We must close the absurdity gap

France gets a first lady who posed naked. America gets Sarah Palin. We get Brad Wall.


We must close the absurdity gapWhere did we go wrong, Canada? France gets as a first lady a supermodel who used to pose naked. Italy gets a prime minister in the midst of yet another sex scandal—this one set off by the revelations of a woman who goes by the nickname Long Thighs. And what do we get? We get a summer’s worth of political debate about the mechanics of Employment Insurance administration. If we’re not careful, they’re going to kick us out of the G8 for this.

The tedium transcends the federal level. Ed Stelmach was grazed by a handful of pie near the beginning of his term as Alberta premier, and has yet to accomplish anything else quite as interesting. Brad Wall of Saskatchewan keeps talking about how everything in his province is going to be all great and awesome thanks to . . . potash!—the four-eyed nerd of the resource world. Meanwhile, reporters in Prince Edward Island got excited recently when rumours began to fly that one of Robert Ghiz’s hairs had been spotted moving.

Compare this with what’s going on south of the border.

In California, an Austrian-born bodybuilder whose training for elected office consisted of a) owning several suits, and b) hunting John Connor is presiding over a government in such dire financial circumstance that it is actually paying people with IOUs. Next week: Monopoly money, followed by a return to the barter system. (Memo to Lindsay Lohan: according to the Federal Reserve, a pack of smokes goes for two lap dances.)

In South Carolina, Mark Sanford is the latest conservative U.S. politician to demonstrate his respect for the sanctity of marriage by going all the way with only one of his mistresses. Reporters going back through the governor’s daily agenda found that during one taxpayer-funded trip to Argentina, home of his “soulmate,” Sanford claimed that he planned to spend an evening doing “some self-guided sightseeing.” (I think we can all agree: worst euphemism for sex ever.) I’m not saying Sanford’s presidential hopes are exploding before our eyes, but Bruce Willis is calmly walking away from them in slow motion.

In Illinois, disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich was denied the inalienable American right to humiliate himself on a reality television program. When a judge barred him from leaving the country to participate in I’m a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here, his wife went in his place. Even after eating a tarantula on TV, she still qualifies as the “classy” Blagojevich.

In New York, the man who replaced Eliot Spitzer—who paid $4,300 for four hours with a hooker, damaging his presidential aspirations but locking up the nomination to serve the next four years as Charlie Sheen’s wingman—is so unpopular that being caught with a prostitute might actually increase his approval rating, especially if the polling firm happens to call Bill Clinton’s house.

(This is not to say that Spitzer didn’t make a contribution to society. Without his efforts, most of us would have no idea that elite prostitution agencies rate their hookers on a scale from three diamonds to seven diamonds. A quick comparison: seven-diamond whore—willing to dress up in sexy nurse attire. Three-diamond whore—refuses to take off her clown costume.)

And then there’s Alaska, where Sarah Palin—who first stole our hearts by claiming she understood global politics on account of Russia being, like, kitty-corner to her front porch—is back with another bit of unconventional wisdom: the best way to apply for a job with tremendous responsibility, such as the presidency, is to quit a job with much less responsibilty, such as running a state that’s 90 per cent hermit.

Full disclosure: I have a stake in a potential Palin flame-out. Since last fall, entrepreneurs have been cranking out T-shirts, tote bags, even thongs emblazoned with the governor’s name. People are making a lot of money, and I’m not one of them. Maybe now I’ll finally see an increase in demand for my line of Romney-logoed male girdles.

But Palin is not to be underestimated as a political force. She got big-time cred with social conservatives. She got children, young children, CHILDREN EVERYWHERE! Plus, now that her daughter Bristol has given birth, voters won’t be exposed to those TV images of her being caressed on the belly and called Rosemary by Dick Cheney.

And let’s not forget—Palin has foreign policy experience! She was commander of the Alaska National Guard, her advisers keep reminding us. One could argue that no politician of either partisan stripe is better qualified to defend America from a platoon of herring.

In terms of entertainment, Palin and her gubernatorial counterparts just keep giving and giving. Meanwhile, the incoming premier of Nova Scotia, Darrell Dexter, recently described his wife Kelly as “still the love of my life.” He didn’t even have the decency to do it while confessing chronic infidelity or eating an arachnid.


We must close the absurdity gap

  1. We tried with Maxime last year and all the CPC got was guff for it so what can you say?

    • When I excitedly told foreigners about our sex scandal the general reactions was "that's a sex scandal? He wasn't even cheating on anybody" or "Canada has top-secret documents?"

      I have a theory on why we are so boring (the British are boring too, likewise the Aussies and New Zealanders). We have a political system that gives the Prime Minister (or Premier) tremendous amounts of power. Not only do we tend to get majority governments because of our electoral system (the last 5 years excepted), but the Westminster tradition is one with strong party discipline. I mean even when Mulroney was at 15% in the polls, his caucus loyally followed him (voting against your party is considered such a crime that people tend to leave the party to do it). Our PM can run foreign policy without a vote, can call an election on a whim, can directly appoint the senate, the supreme court, the governor of the bank of Canada and a number of other figures that purportedly limit his/her power. In other words, the Prime Minister is a very powerful guy.

      Because our PM is so powerful, we have a strong antipathy to having colourful people in the job. Colourful is cute in bicameral presidential democracies, but not so much in Canada. So in Canada we generally elect safe, boring people who – even if they did abuse power – would do it for such dull reasons nobody would care. There is a reason William Lyon Mackenzie King was our longest-serving PM!

      Because of our preference for the boring we tend to get backloaded, rather than frontloaded administrations. Our PM's do a lot of stuff when they are in their last term (they can afford to be radical because they aren't running for election again). Chretien legalized pot and gay marriage, while turning down Canadian participation in a then-popular war; Mulroney initiated the GST and free trade; Trudeau, the national energy program, his public diplomacy on nuclear weapons, big deficits and the charter of rights and freedoms.

      Contrast that to the US – Obama in 7 months has pushed a stimulus, the TARP, the auto bailout, a cap and trade, and major healthcare reform. For Bush, the tax cuts, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, no child left behind and most of his reforms came early in his term. US presidents only have a small window of time in which to act.

  2. Palin never talked about russia bei9ng lsoe to her as foreign policy experience,that was Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live.This is unbelievable.Everybody wants to say show dumb she is,you can`t even explain yourselves.Almost everything,if not all you guys say about her is not even true.But who cares right?Just keep screaming 'Obama,Obama',the guy who never did anything with himself at all,but for some reason,he is smarter than anybody else.I love your logic.What a smart man you are,Scott.

      • haha,yeah,the Hiffington Post,that trustworhty news source,nice try!

        • Trust me, I'm not a fan either, but what of the CBS-hosted embedded video, or accurate transcript? Is that all fake too?

          • if it criticizes Palin it is clearly not trustworthy.

          • I think the problem with Palinphobia is that it is often hypocritical. I don't think Palin's problem is a lack of experience – George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama all came into office with zero foreign policy experience – two were very successful, two unsuccessful, one we will have to wait and see. The real thing driving criticism of Palin is that a lot of people think she is stupid, period. However the only way to frame that legitimately is to talk about experience. The problem is that means criticizing Palin in a way that also applies to many other presidents and candidates.

            If your problem with Palin is that you think she is too stupid, too erratic, and has priorities too out of whack with your own, you should argue that, instead of the experience claim, which is somewhat unfairly applied to her.

          • Experience is so intangible and undefined. All the presidents you've listed did have some foreign policy experience in that they were at least aware of the issues in foreign policy and the traditional methods of handling the current situations. Even if they went about things poorly, they at least had an idea of what they were facing.

            Palin simply doesn't seem to have that knowledge. Her lack of experience doesn't stem from the type of jobs she's had, but rather from her complete lack of education on the subject. Direct experience (ie actually visiting other countries, preferably in some sort of a diplomatic role) isn't all that matters – a 21 year old Poly Sci grad who's never left the country likely doesn't have any direct foreign policy experience, but they (should) understand many of the issues. Experience doesn't come from just doing things, it also comes from reading, learning and debating – none of which Palin can demonstrate having done.

          • I actually didn't argue anything. I more just wanted to mock the position of some who will defend her no matter how accurate the criticism/dismiss anything/anyone that criticizes her. I do agree with Craig that your claim that the only legit point of discussion is her experience measured relative to others.

            Craig is correct that knowledge is also valid (where she fails) as well as general preparedness, ability/willingness to acquire further knowledge/experience and a whole range of other criteria are valid points of discussion. as for me personally, I fond she does well on few of them, but that is another matter.

      • Thank you Gene.

        When Jean Pierre said that she never mentioned Russia's proximity to Alaska as a foreign policy credential, i thought perhaps I was losing it. Like, did I just DREAM that whole interview with Katie Couric??? Video evidence sure is useful!

        You betcha!

    • That was in the Katie Couric interview actually.