Let’s begin with some full disclosure: if a wayward tape recorder had somehow found its way to be rolling stealthily during my relatively brief time as an employee of the Prime Minister’s Office, and if the talk had happened to turn to the issues and personalities of the political day, and if the contents of this audiotape were later played at the top of the national news, I can assure you of one thing: people would not be debating whether I deserved to be fired. Instead, people would debating whether, having been fired, I also deserved to be punched in the face or possibly poked repeatedly with a hot, sharp stick. Mere dismissal would have come across as a wholly insufficient remedy to such a cascade of critiques, laments and general, all-round foul mouthery.
Should a member of the federal cabinet refer to cancer and radioactivity as “sexy?” Only in the context of discussing a green Lou Ferrigno. Anyone offended by what Lisa Raitt said, or by the mildly mercenary tone she deployed while pondering life-and-death matters relating to the supply of medical isotopes, won’t get a quarrel from me. If you’re dumb enough to hire someone dumb enough to leave government secrets and taped conversations stashed around Ottawa like chocolate eggs on Easter morning, you deserve what you get.
But what’s more fascinating about the Accidental Audiotape is its relentless blandness. What a couple of dim bulbs! Here we have a minister of the federal government conversing openly and freely with one of her top aides – and there are no flashes of insight, no witty lines, no deep thoughts. Listen to the actual tape and marvel at the passages where Jasmine MacDonnell just keeps saying “yeah, yeah, yeah,” bravely agreeing with her minister approximately once every second. Neither of them is even particularly devious or clever when it comes to crass political strategy.
Raitt: This is an easy one [the isotope crisis]. You know what solves this problem? Money. And if it’s just about money, we’ll figure it out. It’s not a moral issue.
MacDonnell: No. The moral and ethical stuff around it are clear.
Raitt: It’s really clear.
First of all, I guess money didn’t actually solve that “easy one” so, you know, oops.
Second of all, what? The moral and ethical what? We’re talking about a leak of heavy water – does it even need to be stated that this isn’t a moral issue? (Apparently it does need to be stated. And agreed to. And then reiterated. Then again, this is Stephen Harper’s government, so I guess it makes sense that a minister would want to make sure the heavy water in question could only slowly kill nearby mammals, not turn them gay.)
The Raitt depicted on this audiotape is what we all assumed a Harper cabinet minister to be: bipedal and sometimes conscious. Anything more than that and she might be considered a threat to the boss, I guess.
IMPORTANT QUESTION: Do we have to wait until Saturday’s Globe notebook to find out if Lisa Raitt’s husband still loves her? I can’t stand cliffhangers!