Duck and cover

During his brief stint as a serious candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, John Manley used to say that one thing he’d like to see in foreign affairs was a “grown-up relationship between Canada and the United States.” It made me want to weep with gratitude every time he talked like that. As a rule, Canada’s end of Canada-U.S. relations has been characterized by an endless fight between obsequious suckups and rote anti-Americans, essentially between the editorial board of the National Post and Michael Byers. It would be really swell if a visit from a prominent American politician was seen as an interesting event, not a management headache for all concerned.

Aaron Wherry ably chronicles the absurdity surrounding John McCain’s visit to Ottawa tomorrow, in which the Prime Minister of Canada ensures there will be no embarrassing scenes like this by doing to a prominent advocate of the Iraq war what Harper has long since done to his own former support for the Iraq war: cut and run.

Look: for all you know, John McCain might be the next President of the United States of America. I don’t think it’s a horrible idea for anyone who plans to be the Prime Minister of Canada when that happens to meet the man, if he is so eccentric as to want to devote some attention to our two countries’ bilateral relationship. That goes for Harper and for Stéphane Dion, and it would hold if Barack Obama showed up here too. Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Ségolène Royal, Gordon Brown — all were courted by neighbouring heads of government before assuming power or, in Royal’s case, falling short. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s kind of amazing to have to say so.

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