Mighty Joe Young


UPDATED to add visuals and correct a major Meighen-related brain freeze.

Joan Tintor eloquently delivers the downside of yesterday’s Joe Clark portrait unveiling, and of Joe Clark in general, for anyone who wants it. I expect that in our general opinions of his politics, Joan and I share a lot of common ground. But I’m still struck by the simple grace of that portrait. Let me take another go at explaining why.

By waiting 28 years after he left office to unveil his portrait, Clark beats the previous record of 20 22 years set by R.B. Bennett ARTHUR MEIGHEN, another gifted parliamentarian who could not durably persuade the country to follow where he wanted to lead THAT PART IS ACTUALLY TRUE — PW. Bennett’s MEIGHEN’S!!! portrait is contemporary and portrays a stooped aging gent, much different from the younger man who used to joust against King in the 1920s. ALSO TRUE: SEE We had been joking around the office about Joe’s own dilemma as, like the U.S. Post Office, he tried to arbitrate between the Old Elvis and Young Elvis options.

What he did, in the end, is clever. Take a look at the portrait, if you can. (UPDATED: Here ’tis. You can use the arrows to go back and forth through all the portraits. It’s well worth doing. As a rule of thumb, almost everyone likes the Pearson and most like the Diefenbaker. The Abbott and Bowell weren’t painted until quite recently because neither lived long enough to sit for a portrait.) It’s the young Clark, making a point in the Commons. After a while you realize it’s an empty Commons, and that he is not in the prime minister’s place or even the opposition leader’s, but at the back near the curtains, far from Speaker, cabinet and press gallery.

This is Joe Clark as rookie backbencher. He’s not even prime minister yet, and his entire career lies ahead. Everything is possible. Something in that simple choice of moment is tremendously touching.

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Mighty Joe Young

  1. Joan puts the you-know-what in ‘class’

  2. Not that I disagree with your views , but if there is going to be another Toby replying here, I guess I’ll step aside and use a new name. :-)

  3. So much for ‘warts and all’.

    I always remember Clark shaking like a paint mixer when he spoke in the commons. Now history will record him perfectly still.

    I only remember the end of his career of course, but I’ve been told he’s always shook when he spoke. Strange for such a veteran speaker – but I suppose we all have our twitches.

  4. When I saw Joe standing next to his portrait, I thought the artist got the hair wrong – parting on the right, while the more recent Joe does the parting on the left. So, I checked old photos – and the artist was correct – Clark did do the Jimmy Carter switcheroo sometime between then and now.

    Nothing profound to add or a parting shot – just a piece of meaningless trivia…

  5. Someone on the “right” at least give credit to the artist who did a beautiful job – oh I forgot, the right aren’t interested in the arts.

    Hey, he may not have been a great PM, but he was a decent guy – give him a break.

    The horrors of it all – Clark isn’t keen on Harper – he’s doomed to hell now.

    Why don’t the “right” grow up.

  6. Just about everyone has been critical even cruel toward Clark through the years, but as I recall he did a pretty good job as External Affairs Minister in the Mulroney years. He was six years in the job and I expect not much was expected when he got the position, but in the end he was competent and was never a big problem or embarrassment for the Government.

  7. Am I counting wrong? I see four rows behind him. That can’t have been his seat as a rookie.

  8. Joe’s main accomplishment as External Affairs Minister was to chase more rabbits than any previous minister.

  9. …yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say that’s the PM’s seat. You can even see the door to the gov’t lobby in the background. Assuming he’s facing the speaker, he’s clearly on the gov’t side.

  10. Also, you can’t tell from the original posted picture, but the wall in front of him (as opposed to a chair back or another desk) indicates that it is in fact the front row.

  11. Wow, what a jerk Tintor is. The last time I voted for a winning candidate was for Joe Clark as my MP, to help him defeat a Reform/Alliance bigot. I wiah we could get rid of the rest of them before they manage to destroy the country.

  12. Putting a caucus behind him would have been much more irony than a prime ministerial portrait can handle.

  13. “The Abbott and Bowell weren’t painted until quite recently because neither lived long enough to sit for a portrait.”

    Getting all your prime ministerial history wrong with this one, Paul – MacKenzie Bowell died in 1917, more than twenty years after he left office. Surely they could have gotten the portrait done during that time? Perhaps you’re thinking of John Thompson, who was the last PM to die in office.

  14. Thanks for the link, PW. I would have been here sooner, but it took Google “Alert” 48 hours to notify me.

  15. Well, the Bowell was indeed painted in 2002, Steve, although it’s entirely possible I’ve bolloxed the reason why….

    Joan, hope my readers didn’t roughhouse you too badly….cheers pw

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