UPDATED to add visuals and correct a major Meighen-related brain freeze.
Joan Tintor eloquently delivers the downside of yesterday’s Joe Clark portrait unveiling, and of Joe Clark in general, for anyone who wants it. I expect that in our general opinions of his politics, Joan and I share a lot of common ground. But I’m still struck by the simple grace of that portrait. Let me take another go at explaining why.
By waiting 28 years after he left office to unveil his portrait, Clark beats the previous record of 20 22 years set by R.B. Bennett ARTHUR MEIGHEN, another gifted parliamentarian who could not durably persuade the country to follow where he wanted to lead THAT PART IS ACTUALLY TRUE — PW. Bennett’s MEIGHEN’S!!! portrait is contemporary and portrays a stooped aging gent, much different from the younger man who used to joust against King in the 1920s. ALSO TRUE: SEE We had been joking around the office about Joe’s own dilemma as, like the U.S. Post Office, he tried to arbitrate between the Old Elvis and Young Elvis options.
What he did, in the end, is clever. Take a look at the portrait, if you can. (UPDATED: Here ’tis. You can use the arrows to go back and forth through all the portraits. It’s well worth doing. As a rule of thumb, almost everyone likes the Pearson and most like the Diefenbaker. The Abbott and Bowell weren’t painted until quite recently because neither lived long enough to sit for a portrait.) It’s the young Clark, making a point in the Commons. After a while you realize it’s an empty Commons, and that he is not in the prime minister’s place or even the opposition leader’s, but at the back near the curtains, far from Speaker, cabinet and press gallery.
This is Joe Clark as rookie backbencher. He’s not even prime minister yet, and his entire career lies ahead. Everything is possible. Something in that simple choice of moment is tremendously touching.