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Sorry, Lindsay, this post about Harper’s awful, awful speech not funny either


 

The “major” economic speech delivered by Stephen Harper, to what sounded like a crowd comprised of the dictionary definition of a smattering of applause, deserves to go down as one of the monumentally inept addresses in Canadian political history.

How did it fail? Let us count the ways.

Humour. For a politician, there’s risk in any attempt at comedy, especially if it’s not self-deprecating in nature. This is especially true when the subject of a speech is serious or sombre – say, and this is just an example, a long-awaited address reflecting on the most severe financial crisis in three-quarters of a century.

Harper himself once joked at a press gallery dinner years ago that he doesn’t engage in self-deprecation because his church tells him it’ll make him go blind. That was a funny line at the time. It’s even funnier now that it seems to actually be true. The Prime Minister can no more poke fun at himself than Fonzie could utter “I’m sorry” or George W. Bush could utter 66% of English verb tenses.

That doesn’t mean that Harper declined to treat the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression as Evening at the Improv. He did. He tried to bring the funny on a number of occasions. He even succeeded once (the banking joke, which I mentioned in my liveblog). But his two most memorable “zingers” flopped in the room, and flop even worse when reconsidered:

“I tell people the floor of my office is littered with red tape. I assure you it’s not blood, it’s just red tape.”

I’m not entirely clear what the joke here was supposed to be, but Harper attempted to form the facial expression generally regarded by humans as a “smile,” so I assume it was a punchline. But what was he saying? That the economic downturn is so bad that there’s blood in the streets? (Hilarious!) That he’s a spaz with scissors? I just don’t get it, but it seems pretty tasteless.

“If you own a home and you have a wife, you will probably be doing home renovations this year.”

This was Stephen Harper attempting to explain how his tax credit for home renovations works. He’s here all quadrennium, folks. Try the veal.

During the last U.S. primary season, Rudy Guiliani failed to even ballpark the price of milk. In fact, doing so has become a strange rite of passage for well-heeled Republican candidates. But for sheer out-of-touchness, Harper now wears the crown (it’s the headgear that rises to a point and has the word “Dunce” written on it).

The man truly seems to believe that Canadians are so confident of their future, so dismissive of and unaffected by the recession, that they are lining up to knock down walls, lay down some marble tile and pay $40,000 for a slightly larger room in which to slit their wrists in the bathtub when the collection agencies start calling.

I’m partial to Harper’s campaign quote about how we can’t possibly have a recession because we’d already have had a recession, but that was just political-bullshit evasiveness – the kind that all politicians engage in. This quote, however – this quote is either revealing of Harper’s true assessment of the impact of the recession (no one is hurting and everyone is loaded with cash) or a grim joke at the expense of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who, having recently lost their jobs, would probably prefer a tax credit on something more useful, such as food.

Tone. OK, so he displayed zero empathy for Canadians. That much is obvious, and in retrospect that much was predictable. Far more astonishing was the fact that Stephen Harper showed no awareness whatsoever of the actual effects of the recession, and no sense that he knew or cared what Canadians were thinking, feeling and experiencing.

The way Harper described it, the recession is 100% opportunity. It’s a chance to spend, a chance to get a leg up on the world, a chance to demonstrate Canada’s economic credentials so that our country can lead the world and, more important, he doesn’t get atomic-wedgied by Merkel again at the next G8.

“If there ever was a time to put away that legendary Canadian modesty,” he preened, “it is now!” Really? That’s the message you’re sending to Canadians in the wake of the largest national job loss in three decades? To start bragging? “Jesus, Italy – you call that a recession. We lost that many jobs before lunch on Tuesday.”

Content. Is it safe to say that Harper failed utterly in his ham-fisted attempt to “inspire” the Canadian people? I think it is. In oratorical terms, Canada’s “relative debt-to-GDP” ratio is not exactly the “better angels of our nature.”

Toward the end of his speech, Harper finally tried to get all Obama on us – but he’d just taken a whole whack of partisan (and, for good measure, inaccurate) shots at the opposition, which kind of spoiled the unity vibe, and his Uplifting Rhetoric (tacked on at the conclusion of the address like the rushed and rote farewells at the end of each episode of The Love Boat) was despairingly comic in its lack of imagination and dearth of sincerity. Canada good. Canada strong. Canada also Canada. Good night everybody!

If this is the best that Harper can do in the face of the greatest challenge of his time in office (not counting having to pick out his own clothes on weekends when his stylist-psychic is off), let’s hope he’s right and Canada pulls out of this recession in a hurry. I’m not sure we’re strong enough to survive another speech like that.


 
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Sorry, Lindsay, this post about Harper’s awful, awful speech not funny either

  1. Hey Scott, tell us what you really think. Hiyo! See what I did there? Implied that your full scale condemnation was really an exercise in restraint? That you were holding back? Boy I can be sassy sometimes.

    But seriously, you’re more fun when you’re not so disheartened and frustrated. We come to you because no matter how ridiculous our politicians get, you can take it lightly, and remind us it’s all a game not to be taken seriously under any circumstances. You give us hope for a funnier future. A funuter. If people like you start taking our politicians seriously, things will really go sideways. Our collective incredulity is all we have left, Scott, please don’t wreck it.

    • i also write epic poetry and have some religious literature i’d like you to peruse. can i please come inside for a bit?

      • Surely, sirrah, you are not equating epic poets with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Surely you jest.

        • i failed to mention that all my epic poetry is about Jehovah. Also, it rhymes. And did i mention I have macrame owls for sale? Sure is cold out here – mind if i step inside for a minute?

          • Maybe sing a few verses from All Along the Watchtower? It’s totally epic. And I’m pretty sure it has something to do with the Jehovah Witnesses….

          • Oh Gawd no. Why do I have the sense that this epic poetry would read like Clive Cussler writing about the Crusades?

            But you can come in, just don’t recite poetry or pontificate on Harper’s lack of humanity.

            Mime and hand puppets. Lots of had puppets.

      • No, thanks, epic poetry is for losers… oh… hi Jack… how long have you been standing there? :)

          • LOL.

          • You guys all oughta go out and ambush a politician together. I hear it could get you a TV show.

      • Speaking of poetry, when is Macleans finally going to give Jack a weekly poetry column? The man can put one together in like 30 seconds, and appears to be willing to do so for free. You could fire a full time columnist (coughpaulwellscough). It’s called “poetrisizing the workforce”, and it’s all the rage in corporate media boardrooms. It’s downsizing, but with a poetry kick.

        I mean, the Globe has Allemang, and that guy sucks. You could easily corner the lucrative weekly poetry market.

        • I’ll second that.

          • But not the fire Wells part. They could just drop some Rogers advertisements to make space, since they don’t generate income,anyway….

        • Ask, o Olaf, and ye shall receive —

          (the stanzas may not work out here, owing to the glitch, but this is meant to be four stanzas ABABBCBCC. I’m trying [p] tags, maybe that will work)

          The Eve of St. Stephen

          St. Stephen’s Eve — ah, rather dark it was,
          Within a Brampton worker’s domicile;
          The sunlight filtered through the heavy glass
          The bulbs had not been changed for quite a while.
          Loath was the grim accountant to compile
          His few expenses, while the office serf
          Stood gaping at his pink slip, in denial,
          As helpless in recession as a smurf
          That strays and soon is caught on Gargamel’s own turf.

          At length the PM came to speechify
          With smiles, and drollery, and charts and stuff,
          Untainted by a sympathetic sigh
          As though he had not noticed times were tough,
          Or didn’t care. Sometimes it’s quite enough
          To free up credit if you just succumb
          To one temptation: speaking off the cuff,
          Insisting that Confucius wasn’t glum
          And pledging every man a new solarium.

          Full of this whim was bourgeois Madeline:
          The TV now, that showed the PM’s smirk,
          She switched off, thinking rather to refine
          Her roof: a nice tax-credit-driven perk
          Would help the building, which had this one quirk:
          No skylight lit the marble floor below,
          And though the job would take some time and work,
          No dread of labour dimmed her virgin glow,
          For Harper had foresworn a stingy quid pro quo.

          To eligible Porphyro she wrote,
          With heart-felt, tax-deductible red ink
          A plan of matrimony to promote,
          Eternal love, new siding, and a sink —
          A plan as chaste as any PM’s wink;
          And they are gone: oh yes, long ages past,
          These young homeowners lined their roof with zinc
          To fight the moss; their backyard pool is vast;
          And henceforth they will both vote Tory to the last.

          • I would have gone with “delirium” to rhyme with “Solarium”. Also, “zinc” is a bit of a stretch. Still, a commendable insta-poem! Well done as always.

          • I would have gone with “delirium” to rhyme with “Solarium”. Also, “zinc” is a bit of a stretch. Still, a commendable insta-poem! Well done as always.

            This is really dull poem.

          • Thanks, CR! RIght, totally, delirium is way better — maybe this?
            .
            “At length the PM came to speechify
            With smiles, and drollery, and charts and stuff,
            Untainted by a sympathetic sigh
            As though he had not noticed times were tough,
            Or didn’t care. Sometimes it’s quite enough
            To rave and rant in some delirium
            Of stimulus, by speaking off the cuff
            About how good Confucius wasn’t glum
            And pledging every man a new solarium.”
            .
            Quite right also on “zinc”! Man, when you find yourself googling “zinc” and “home renovation” merely in order to make the rhyme work, you know you’re getting a bit too desperate.

          • Really, “Biff,” your opinion makes me blush with pleasure.

          • Quite right also on “zinc”! Man, when you find yourself googling “zinc” and “home renovation” merely in order to make the rhyme work, you know you’re getting a bit too desperate.

            This doesn’t scan.

            FAIL.

          • Of course it scans:
            .
            These YOUNG homeOWNers LINED their ROOF with ZINC.
            .
            “Homeowners” scans either as HOMEowners or as homeOWNers. Really, Biff, you’ll have to do better than that.

          • Good stuff Jack. Take no notice of Biff, he/she/it probably thinks the Gettysburg address was a drag, no pictures!

          • Of course it scans:
            .
            These YOUNG homeOWNers LINED their ROOF with ZINC.
            .
            “Homeowners” scans either as HOMEowners or as homeOWNers. Really, Biff, you’ll have to do better than that.

            And this is even worse.

          • Much better, Jack! It’s obvious you’re a pro, as demonstrated by your skillful response to a gentle editorial nudge.

          • : P very epic

          • Much BET-ter, Jack! It’s obv”yus you’re a PRO.
            as DEMonstrated by your skillful respONSE
            to a GENtle editorial nudge, .[no nonsONSE]
            [You’ll forgive me, CR, for calling you a HO].

            Meh. Needs more work.

          • Meh. Needs more work.

            Aisle 6 needs more work, too. I think someone slipped there a few days ago.

          • Much BET-ter, Jack! It’s obv”yus you’re a PRO.
            as DEMonstrated by your skillful respONSE
            to a GENtle editorial nudge, .[no nonsONSE]
            [You’ll forgive me, CR, for calling you a HO].

            Meh. Needs more work.

            …and less dull feedback would be most welcome.

          • …and less dull feedback would be most welcome.

            I’m sure any feedback is welcome when you’re a virtual hermit starved for human affection.

          • I’m sure any feedback is welcome when you’re a virtual hermit starved for human affection.

            I said less dull.

            *tap tap*…Is this thing on? Please, can someone other than the arse poetica here critique my work?

            Thenk yew.

          • Biff, biff, biff . . . what is the sound of one troll fapping? Pay attention: in pentameter you can’t have two (or four) light syllables in a row (though you can have three), so
            .
            to a GENtle editorial nudge, .[no nonsONSE]
            [You’ll forgive me, CR, for calling you a HO].
            .
            …doesn’t work, because you’re beginning the line with “to a” (2 light syllables); ditto “no nonsONSE”. And in the second line, even if we’re a bit charitable and let you have “FORgive” (or YOU’ll forgive ME), you’ve got 6 beats. But a little water clears you of this deed:
            .
            “Much better, Jack: it’s clear that you’re a pro;
            As demonstrated by your deft response
            To gentle nudging; glorious nonchalance!
            Yet though Biff’s rival verses really blow,
            As kody went, so every troll must also go.”
            .
            I really hate to think that the much-admired yug-iT is lurking behind this “Biff,” but the style is getting more similar as the night wears on. The italics especially. But why would the noble yug-iT pose as a Conbot?

      • yo scott your 2006 liberal campaign blog called, it wants its talking points back. ziiiiinnng! can’t keep fighting the 2006 campaign forever on here.

    • There’s plenty of reason for the mildest restraint in Scott’s vivasectioning of Harper’s lame-o-speech = he reelies a portion of his income on the media industry. I take it that, like nearly everyone in the biz (like myself), he’s one frigidaire box-with-a-view of living in QE park…

  2. From Harper’s speech:
    –“As an ancient Chinese proverb puts it, ‘a crisis is an opportunity riding a dangerous wind.’
    And for Canada, this crisis does offer opportunity.”–

    Must EVERY half-witted tool with an MBA or similar degree use this?! Is there some pledge they make to keep it alive before they’re unleased upon the cube farms of the civilized world? Fun fact: the Chinese also have a saying that translates roughly to, “Man, we are truly f**ked.” How come nobody uses that one?

    • don’t forget he also dropped in the warren buffett “only when the tide goes out do you see who’s swimming naked” bit — i’m surprised balloons and confetti didn’t drop to mark the quote’s one billionth use.

      • Really, are we going to now get into bashing Harper based on this? Harper beat Martin. Everybody knows this. It was over three years ago. Move on. Disgruntled ex-political staffer humour ain’t as funny to the rest of us out here in the real world.

    • L O L

  3. His joke on the Home Reno credit was also inaccurate, as I write on my blog. He clearly was assuming that only those with spouses (and/or kids?) were eligible for it. But ‘family’ as given in the program description also includes lone-person households.

    • Harper muffed the line under the kleiglights. He meant to sample Henny Youngman with a “If you own a wife and have a home, you probably will be doing home renovations this year.”
      I hear Ignatieff is ready to continue the joke – if you have a Conservative running your country, you probably will be sucking and blowing sometime this year.”

    • This may be too obvious to mention, but what I found especially bizarre about the Home Reno line — “If you own a home and you have a wife” — is the notion that he’s speaking only to men! What the hell? Also, what about the large proportion of people who rent? Scott’s totally right: he’s almost weirdly unempathetic.

      • Women aren’t affected by the recession.

        Their menfolk will take care of them.

        • And by “take care of them”, of course, I mean “build them solariums to go to to get away from their husbands now that their husbands are home all the time (what with them being unemployed and all).

          • You seem to be obsessed with the “solarium” thing.

          • :-)

            Honestly, the totality of the catastrophe that was that speech has me a bit in shock still I think.

            It occurs to me that I may be focusing like a laser on the whole “I’m gonna build the wifey a solarium” thing because I’m afraid to avert my gaze from that and take in the whole terrifying picture in all its magnificent failure.

            Basically, thinking of Harper building a nice sun room is keeping my mind off the fact that we’re clearly all doomed.

          • You can’t be doomed when a whole room of your house is devoted to glorious, glorious insolation.

          • CR,

            I kid you not, I’m watching Jon Stewart just now, and he begins his latest attack on Jim Cramer from CNBC with “This morning I wake up, I’m just sitting in my solarium,having a chai latte, reading my copy of The Daily Worker…”

            So, my new suspicion is that this whole solarium thing is a plot by the Tories to turn us all into rich, latte sipping, Hollywood communists!!!

            The Tories are done out-Liberaling the Liberals. Now, they’re gonna out-socialist the NDP! I can just see Jack and Olivia now, sipping their chai lattes in their government subsidized solarium…

          • LOL, LKO. I’m checking out the Daily Show to catch this display of solariumphilia (and now Jack’s going to get on my case for mixing Latin and Greek roots).

          • Actually, CR, great news! The Latin “solarium” got absorbed into Greek, and appears in Justinian’s law code! So you are totally in the clear. The native Greek word is ἡλιοκάμινος (heliocaminus), which is maybe better: heliocaminophilia. This will be its golden age.

          • Thanks, Jack. Phew – dodged a bullet there! I’ll have to remember heliocaminus – “an apartment exposed to the sun, used as a winter abode…”
            .
            It’s amazing to see the similarities between ancient Greeks and Romans and our modern lifestyles.

          • Y’know, us apartment dwellers already have solariums. Of course, we call them “balconies”.

          • Sorry, that should be “we apartment dwellers”. Me not good grammar early in morning.

      • easy to explain, jack – he gave a separate speech later for women. i believe it was entitled Go Get Me a Beer.

        • Let them have beer and popcorn, eh Scott?

        • Is there a subsidy?

    • Excellent! That answers a question for me. So I can build a solarium with government subsidies even though I don’t have a nagging wife! VERY EXCITING!!!

      Now, does anyone know if you can get a mortgage on a solarium?

      ‘Cause unlike most Canadians who are apparently prepared for the wonderful opportunities provided to our nation by this generational economic crisis, I totally can’t afford to build a solarium.

      • This whole thread is both the best and worst I have ever read.

  4. “…his stylist-psychic…”

    I had totally forgotten about his stylist-psychic!

    Suddenly it occurs to me that perhaps Harper’s whole “If we were going to have a recession we’d have had it by now” / “We’re never going back to deficit” / “A recession’s a great time to finally build that solarium for your nagging wife” vibe isn’t really his fault. Maybe he’s getting his analysis of the future (and the present… and the past, apparently) from his psychic.

    And maybe (hold on to your hats…)

    She’s not actually psychic!!!

    • I had totally forgotten about his stylist-psychic!

      Reagan had one too. So did his wife. Their stylist-psychics managed to single-handedly end the Cold War. Little known fact: Reagan got the idea for the “Star Wars” program while having his pompadour bouffed. The Soviets tried to keep up, and spent themselves into oblivion. What have you done to save the world lately?

      • “What have you done to save the world lately?”

        I’m totally thinking of building a solarium.

        • There’s a lot of men who’ve never swung a hammer before sweating over that one today!

          • LOL

            Though, not really.

            Somehow the PM has failed to convince me that there are a lot of families just ITCHING to do some work around the house with all the cash burning holes in their pockets during the worst recession in decades.

      • Little known fact: Reagan got the idea for the “Star Wars” program while having his pompadour bouffed.

        And you liberals all thought it was less dull than that?

      • Little known fact: Reagan got the idea for the “Star Wars” program while having his pompadour bouffed.

        That just sounds SO dirty.

        Which makes me think of one thing that might have helped Harper’s speech. He should have been a bit, dirty. Condescending, inept, and lacking in an empathy whatsoever? Not cool. But if he’d just gotten a little bit blue as well, he might still have won me over.

        Maybe “If you own a home and have a wife you probably only ever have sex in motel rooms”?

  5. Well done, Scott!!!

    • I am envious of people who have lives!

      • Kettle, meet Pot.

        • Toosh!

  6. “I tell people the floor of my office is littered with red tape. I assure you it’s not blood, it’s just red tape.”

    I’m not entirely clear what the joke here was supposed to be, but Harper attempted to form the facial expression generally regarded by humans as a “smile,” so I assume it was a punchline. But what was he saying? That the economic downturn is so bad that there’s blood in the streets? (Hilarious!) That he’s a spaz with scissors? I just don’t get it, but it seems pretty tasteless.

    He’s joking about his own reputation for being a fearsome tyrant within the Conservative party. Like, DUH, Scott.

    • Or his propensity to eat raw meat for lunch without a bib.

    • I’ll second that insight. Like, DUH, Scott.

      …DUH!!

      • Dot, FYI “Biff” is actually your old friend titguy, wearing drag because he’s been banned too many times.

        • Listen to her, Dot. She knows things.

          • I know. I’m such a little witch.

          • …and boring, Don’t forget boring.

          • It’s easy to bore a guy who spends his life alternating between his balcony and his computer screen. There’s just so much out there.

          • It’s easy to bore a guy who spends his life alternating between his balcony and his computer screen.

            I love this; it’s beautiful. I’m going to embroider it on a throw pillow:

            “IT’S EASY TO BORE A GUY WHO SPENDS HIS LIFE ALTERNATING BETWEEN HIS BALCONY AND HIS COMPUTER SCREEN.,”

            I just have to decide what colour thread I should use.

          • I just have to decide what colour thread I should use.

            Pink?

        • I see your point. Same avatar. How did I miss it?

        • On the bright side Kody’s back!

          • huh. maybe I’m banned now as well. two lost posts.

          • Dot, nope. Titguy’s real name is filtered so you can’t include it in a comment. If you do, it won’t be posted.

          • So, is Titguy also kody? That’s weird.

          • Weird, and also a bit creepy!

          • A virtual Norman Bates.

  7. If Harper, to borrow LkO’s phrase can learn to love the recession, the Canadians like myself will come to love SH’s inspirational: Canada’s relative debt to gdp ratio is fine! In fact i fully intend to quote him when next my bank and i have our monthly tussle over the precise meaning of the term: overdrawn!

    • geez… apparently you can’t L O L more than once in the same blog w/Maclean’s

      nevertheless

      L O L.

  8. So I wasn’t the only one mildly put off by the “if you own a home, and you have a wife” line?

  9. You’re right, Scott… this is not a funny post. It is an awful, awful opinion piece on a good speech. You are being totally unfair.

    And, the ‘comments’ soon degenerate into wittisicms between four or five of your readers… boring.

    • zzzzz

  10. SO FUNNY

  11. He ought to have lifted a speech from Howard instead. Why is Harper so utterly unable to even *fake* empathy?

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