on beforehand, beginning with low-level officials and gradually working their way up to ministers and ultimately to leaders, were these decisions are slowly hashed out, so we arrive at the next step of our action plan when we reach the summit.

      So it’s actually a long process that takes, that goes over time. And look, is it always as successful as I’d like? No. Of course not.

      Are we always, do we always hash things out as thoroughly as we’d like? No.

      Do we always reach the decisions as quickly as I’d like? No.

      But given the global nature of so many problems, I really don’t think there’s much alternative. Particularly when you’re talking about the crisis and the global economy.

      Hmmm, sitting down to talk with people.  It would be great if the PM could start using this same technique inside of the country in addition to outside of the country.