Harper before the world

He speaks only for utility, not for history

Whatever his periodic outbursts, his apparent desire to destroy his political opponents, Mr. Harper prefers the understated. Whoever he is in Question Period, he is a different performer when the stage is wider.

Tonight, for instance, there were no theatric shrugs, that gesture he has come to lean on when dismissiveness or sarcasm strikes him. Tonight, behind a wood lectern on a stage awash in summit logos, his shoulders barely budged.

He strolled on and off stage with a slightly embarrassed look and he delivered his news humbly, announcing a big fat number for his preferred cause almost in passing. He didn’t dwell on his government’s decision to forgive Haiti its debts.

It might be striking to those who’ve seen him rant and demonstrate on the floor of the House of Commons. But remember that this is generally how he is in his speeches and his public forays. He is rarely any more than he need be. His rhetoric is almost never artful. He speaks only for utility, not for history.

Domestically it is better for the purposes of seeming the everyman. On this stage, it is closer to statesmanship.

(Mind you, his posture could still be improved. Even here he hunches slightly. Whatever that means for his image, it can’t be good for his back.)

Here, dressed in navy blue against a dark blue backdrop, he gripped the lectern and nodded and invoked accountability, perhaps his favourite word. When a potentially contentious question was asked about a potentially contentious Ontario decision to momentarily expand police powers in Toronto, he looked at the reporter directly and delivered an unresponsive answer he’d obviously practiced beforehand. On other questions of more specific matters on foreign policy, he looked down periodically to think his way through matters. He did not ramble much. Even when appealing to the emotional pull of foreign aid, he was logical.

He periodically gestured noticeably with his hands, but otherwise his most demonstrative was a slight jutting out of his chin. In this case, that’s all he seemed to think was due.