Stephen Harper: the brain in a jar

Paul Wells' analyses of Harper's governing style in 2010

On Wednesday I listed my blog posts that provoked the biggest brawls on the comment boards. Today I’ve measured the pieces that appeared in print in the magazine, including columns and longer articles, in a different way. Our software tracks the number of page views everything on the website gets. I made a list of my most-viewed articles from 2010.

A common theme popped out. With one exception, what most of you really wanted to read from me in 2010 was long analyses of Stephen Harper’s governing style and philosophy. (The exception was my latest trip to Afghanistan. Since it involved greater personal risk than the first two, I’m grateful to everyone who read the resulting article.)

Taken together, with the partial exception of the Afghanistan piece, these columns and articles constitute a year’s attempts to figure out the Prime Minister. We call these my “brain-in-a-jar pieces” because they claim, often against the latest consensus, that Harper is not always random or trivial. That claim gives Harper the benefit of the doubt so it reliably upsets some readers. But if his actions were always as confused as some reviews suggest he would not long survive and my indulgence could not save him.

In chronological order, my most-read articles this year:

Jan. 7: Stephen Harper: New Ideas, Old Tactics Michael Ignatieff plans for a new year as Liberal leader. Harper plans to steal his thunder.

March 11: Harper’s Rut The most critical of these pieces, a simple list of the flotsam and jetsam that found its way into the Throne Speech.

March 19: Harper’s Hard Right Turn The most-read and most-commented thing I have written at least since we relaunched the website in 2008. A rebuttal to fiscal hawks who see nothing conservative when they look at Harper.

April 16: In Afghanistan the Final Battle Begins On the road with Gen. Andrew Leslie, outside the wire in Kandahar.

May 28: What Harper’s Thinking Every few months people in Ottawa decide Harper wants an election right now. This was my latest attempt to explain why he didn’t. It stands now and will again in the spring.

Aug. 5: Harper’s Got Us Just Where He Wants Us Remember the folly of the prime minister’s long-form census changes? I wanted to say it had not hurt him politically, before people forgot they said it would.

Nov. 29: Jason Kenney: Harper’s Secret Weapon The piece that is already being caricatured as, “The Conservatives think the ethnic vote is something monolithic they can win because Kenney showed up at a couple of buffets.”

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