The pundits bid a premature and not entirely fond farewell to the 39th Parliament.
The Globe and Mail‘s Lawrence Martin lays out five scenarios under which Stephen Harper’s planned “summit” meeting with opposition members might play out, but he thinks the one he calls “damn the torpedoes” is the “one to watch.” Harper’s mind is already dead set on a late-October election, or so goes the theory. So he meets with the leaders, gets no concessions from them at all, nor anything he can use to bolster his claims of not being able to govern, “swallows a couple of days of bad publicity … and heads for the hustings.” Harper’s “haste” is somewhat surprising, Martin suggests, considering his government’s “lowest grades are on the environment, health care and what was originally one of its strong suits—accountability.” But he suspects a negative campaign “that would make … Karl Rove proud” would be able to overcome those obstacles.
An October election might very well return a barely altered status quo to Parliament Hill, Chantal Hébert writes in the Toronto Star, but it would answer many questions nonetheless. The very “continued relevance of the NDP” is at stake, for one thing—though we’re sure Hébert already wrote them off at one point, didn’t she?—as is the Bloc Québécois’ dubious ability to deliver desired outcomes to Quebeckers in the wake of failures on climate change and the Afghanistan mission. Back in the centre, if the Tories failed to make gains in urban Canada and to win a stronger minority, Harper would have to consider himself and his policy decisions chastened. And Hébert believes another election disaster for the Liberals “would send the message that they need to go back to the leadership drawing board and rebuild a national coalition from the ground up.”
Michael Coren had Dion on his show and was surprised, he relates in the National Post, to hear him make numerous references to God. He was even more surprised to hear Dion admit he was advised to make such references because the CTS audience would appreciate it. Coren disputes that, insisting his show “is a current affairs show with an audience of more than 200,000 people, the majority of whom do not identify with any particular faith.” But while he admires Dion’s candor—calling him “a profoundly decent man who is a perhaps the most honest leader of his party in living memory”—he believes the incident suggests Dion lacks the “steel and guile” to be “tough with our enemies and careful with our friends.” Not slimy enough, in other words.
The summer recess is a time for the government “to be maximizing the huge advantages of incumbency by controlling media outputs and making positive announcements,” L. Ian MacDonald writes in the Montreal Gazette. Instead, he says, they’re “going out of their way to annoy whole blocs of voters” by cutting cultural funding, having Tony Clement criticize doctors’ ethics and allowing Jim Flaherty to continue his war of one-sided attrition against Ontario’s finance ministry. This serves only “to confirm the natural suspicions of a broader constituency that Conservatives are a bunch of Philistines,” MacDonald argues, at a time when they desperately need to be reaching out. It is, in a word—our word, not MacDonald’s—dumb.
Joe Biden—the sane choice
The Star‘s Rosie DiManno argues that while Joe Biden has the experience and “Pennsylvania Rust-Belt roots” that Barack Obama very noticeably lacks, his selection as running mate is really about internal Democratic Party politics. It’s “a political balancing act,” in other words, “that speaks more to the always worrisome scenario of Democratic squabbling—the party’s unfailing tendency to shoot itself in the head—than picking up states where Obama is not such an appealing alternative to McCain” even for people sick to death of George W. Bush. “If Obama were really looking to cast a wide Democratic net, surely he would have given Hillary Clinton greater consideration,” DiManno writes. But keeping peace in the family—domestic or political—is nearly always a woman’s burden.”
“The vice-presidential decision was indicative of the real Obama,” says the Star‘s Thomas Walkom—i.e., of a pragmatic, fairly conventional politician. “He is a passionate orator who may well believe what he says,” Walkom writes. “But he is also an astute and practical man who got where he is by using classic tactics of American politics”—schmoozing the right people and “ruthlessly destroy[ing] his opponents.”
“It was a safe choice. It had to be,” says the Globe‘s John Ibbitson, now that the lustre is off his campaign, the Democrats’ traditional summertime lead is instead a neck-and-neck race and they’re splitting the normally reliable female vote with John McCain—all while “the United States is in the sixth year of an unpopular war; the government is mired in deficit and debt; people across the nation are watching their home equity evaporate; fuel costs have soared … ; [and] the people rightly blame the Republican administration for all of it.” In Denver, Ibbitson says Obama needs to unite the party, “sell the Democrats’ message of economic populism,” and “remind Americans” of what would be at stake in a McCain presidency—Roe v. Wade, healthcare, Iraq, etc. As such, a hardscrabble running mate was just what the doctor ordered.
Farewell to Beijing
The Toronto Sun‘s Peter Worthington notes that predictions of a Canadian Olympic disaster after week one were proven wrong by our eventual 18-medal performance. But then he criticizes the “showing up is just as important as winning” mentality that ostensibly holds Canadian athletes back, noting that they don’t even keep score at his grandson’s Little League games. And then he says the idea that Canadian athletes aren’t interested in winning is “bullroar,” leaving us completely bewildered.
The Globe‘s Christie Blatchford declares Adam van Koeverden a perfectly “honourable” Canadian and a spectacular role model, in that he will agonize over and apologize for his performance in Beijing but will face it “head on.” “He didn’t flinch from the truth of his failure,” she writes, “but looked at it squarely, mystified, bewildered, [and] already you could see that even in his agony he was trying to analyze it.” This is yet another Blatchford production in which, bizarrely, she quotes an unnamed Toronto prosecutor friend at absurd length—i.e., 312 words out of 1,109 total.
The Vancouver Sun‘s Daphne Bramham is unsettled by the “elitism” and caste-like stratifications inherent in the Olympics—not on the track or in the swimming pool but in the hotels, limousines and press centres. While athletes rough it in dormitories and on the Beijing subway, national Olympic committee bigwigs needn’t even face the indignity of an airport terminal, she reports, recalling the “string of Audis” that appeared to whisk VIPs off her flight to the Olympic sailing venue. The athletics are just a “pretense for deal-making,” she alleges, and the athletes—”especially attractive and articulate ones from rich, populous countries”—are there mostly as potential “advertising vehicles.”
We, on the other hand, repeat our contention that the Olympics are, and were, fun.
The Post‘s John Ivison recaps his summer-long attempt to wade through Will Durant’s list of 100 books educated people ought to have read by now, declaring Plato’s Republic an eye-opener and Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations a leaden mixture of already-received wisdom and minutia best avoided “unless you have a brain the size of a small planet, the patience of a Zen Buddhist and nothing in your diary until Christmas.” Durant believed an hour a day of reading the classics could “turn the most lumpen of us into eggheads,” Ivison concludes. “I plan to work my way through the list and anticipate finishing Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West just as his prophesy is fulfilled, sometime around 2040.”