Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Remain calm, All hell isn’t breaking loose - - Some days, and weeks, it seems that there is so much going on in this little world of ours, that it is impossible to keep up. I don’t know what people are more fired up about this week? Is it the battle over Gay Marriage? The controversy surrounding Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”? The situation in Haiti? The 2004 Democratic Primary race? A-Rod with the Yankees?

On Gay Marriage.The central clearing house for those opposing President Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment on the this issue is Andrew Sullivan. “The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families. And just as importantly, he launched a war to defile the most sacred document in the land. Rather than allow the contentious and difficult issue of equal marriage rights to be fought over in the states, rather than let politics and the law take their course, rather than keep the Constitution out of the culture wars, this president wants to drag the very founding document into his re-election campaign. He is proposing to remove civil rights from one group of American citizens - and do so in the Constitution itself. The message could not be plainer: these citizens do not fully belong in America.”

Now, Sullivan makes plenty of sense building the case, but from what I can understand he might be overplaying his fear of the constitutional amendment. Glenn Reynolds noted this thought from Roger Simon’s blog earlier today. “"Hey, in America we're having fights about whether gay people can get married whereas in other parts of the world (like the Middle East) they simply kill gay people with rocks."

The situation is plenty confusing. Bush’s speech today looks to some less anti-gay than it does pro the Defense of Marriage Act. Although it is clear that the media spin tonight is that Bush’s proposal does exactly the former. The headline, pithy one at that, from AP is: “Bush backs Amendment banning Gay Marriage.” But is that really what this does?

More Reynolds: It’s more like the “constitutionalization of the Defense of Marriage Act -- which would do exactly nothing, since, even pre-DOMA, states didn't have to recognize each others' marriages. There is some stuff about marriage being between a man and a woman, but it also seems as if that wouldn't be binding on the states (or, if it is, only to the extent that they can't call it "marriage.")” (See more from Prof. Reynolds here)

Moreover, I think the major problem Bush has with this issue is that law is being created by courts rather than by the people. By the sounds of it Bush is perfectly fine with civil unions, or gay marriage, so long as he doesn’t have to tell his base that he didn’t do anything about it, or that some crackpot judge unilaterally made the law of the land. This seems like a fair and reasonable status quo.

Now the politics: It’s February still. What are the chances that this will still be a vote rallying issue come November? At the very least Bush may have pushed Kerry off the front pages with some more primary wins today.

Ramesh Ponnuru suggests, “there are two political risks for him to balance in making this decision. The lesser risk is that he talks about it too much, and looks too obsessed about the issue. The greater risk is that he talks about it too little, and allows the media, his opponents, and certain of his "allies" to frame the issue.”

The most interesting to come of this battle, as Hugh Hewitt notes, is a critical lens and debate surrounding the issue of the courts making law and the legislative branches of governments allowing them to do so, since the buck never stops at their desks. Not only that, the Congress will have to move it, then the States will have to move it. Did President Bush actually strike a blow for the government by the people today? Elected officials deciding on the law rather than appointed judges? And if it doesn't go through or Gay Marriages become the law in every one of the states, then it can be said, that there was a debate, and the duly elected representatives made the law. It's pretty win-win. The minimum, seems for a token homage to marriage being defined as a union between a man and a women under federal law, while states can make whatever unions, between whomever they please, and possibly calling it something different. Sounds fairly reasonable no?

Amazing. Has Bush done it again? It’s a tightrope, but it might be crazy enough to work.

The Making of Snow Walker - - If you happened to check out City TV tonight, there was a making of documentary about one of the movies I worked on in 2002 (The Snow Walker). If you managed to stay with it until the credits rolled you would have might have happened to see a certain somebody’s unintentional efforts to destroy a small school bus when it had a slight difference of opinion with a rock (Whoops) and an almost insane homage to “The Empire Strikes Back”.

If you missed it, not to worry, it’ll be on Bravo in March. It was nice to see some of that footage and all the cast and crew again. Major shout outs to Producer Rob “Rib” Merilees, “docu-dude” Brett “Seinfeld” Harvey, and of course to Editor/Director Fred “Crazy Hippy Hair Swede” Thorsen for possibly making me a star.

Check out the movie trailer at Tribute.ca here. The film hits theatres on March 5th. More info and pictures here.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Canadian Political Talking Points – Conservative Debate Edition Today was the first of two political debates for the Conservative Party of Canada. (Check the news story here) The debate comes on the heels of the new leadership polling numbers: “Ipsos-Reid polling done for The Globe and Mail and CTV found Mr. Harper supported by 46 per cent of Canadians who say they would vote Conservative, while 26 per cent chose auto-parts magnate Belinda Stronach and 17 per cent Tony Clement, a former Ontario health minister.”

First impressions? Okay, note to the suits at Conservative Party HQ, don’t pack the debate house with a bunch of partisan yahoos. Seriously, did that waste about 10 minutes of my life or what? Oh, and if you are running a nationally televised debated, for the love of god, get your French/English “translatoring robots” to switch in and out with all the talking over the speeches.

Stephen Taylor was there on the ground. “There was no clear winner. Every candidate seemed to perform as they needed to perform. However, I would give a special nod to Ms. Stronach. Many of her detractors believed that she would have crumbled under the parliamentary debating experience of Stephen Harper and Tony Clement. However, she continues to impress and has clearly shown today that she not only deserves to be in the race, but also deserves serious consideration for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. Tony Clement also was very impressive and showed that he is indeed somewhat of a scrapper and very capable debater. Stephen Harper didn't present anything new and, as already said, relied on his record. However, Stephen Harper did have the most to lose, so his defensive yet consistant policy positions served him well for this debate.”

Adam Daifallah offered a more, pardon the pun, conservative view: “All three candidates performed well, but no one was head-and-shoulders better than the rest. They all made good points; one was clearly aggressive and passionate (Clement), another more tentative (Stronach) and one constantly on the defensive but cool (Harper). But because Harper held his own and, by virtue of his front-running status had the most to lose, if anyone did win, it was him. He was calm, composed and looked leader-like.” (and major props to Adam for suggesting that the crowds have gotta go!)

More thoughts on the debate:
*Damian Penny wants to see Belinda succeed, but figures she isn’t ready for prime time.
*The Globe’s John Ibbitson claims Harper proved beyond a doubt that he is the best candidate and that Clement debates like he was back in University.
*The Globe’s Roy MacGregor pronounces NDP leader Jack Layton the winner.
*Colby Cosh weighs in.

My Take:

Debate Format Style: I watched the “rerun” later this evening. The debate itself looked cheesy – sort of like the watching local government meetings on cable. Can CPAC not buy enough lighting or get proper sound equipment? If the Democrats can make Kucinich and Sharpton look plausibly presidential, why can’t we splurge on a little lighting package to make this look more impressive than a local access debate on a bike path?

Substance: As for the content itself. If any of these three candidates was supposed to demonstrate that they are ready to be the Prime Minister, well, frankly I didn’t see it. Is there any difference between the three, really? They would all be of use in a conservative government someday. Tony Clement and Stephen Harper debate like every line should begin and end with the words “Mr. Speaker.” (If John Kerry talks Senator-ese, then these two talk Question Period Speak. People don’t like that.)

Biggest Surprise: It was nice to see that Belinda didn’t spontaneously combust on stage, and I was surprised that the topic she seems to speak most passionately is Foreign Policy (especially in the post-debate scrum – a format almost as useless as the debate itself.) And I agree with Damian Penny on Clement’s UN slam: “I was thrilled to see Clement outline exactly what is wrong with the United Nations, heretofore a sacred cow among Canadian politicians - that even the most vile dictatorships have a say equal to democracies, and that democratic nations should be pushing for serious reform.”

Worst talking point: Hearing Tony Clement on at least two occasions suggest that if this election is about “us” (The Conservatives) we will lose. But if this election is about “them” or “him” (Paul Martin/Liberals) we do. Look, Tony, if this election is about Paul Martin, you may or may not win but we’d still like you to talk like you would do a better job. I just don’t see it.

Worst talking point runner up (tie): Belinda Stronach’s overuse on every single one of her talking points in the second half. (Innovation, 72,000 Magna employees, no baggage, Etc) This is a dead heat tie with Tony Clement’s constant use of the term “Parliamentarians”. Not only does it sound creepy and/or cult-like it’s just not very cool.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

cover '04 Journal: Saturday Political Report - - For a few months now, we've been told just how fired up the Democrats are. John Ellis points out the crucial evidence that contradicts this often cited piece of campaign 2004. "One of the prevailing myths of this campaign season is that Democrats are fired up as never before, eager to slay the evil Bush. Well, maybe so, but they're not voting. Overall, turnout in last Tuesday's Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary was down by 183,000 votes from 1988. Kerry trailed Dukakis by 150,000 votes. Liberal media (not that they're not objective!) have somehow overlooked this angle."

And Ellis is kind enough to point out that after two-straight months of non-stop coverage and "Bush bashing" John Kerry is running just even with the President. Andrew Sullivan isn't so confident in the numbers. He looks at the latest Pew Poll: "The level of polarization in the president's favorability exceeds that for President Clinton in September 1998, during the impeachment battle." And says, "Gulp."

TNR's Ryan Lizza adds, "Bush's greatest asset seems to be eroding. When things have gone south for Bush in the past, he has always fallen back on personal attributes like honesty to keep him afloat. The basic Bush strategy of the 2000 campaign was to neutralize Al Gore on the issues and turn the race into a contest about character and likeability. That's obviously this year's strategy against Kerry as well."

What's interesting is comparing that to this blog post by Rex Hammock who was at meeting with Bush, face to face, on his home turf in the White House! "Bottom line: If George W. Bush could spend 25 minutes chatting with everybody in America like he did with me and five other folks today, he would win any election by a landslide. Despite the formality of the setting, he immediately put us all at ease with grace and hospitality. He was personable and seemed genuinely curious about each of us and our individual pionts of view on the subject we were there to discuss."

One of these two impressions will be in people's minds when they hit the voting booth in November. If it's the one from the polls, Bush will most likely lose. If it is the one that Hammock points out, he will win.

Complicating the equation is the news that Ralph Nader is entering the race too. There are plenty of people who don't think that it's a very good idea. And while it is obvious that some of the people who voted for Ralphie last time will have sobered up enough to not make that mistake again it is still a funny addition to the race.

Quoteable: This simply has to be the best quote of the campaign yet as caught by Mickey Kaus: "Frankly, sharing a media market with Chuck Schumer is like sharing a banana with a monkey. Take a little bite of it, and he will throw his own feces at you." --Sen. Schumer's colleague, Sen. John Corzine (D-N.J.)


cover The Wrath of Khan: Robert Kaplan in Mongolia - - Uterly fascinating article in the months Atlantic Monthly by the always good Robert Kaplan. I’m shocked that it is even on online. I am pretty sure that few people realize how wide and deep this War on Terror is. Kaplan’s article is on his travels last year with Colonel Tom Wilhelm, the US military Attaché, based in Mongolia. Wilhelm is part of the new breed of citizen-solider-diplomats who are called upon to perform a variety of tasks. Is Mongolia a hot bed for the war on terror? Not exactly but here is just one short paragraph that illustrates how Mongolia could become important in the future:

“Mongolia, with one of the world's lowest population densities, is being threatened demographically by the latest of Eurasia's great historical migrations—an urban Chinese civilization is determined to move north. China—which ruled much of Mongolia from the end of the seventeenth century until the early twentieth century, during the Manchu period—covets the oil, coal, uranium, and empty grasslands of its former possession. Given that a resurgent China has already absorbed Tibet, Macao, and Hong Kong, reabsorbing Mongolia—a country that on the map looks like a big piece of territory bitten away from China—seems almost irresistibly a part of China's geopolitical intentions.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

cover Canadian Political Talking Points – Wednesday Night Edition – “The Empire Strikes Back “ - - After roughly a week and a major rolling thunder offensive, Prime Minister Martin and the Liberal Party have stuck back. Not only that, it looks like the new strategy (BTW, it isn’t quite "let the Wookie win!”) is going to be suggesting that the timing of the report is political and the blame is to be placed on the lap of our good buddy, and last PM, Jean Chrétien.

Paul Wells writes, “The vibe among my colleagues and several MPs on the Hill this afternoon is that the storm has broken, Paul Martin's glasnost has been clumsy but sincere, the polls are getting ready to bounce back, and Martin is now Fighting Back and has the opposition On The Ropes.” (This feeling was first raised a few days back by Christie Blatchford)

cover Good News: Today’s Color Coded Scandal Alert level is Elevated/Yellow Stay guarded media buddies because lucky for all of us, some of the same firms that the Auditor General identified are still getting government contracts. The money is still leaving the building. Maybe there is life in this scandal yet. Clearly some writers aren’t giving in so easily. The Globe’s Margaret Wente writes, “So much for those 60 seats he was going to win in Quebec. He'll be lucky to get half of them now. Quebeckers are mad as hell because the Liberals have made it look as if they're all corrupt. And forget about the West. They hate Liberals even more than ever, if such a thing is possible. Even Ontarians are steamed. They're telling pollsters they'd rather vote for a party with no leader, no policy and no strategy. It's a black day when hacks start writing about what kind of prime minister Stephen Harper would make. Even Belinda seems more popular than Paul is.”

And if that doesn’t work Auditor General reports are coming to a government near you soon on the cross country whistle stop tour! Currently AG’s are selling out shows in Ottawa and New Brunswick! But wait, there’s more! The A.G. Tour 2004’s Next stop: Alberta! Huzzah! ”A.G. Heads” celebrate. (Yes, that’s right, that was an attempted Grateful Dead reference!) On the horizon dreams of getting the A.G. to take a look at B.C.’s spanking new balanced budget.

At the same time as the bleeding seems to have stopped, Conservative leadership hopeful Belinda Stronach used today to level her most significant attacks upon the government. “Mr. Martin was the key minister in the Chrétien government. Now, it's more a question of competence and leadership. And as the captain of a ship, you take responsibility for that ship,” said Stronach. “I am ready to be prime minister of Canada. I think in life it's important to know what you know and what you don't know and can you build a good team.” (More at The Globe and Mail)

The Canadian Queen’s next Champagne and Caviar voyage has been grounded: You know things are serious, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs cancels the next trip abroad for the free spending Governor General. Now if this is a step the government has taken for fear of their jobs, then things are looking up indeed. And with all due respect for Greenland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark they ain’t the center of world affairs right now, so it’s really no loss.

Politics on the Net ‘Play of the Day’: I know everyone’s a little weary of internet political doodads these days in the wake of Howard Dean’s colossal melt-down. But if you do less crazy red-faced rants it might still help. Anyways, Belinda is cooking up the “Belinda National House Party.” Two questions. 1. How “exciting” would a national conference call with Belinda be? And 2. What’s in the party planning package? (Via BlueDraft.com)

Bizarrely & Unintentionally Funny Press Release of the Day: The Stephen Harper campaign must have worked especially hard to come up with this one: “Harper endorses Harper.” We’re glad that contentious issue is settled.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

cover Canadian Political Talking Points – Tuesday Late Night Edition – “Whither Belinda? “ - - The political landscape is changing and moving so quickly this week it is literally hard to keep up. In short the situation today is: fluid. (Today’s Color Coded Liberal Scandal Alert level is High/Orange)

Let’s start with Paul Wells unloading this little ditty: “Bye, Belinda. And sad as it makes me to pin Ernie Eves' sins on anyone else, take Tony Clement — relic of a government that used Magna as the venue for the most ludicrous provincial "budget" in history — with you. This corner hereby does the obvious by endorsing Stephen Harper as the only serious candidate for what has suddenly become a job worth having.”

cover I’m not so sure about this. Pinning the hopes of the new party, even if this scandal is the unraveling of the Liberals, on Stephen Harper still doesn’t exactly fill me with much confidence. Scratch that, Adam Daifallah finds this picture of Harper that is a little bit worrisome and leaves me with even less confidence. Heck, even Harper doesn’t think he’s sewn it up just yet. “My own assessment of this race, frankly, is that there are only two candidates that have the support and the resources to win and that's myself and Belinda Stronach, And while I think Tony has lots of admirable qualities, I don't think he has the financial and organizational support necessary to carry the race.”

But there is movement in the Parties today. It’s been a long time since a Liberal has jumped ship in disgust at their own party’s shear gluttony, but it happened today. And reports show MP John Bryden eyeing up the Conservatives.

World turned Upside down – The Oddities of One Article: This CBC.ca article on the political situation has a couple of excellent points/interesting tidbits in it. 1. Why was Harper giving a speech on the environment? 2. Will this Stronach scandal talking point work? (“Canadians are looking for new and fresh and different alternatives, someone who isn't from the sort of professional political culture in Ottawa") 3. Which leader can reach out and take the country by storm once leader, if any?

Political Laughs of the day: Winner: Trudeaupia has Paul Martin in glorious spam email form: “My name is Paul and I was the Minister of Finance in a corrupt one party state. Jean and I have $100 million dollars trapped in our joint account at a Caisse Populaire in Shawinigan. I urgently need your assistance in freeing these trapped funds.”

Runners Up: Canadian News sites with unintentionally funny special Scandal sized sections (Via Andrew Coyne). The National Post named their special page “Under Siege” meanwhile the CBC goes with the completely generically named “Sponsorship Scandal”

Final Thought: Is it too early to mention the words “scandal fatigue?” My bad, we’ll sweep that sacrilege under the rug for a couple of weeks yet. Fine then, how about how long until we see a Paul Martin bounce?

cover ’04 Journal: Cheesehead Primary Edition: “Not so fast, John Kerry” - - Sen. John F. Kerry’s roll through the Democratic Primaries kept on going tonight in Wisconsin. Kerry narrowly beat Sen. John Edwards with 40 per cent of the vote to 34 per cent. Edwards did much better than the polls leading up to today suggested and that is, at least, something. The New York Times figures this means we are now officially at a two-way battle for the nomination.

The real drama took place as the results were still pouring in. Howard Dean placing a distant third came on to speak. Then moments into his speech, Edwards took to the stage with the line of the night (“The voters of Wisconsin sent a clear message -- Objects in your mirror may be closer than they appear.") and on what his people said was the biggest night of his career, only to be stepped on by a ho-hum Kerry speech that The Wonkette described this way: “As exciting as it was lucid. He won't outsource jobs, he "will outsource George Bush's unaffordable tax cut to the wealthiest Americans." Huh? Chinese laborers will pay our taxes? A stable of colonial auditors? Uh, yeah. And, of course, the compelling denouement: "GO. . . TO. . . JOHN. . . KERRY. . . DOT. . . COM."

Real barn burning stuff Mr. Kerry. My take is that Kerry’s terrible speech actually helps Edwards even more. Now Edwards is not really a great person to become president based on his backwards anti-free trade rhetoric (Ed – “Maybe it’s really Clintonesque triangulation?” Maybe it is.) but he’s certainly worth watching cause believe his values or not the man can give a great speech. But a few more months of Kerry “Shock and Awe-Goring” the audience into submission and Bush may walk away with this. And the idea, with compelling evidence from Slate’s William Saletan that Kerry is more electable than Edwards is ludicrous. Mickey Kaus unearths that the Tim Russert Primary has already proclaimed (was this with a white dry erase board?) that Edwards "cannot win enough delegates to be the nominee." To counter Russert, “Rooftop Report” is running some numbers of his own: “If Edwards grabs 60% of the available delegates left before March 3rd, and assuming Kerry grabs the other 40%, the total delegate count will look something similar to this after Super Tuesday: Kerry: 1118, Edwards: 956”

Andrew Sullivan adds, “The data suggest that Edwards is more electable among those the Democrats need to appeal to: men, Southerners, Republicans and Independents. Yes, he seems a little jejune. Yes, his protectionism is worrying. But he is so obviously a better speaker and a better candidate than the current front-runner. I think Kerry can still be stopped. He was the default choice after Dean flamed out. The Dems now have a real choice - between Kerry and Edwards. I'd go for Edwards in a heartbeat.”

Jonah Goldberg at NRO’s “The Corner” suggests there are many things to have come out of Wisconsin tonight including this golden nugget: “Howard Dean will go down as one of the most interesting footnotes in presidential history.”

Bottom Line: The plot thickens.

The Carnival of the Canucks #10: “The Disneyland Dictatorship- - David Janes is hosting the 10th Carnival of the Canucks today, and there is plenty of great stuff including a link back to us here at Dispatches which is, like, totally, sweet. So if you’re coming over from The Carnival, welcome aboard.

Monday, February 16, 2004

cover Canadian Political Talking Points - Monday Edition: “Canada’s worst fears materialize when they have to choose something other than Liberal” - -

Lead off: If you are looking for a reason not to support Stephen Harper for the leadership of the Conservative Party here’s a frivolous one (not involving his tragic hair). In response to the Conan O’Brien/Triumph imbroglio he is quoted in the New York Times for his take: "We can all make jokes about each other but you don't start telling people in Quebec they have to speak another language. That's completely unacceptable." It’s true, Stephen Harper has no sense of humor (hello it was a plastic dog buddy), take from that what you need.

The 2nd Most Powerful Man in Canada?: The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson raises an interesting question today. What if the Liberal Party’s fortune fades only to the point where Jack Layton and the NDP become positioned to become a viable aide to a minority government thus keeping the Conservatives out of power? With the Liberals in charge, you simply cannot rule this out.

There are two problems. The Liberals need to slip even more to lose, still. Perhaps another billion will tip the scales. In fact the worse the Liberals do, the more likely an insane coalition could be even conceivable. The next question for Conservatives, then, is who is the candidate best suited to upset this Liberal worse case scenario. Well that’s the big question isn’t it? Then again maybe the scandal is enough to dispose of the Liberals outright anyway.

Bourque reports tonight that the new Ipsos poll shows the Liberals at 36 percent (CTV reports it really is 35 per cent. Via Adam Daifallah). I have a word for it: free fall. Or as Jeffrey Simpson puts it a, “complete nightmare.” Clearly the press is willing to throw caution to the wind this time and try to help throw the bums out. And you know what. When A-Rod joins the evil empire in New York and Boston loses the penant at a history shattering early date (February 16) the thought that the Liberals might go down doesn't seem as crazy as it once did.

May I suggest a new Strategy: One way, I think, regardless of polls and Liberal fortunes, that the Conservatives could sway the public would be to find not just a leader, but a whole team of competent and star quality people. A cabinet in the making. All three leadership candidates should be a part of that [Ed: That’s just not going to happen that’s true but it happens elsewhere doesn’t it]. Roy MacGreggor writes something along these lines: “Take, for example, Stephen Harper's experience on the floor of the House of Commons, Belinda Stronach's remarkable gift for the front page and Tony Clement's substance. Put all that together and Prime Minister Paul Martin might be ducking from something other than the Auditor-General.”

cover Cool Scandal Link of the Day: Stephen Taylor has a great distraction to all this with his downloadable “Liberal Monopoly” game board desktop. He adds, “The Liberals have passed GO three times, let's stop them from playing this game with our country.”

Closer to home : In my own riding in North Vancouver-Seymour incumbent MP Ted White suggests that his nomination for the new party is now in peril. According to BlueDraft.com and the letter from White also posted on the site (you can read it here. Via Barton Wong at ESR’s Musings.) a bunch of new memberships have rolled into Ottawa all with $10 bills attached. White suggests that the hundreds of new memberships are all from the large Iranian community in our neighborhood and there is now concern from White that his nomination is in jeopardy.

Leave aside the issue of the new memberships being Iranian. But what’s with the $10 bills. Who joins a political party with cash? Makes it pretty easy to sign people up without making them pay for it. Then again, the people have to still show up so it’s hard to follow what, if anything, is going on here. Of course the local papers have nothing on this yet.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

cover Canadian Political Talking Points - Sunday Edition - - For the second time in as many weeks a national uproar unfolded in Canada this Thursday. This time it was after the appearance of Triumph the Insult Dog on Conan O’Brien’s late night show broadcasting this week from Toronto. Triumph was outrageously skewering French Canadians and like the Don Cherry comments some people are outraged. It’s hilarious.

cover Scandal-palooza: Tonight, the Prime Minister is offering to put his job on the line. That is political tough talk the likes of which we rarely see and he is trying to stop the major bleeding. Martin has had a rough week, but there is plenty of life left in him yet by the sounds of his Sunday performance.

Adam Daifallah has the scandal covered too. On Friday he was wondering if there would be “outrage.” (9:52 PM) Just over 24 hours later, Daifallah says, “”There's outrage
And for the first time in, well, 10 years, it looks like a Liberal scandal is sticking.” Wow that was fast.

As the “scandal” goes on Andrew Coyne thinks it needs a name. My only suggestion is for the love of god, please don’t add the word “gate” to the end (and I really don’t want to see a Maclean’s, Globe, Star, or NatPost cover with the words “credibility gap” either but I will make exceptions for rolling out headlines that include the phrase: “What did he know, and when did he know it” – David Janes thankfully has that one covered on his site.). Too late Coyne has suggested: Sluicegate (not good), but ads “Adscam”, “Gens du payola”, “Money for nothing”, or “Group Actionable”. They are all pretty lame if you ask me.

What to watch for next? 1. To start with catching some of the same people that were so outraged by the Conan O’Brien Triumph stunt that they frothingly claimed it was “racist” try to talk with credibility about a real scandal.

2, Conservatives overplaying their hands. Think: Republican’s versus Clinton in, say, 1998. While the polls are trending badly for the Liberals it doesn’t mean anything at this point. There is a fine line between articulating a reasonable amount of outrage over what appears to be gross mismanagement. That doesn’t directly equal the high ground. So don’t say anything that will make you look like a crackpot later. It might worthwhile to explain, oh I don’t know, how you might better manage the people’s money.

3. Luck be a lady. The other interesting thing to note is just how much politics is about luck. Right time, right place. If I were any of the three Conservative candidates I would have trouble sleeping at night wondering if they could be sleeping at 24 Sussex soon. (And no, that doesn’t mean you Tony Clement, sorry. – so that’s two.) Especially Belinda Stronach. You want someone absolutely clean from the stink of Ottawa? She’s it.

Other Campaign News: Worst Press Release Headline of the week comes to us from the Belinda Stronach campaign: “Belinda Stronach is Quebec’s Valentine”. Runner up: Tony Clement’s: “Debate Shows Clement Ready to Lead Conservative Party.” In fact Clement’s might be much worse. Then again could I forget Stephen Harper’s: “Harper Demands Answers from Martin NOW”. Wow I bet Martin is shaking.

Enter Stage Right Commentary: Over at this week's Enter Stage Right, my new column is up. "Can Canada's teflon Liberal Party Strike Back?" takes a look at whether or not this current scandal can stick to the Liberals this time. Geek alert: Star Wars references are used.

Completely Unserious - - Anytime I start to remotely feel like the Bush Administration is completely botching things, the Democrats reaffirm that they are completely unserious. The "Cheese" Debate in Wisconsin tonight was another reminder. Here are some quick takes:

1. Where is the free trading candidate in this party? I was secretly wondering tonight why Clinton can?t tell one of these bozos that free trade actually works.
2. Free Drugs from Canada. (Okay, cheap drugs). We?re not stupid up here you know and the last thing you want is to be hooked on our cheap drugs, our government, as stupid as it often is, will figure this out and find a way to completely rip you off.
3. And while were talking cheap drugs, if Edwards, Kerry, and Dean continue to talk about reigning in NAFTA (and some of them talking about repealing it) you won?t be getting the cheap drugs idiots.
4. Outsourcing what up? See Daniel Drezner for a round up of this 2004 issue.

Here is some live blogging of the debate at The American Mind.

Update: Slate's Chris Suellentrop thinks the debate was notable for the return of the Kerry that was nearly dead in the water two months ago. "It wasn't disastrous, but it's as bad as I've seen him. He sounded like the meandering, orotund Kerry of last summer. His answers to questions about diversity and gay marriage were muddled incoherence, and he claimed that it wasn't his fault that the Bush administration has abused the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the congressional Iraq war resolution. But if you vote for broadly written laws that are abused by the administration in power when you passed them, aren't you at least partly to blame for the consequences? You wouldn't let your 6-year-old drive the family car and then blame him for the accident. And you can be certain that if the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and the war were popular with Democratic voters, Kerry would be taking credit for them."

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Canadian Political Talking Points Mini Wednesday Night Edition - - Two out of three Conservative Party leadership hopefuls debated today (See the Globe and Mail’s coverage too). Tony Clement labeled Stephen Harper as both divisive and unelectable. A CBC report claimed Clement went into the debate “full throttle.” (The report was by the unfortunately named Jennifer Ditchburn. Why do they insist on making her report from outside in a big jacket and scarf? It’s ridiculous. I mean, not more than the debate itself, but silly still.)

Scandal Day Two: Paul Wells has the best and most astute bit of analysis about the latest scandal today. “With the belated and partial exception of the NDP, the opposition parties have failed for a decade to realize that when the Liberals are in trouble, the eyes of the nation often turn to the opposition, to see if anyone there deserves a switched vote.

Here, for the edification of folks like MacKay, Pallister, Grant Hill, Yvon Godin, Yvan Loubier and about two dozen other opposition MPs, is a précis of many Canadians' thinking during times like this: "Boy are the Liberals making a mess of things. Is there anybody here who acts like they could do a better job?...”

That’s a great question.

Surprise, Warren Kinsella is still shoveling it. Journalist Andrew Coyne was all over this story, but alas he's crashed his Rogers website. Will somebody please pay him to blog this scandal, and election?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

cover Tonight’s West Wing as Foreign Policy Tutorial - - Okay, you caught me, I watch this infernal show. It’s like water torture and I can’t stop. Tonight’s episode of The West Wing, I think, explains lots about where the average Democrat’s head is at. The episode is called “The Warfare of Genghis Khan” and begins with a nuclear test going off in the atmosphere in the Indian Ocean. I know it’s fiction but think about what happened on tonight’s episode:

1. They “apparently” didn’t know anything about before hand. (Will Martin Sheen fire the CIA head? Why was his intelligence so bad that they were caught unaware?)
2. They assume it must be Iran. But they really have no idea whatsoever. (Sound familiar?) Nevertheless, they summon the Iranian diplomat from the UN. Then in the Swiss embassy they threaten him (three on one).
3. Pres. Sheen, I mean Bartlett, then orders up some bombers to take our Iran’s nuclear capability.
4. Where is the U.N. in all this? One staffer raises the point, twice. But the Chief of Staff character makes a pretty awesome defense that boils down to shoot first, ask questions later. (Is Dick Cheney the role model?)
5. The Vice President (Not Cheney, the Dan Quale-like one on the show) says that one time (,,,at band camp…) on a junket to the Middle East a drunk Israeli official ‘blurted out’ mention of nuclear subs – evidence of course a 2nd Strike capability. (Why is this loser the only person who knows it? What did he know and when did he know it?)
6. Phew. They recall the bombers before they level Iran. (I guess nobody around the globe was alarmed that America was on route to bomb Iran)
7. Then they get the Israeli PM to show in the Oval office for a thoughtful discussion about nuclear strategy and proliferation.


Stay tuned next week for more West Wing foreign policy follies as the gang has to put some special forces into North Korea to extract some downed U.S. serviceman. The Bartlett Presidency continues it’s “reckless” and “radical” foreign policy.

I know all of this is like a poor rip-off of an After School Special of National Security, but this is really a good indication on how simple and easy the majority of people, and certainly many Democrats, think defense, national security, and foreign policy is. If the option to go unilateral on murky intell is good enough for The West Wing it’s good enough for George W. Bush too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Canadian Political Political Talking Points: “Conservative Leadership Race rolls on” - - Tony Clement picked the same day as the almost shocking Auditor General’s report to announce his “revolutionary” tax cutting plan. Way to put that at the bottom of the news cycle Tony. Tony Clement Media Relations team, call your office.

Here’s the lede of the plan: “A radical tax-reform platform that would free Canadians from paying federal taxes on their first $250,000 in lifetime earnings was introduced today by Conservative Party leadership candidate Tony Clement.”

You’re so crafty Tony. Go for the youth vote. Not only do they vote less, they probably won’t be voting conservative. Here’s a hint: easy to understand tax cuts FOR EVERYONE.

cover Belinda campaigns at the all important Tim Horton’s institution hoping to roll up the rim to win the leadership. Oh and she demanded that the Liberal Party pays back the cash it may have gotten.

And where is Stephen Harper during the scandal? I Searched his site and Google News and the most recent thing I found was this on Conan O’Brien: “In still another bit of deadpan Canadiana, O'Brien and bandleader Max Weinberg offered "Canadian Small Talk Moment" in which they indulged in a faux-serious political conversation that referenced Toronto Mayor David Miller and former mayor Mel Lastman, the Alliance Party, the NDP and Stephen Harper, again raising the prospect that U.S. viewers won't know what's going on.”

Now that is some PR machine you have Mr. Harper! I love the timely press releases on your site from February 6th! Even Belinda has issued a Presser! And Tony rolled out a new tax plan today (fine we’ll call that a wash since that got about as much coverage today as the news that Star Wars is coming to DVD. Actually it probably got less). Thank goodness there is a Newsworld Debate tomorrow (but without Belinda there, will anyone really watch?).

Whoops can that debate compete with the new CBC drama about Ottawa politics?

cover Canadian Politics is Fun, again? - - The CBC is cashing in on all the excitement that Ottawa has to offer and making a drama, West Wingish style, about Canadian politics. “Snakes and Ladders” according to the CBC is “new hour-long dramatic series, taking a humorous look at life on Parliament Hill.” Oh, let the hilarity ensue.

“This six-part series follows the adventures of a young woman who lands a job as special assistant to the Minister of Human Resources and Government Services in Ottawa. In her new job, Shannon Jennings (Amy Price-Francis) must chart her way through the world of hidden agendas, scrums and damage control-while trying to find some time for dating.”

My goodness I can hardly contain myself. It sounds so funny. Politics Watch has more on this ground breaking television event including this tidbit: “You will never hear the words Liberal, Bloc or Tory uttered on Snakes and Ladders, as the series never uses real political party names or even fictional party names.”

Ah, the CBC, is there anything it can’t do? They must be field testing a new tagline after the Don Cherry “GrapesGate” and this dog’s breakfast and waste of tax dollars: “The CBC: taking the fun out of television since 2004”. Bravo. Who knows how much the CBC spent on this, but the show, once called "Political Animals" also got another $1.9 million from the Canadian Television Fund (granted that is a public/private partnership - This program has a budget of approximately $145 million composed of $37 million from the Department of Canadian Heritage and approximately $108 million from Canadian cable companies.)

Reality check: Let see if we have this straight. “Snakes and Ladders” is kind of “Sex and the City” crossed with the wacky world of Canadian politics? Damn why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this before? We smell a hit. (Do we even have “hits” in Canadian television?)

This just in Government of Canada wasting tax dollars, paying off supporters with goodies - - The Auditor General reported today. The “Groupaction” scandal grips a nation sitting on the edge of its seat. But for the life of me I can’t figure out what is so shocking about this “scandal.”

Damian Penny sounds about as shocked as I am. Colby Cosh isn’t really fired up either. Paul Wells suggests it’s a “blockbuster” and lays the blame on the door step of Jean Chretien. The CBC late news called it “blistering” and referred to the letter ‘S’ for Scarlet Letter. (We wish this was that kind of scandal)

Andrew Coyne lays it out outraged style. “Let me get this straight. Over a six year period, the federal government spent a quarter of a billion dollars advertising itself in Quebec -- a scandal in itself. Of that amount, 40% -- that's $100-million -- was siphoned into the pockets of various middle-men, mostly well-connected Liberal advertising firms. The money was funnelled through virtually every part of the government, from Crown corporations to government departments to the RCMP.

And we are supposed to believe that no one knew anything about it? That the Finance minister, one Paul Martin, knew nothing about it? That Pierre Pettigrew, the political minister for Quebec, knew nothing about it? That Lucienne Robillard knew nothing of it? That Denis Coderre knew nothing of it? It was all just Alfonso Gagliano's doing?”

To be honest the country that spend much of it’s last week worring about what Don Cherry said about the wimpy European hockey players isn’t going to go into full on Watergate mode. I doubt many people will get fired up on every new story development about what Paul Martin knew, and when he knew it. They should, but they won’t.

’04 Journal: Fallout from the Tuesday Night Fights - - The headlines: 5 down, 5 left. Kerry wins two more, Clark throws in towel, Edwards & Dean vow to fight on, Sharpton & Kucinich still wasting our time. (Here are the Box Scores)

Five candidates remain. Who will be voted out of Democratic Survivor next? Boredom of this race is setting in. Why are Dean and Edwards just letting Kerry walk away with this? They need to slam him and slam him hard. I would imagine that Dean should be the negative robot.

Monday, February 09, 2004

coverBush Foreign Policy - - President Bush is getting hammered since his appearance on “Meet the Press” yesterday. But let’s get some good stuff out there first. News that John Lewis Gaddis has a new book coming out is good anyways. I’ll always remember reading his Strategies of Containment with Dr. Ross. (Nice work to Rich Lowry of NRO for bringing this to our attention)

Let’s forget about this walk down memory lane and focus on Gaddis’ new book “Surprise, Security, and the American Experience.” The Boston Globe has an interesting preview of the beast: “According to a slim forthcoming volume by John Lewis Gaddis, the Yale historian whom many describe as the dean of Cold War studies and one of the nation's most eminent diplomatic historians, they are John Quincy Adams, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and George W. Bush.”

What is truly interesting, and timely, about Gaddis’ book, and possibly a new tomb from Walter Russell Mead called ”Power, Terror, Peace, and War: America's Grand Strategy in a World at Risk” is that if 2003 was the year of the book bashing Bush, 2004 seems to be shaping up dramatically different.

But Time is rolling out the tried and true “credibility gap” red carpet on its front page. The “C-Bomb” is out. We’ll see if this sticks. I think there are plenty of people in the media, and it seems in the Democratic Party, who wishes Iraq was Vietnam. But there is increasing evidence that supports that al Qaeda is losing Iraq. (see Daniel Drezner on the al Qaeda Memo. And be sure to read Glenn Reynolds who has the remarkable screen shot on how CNN.com was spinning the “memo”)

Plus if you’re not reading Winds of Change – you should be!

Meanwhile this email over at The Corner might be worth the read. “Bush should argue that he, unlike Kerry, learned the right lessons from Vietnam - that you support the troops wholeheartedly once they are at war, and only that commitment guarantees victory. Kerry, for a Vietnam vet, should realize that voting for war and then against the funding of the war is exactly the type of hesitant and apprehensive behavior that causes the world to view the US as a paper tiger and helps break down morale at home and in combat.” (Wouldn’t an exchange along those lines at a debate be something else)

cover And really, since this post is primarily about the coming wave of new books defending Bush and his presidency we would be remiss not to include Bush Country: How Dubya Became a Great President While Driving Liberals Insane by John Podhoretz. It's at least nice to see that there is a vibrant battle for the minds of readers between the left and right. I doubt any of the authors of these books will become media darlings but they might stand up to history better than the Moore or Franken books will. Time will tell.

Democrats Gone Wild, Plus Gore "Hulks" into Dean - - The audio to Gore's speech is mind blowing. Just for starters Jonah Goldberg is right to wonder where this crazy accent came from. And what is this "The Truth will Rise again" business. Please, please let Al Gore go to all the states Dean wanted to during his red-faced rant. Please.

Slate's Chris Sullentrop wonders if it is 1976 all over again. "In an angry, sweaty shout, sounding like the second coming of Huey Long, Gore drew an extended comparison between the post-Watergate election of 1976, the year of his first election to Congress, and the post-Iraq election of 2004."

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Late Sunday Political Wrap Up - - I’ve spend much of the weekend reading. I finished Benjamin Barber’s “Fear’s Empire” and the Frum/Perle Neocon handbook (how delicious). The reviews of both will be up this week.

The Kerry stuff is coming out fast and furious now, and perhaps the honeymoon is finally over. Mickey Kaus has some info on why the nomination ain’t over yet – no fat lady singing you say?

And the Washington Post has more on Kerry’s 19-year Senate record. Oh, and Kerry won his third primary of the weekend today. I also checked out the latest New Yorker, and this article wasn’t bad, although dated already. (It’s nice to see the New Yorker archive some great pieces on the 2004 campaign trail. Check it out here. It might be worth checking out this 2002 piece on Kerry.- “Kerry's foreign policy seems a muscular multilateralism: active, detailed engagement with the countries in the Middle East and elsewhere; less pompous rhetoric and more of the patient scut work—the diplomatic consultation, the building of direct relationships with local intelligence and police agencies—that will make an occasional use of force by America more palatable. There is an implication that much of the Bush Administration's bombast has been for domestic political consumption, an attempt to sound tougher than Bill Clinton did.”)

Kerry immediately responded to the President’s “Meet the Press” hour this morning. Daniel Drezner has a great round-up and look at the Bush performance and what it all means. In short: lots of people didn’t like it.

Oh, and in this same article there is what looks like on paper an Gore pretending to be Dean speech – does that make it a “I have a Dean” speech? “His voice rising to a shout, Gore declared: ‘It is not a minor matter to take the loyalty and deep patriotic feelings of the American people and trifle with them. And so I say to you, my friends, in 2004, the truth shall rise again.’”.

Meanwhile Christopher Hitchens gives his pick for the Democrats. On Howard Dean: “I claim no prescience for predicting the implosion of Howard Dean: He was obviously very lucky to get as far as the governorship of Vermont. A man who will say anything to any audience if he thinks it will raise the roof is a candidate to be shunned.”

And you have to read if only to see his take on Kerry: “As with most senior Democrats, Kerry's revolving-door record with lobbyists and donors is one to make Cheney and Bush look like amateurs.”

The Foreign Policy of Sen. John F. Kerry - - My EnterStageRight.com article this week is a look at what Sen. Kerry’s foreign policy is all about.

“The good news is that National Security really does seem to be emerging as the definitive issue in the 2004 campaign as weapons of mass destruction remain at large, as President Bush announces a special panel to investigate intelligence failures, and as the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan continue. Sen. Kerry may want President Bush to bring it on, but more often than not, the voters end up agreeing with Republicans on matters of war and peace.” [Read the whole article over at ESR]

Saturday, February 07, 2004

As the Canadian political scene heats up, Macleans magazine bashes Bush - - What a joke. Canadian politics is heating up: new Prime Minister, new political party, leadership races, looming elections, etc. And yet Canada's political magazine, Macleans, puts it's resources into a ridiculous poll and hatchet piece on why Canadians don't like George W. Bush - and more silly, why they hope he loses the election.

"Only 15 per cent, according to an exclusive new Maclean's poll, would definitely cast a ballot for Bush if they had the opportunity. And if Americans remain almost evenly divided -- some 50 per cent approve of his performance in the White House and he's running neck and neck with his likely Democratic challengers -- there is no such dithering on this side of the border. Just 12 per cent of us feel Canada is better off since he took office, and only a third of respondents will admit to liking the world's most powerful man, even just a little bit."

Poor babies Bush didn't make Canada better. He didn't give us a tax cut either morons. More on this later.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Cherry-Gate Update: The Crushing of Dissent - - While American remains in the deathgrip of the Super Bowl fiasco, Canada is silencing its own sports half-time-ish entertainment. The CBC has decided to put Don Cherry on a 7-second delay to avoid any future unpleasantness.

It gets worse. You’d think that Don Cherry was killing kittens or something. And, I just can’t resist, there is so much grape crushing going down right now that the CBC could make a fine wine (I apologize). In the Ottawa Citizen, Jean Augustine, the Liberal government's junior minister for multiculturalism said, “"Most Canadians who value diversity, who commit to ensuring respect for each other, would feel . . . that kind of language is not really acceptable . . . . The government will not tolerate statements that create dissonance in our society and disrespect for others.''

And NDP Leader Jack Layton added that Cherry, “should be ashamed of himself. It's disgusting and unacceptable. He should certainly be apologizing, and maybe something more than that. Who knows? I'm in shock.''

Give it a rest Layton.

What would have been the Gore White House response to 9/11? - - The Washington Post’s look at Gen. Wesley Clark’s personal papers reveal that there was political pressure to end or at least swiftly conclude the Kosovo, “at almost any cost, because the presidential campaign of then-Vice President Al Gore was about to begin.”

Was this a sneak peak at how a Gore White House would undertake and decide matters of national security and military deployments? Ever the gentleman, Gore’s people disagree:

“Leon Feurth, his national security adviser at the time, said that politics were not discussed at White House national security meetings, and that while Gore opposed preparing for a ground war, he supported continuing the bombing as long as necessary to win. Gore "was prepared to take a political hit" on such issues, Feurth said.”

If Gore operated like Clinton did, and we would have to assume that he would, we might have quite a situation on our hands now. Then there is this shocking revelation:

“Clark told the historian that he chafed during the war at having to submit individual bombing targets to the White House and the French government for approval. He said Clinton reviewed them directly, apparently because of embarrassment over the U.S. military's 1998 bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan. He also quoted a deputy French defense minister as acknowledging that Paris rejected some of his target choices simply for the sake of ‘saying no.’”

Everyone’s been pretty hard on Wes Clark, including me, so it’s hard to conceive of a reality where this news helps him politically. But it certainly cast a new light on the Clinton/Gore foreign policy (and no doubt the Democratic foreign policy). And the 64,000-dollar campaign questions will be as it was every day since 9/11: Are you safer today than you were on 9/10? Are you safer with Bush – Cheney – Powell – Rumsfeld – Ridge - Rice than you would be with Kerry? Dean? Edwards? Albright? Gore? If you are Bush on Sunday now might be a good time to start asking these questions.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

’04 Journal Thursday Night Roundup - - Howard Dean’s minions are throwing the candidate a lifeline as they raised over $700,000 on the Internet today to help compete in the now must-win Wisconsin Primary on February 17th. Alamo, Alamo, Alamo! Now they want contributors to double that. Jim Moore calls it “mindblowing” and concludes that “Giving is the sacrament that brings the Dean community together.”

All this while others decide what to do with Dean’s “Blog For America” after he pulls out. I only have one question. $1.4 million to win Wisconsin? Hold on one second. The poll numbers out of Wisconsin look pretty bleak for Dean: Kerry 35 Clark 11 Edwards 9 Dean 8

Now Dean and the others have been harsh on Bush’s spending habits, but is asking for, then spending, $1.4 million at this point anything short of a waste of money?

John Kerry gets thrown an anchor in the form of a Dick Gephardt endorsement. These endorsements so far in the Democratic Primary season have been kisses of death. If I were Kerry I would run away hard. Or is Gephardt on the short-list of Veep candidates for Kerry?

As the Democrats go to the polls again on Saturday and again next Tuesday, President Bush is going on the offensive to get back into the race. First was his speech today from South Carolina and tomorrow he’s assigning Sen. John McCain, among others, to look into the intelligence failures (Brilliant). Oh, and on Sunday he’ll suck up the hour of Tim Russert’s “Meet the Press.”

Dine Out Vancouver - - Just under the wire, some friends and I checked out an interesting Yaletown restaurant last night in conjunction with the Dine Out Vancouver program. Normally this sort of el cheap-o dinner, like coupons, attracts the worst possible kind of people but we went anyway. Thankfully there weren’t too many weirdoes and the place seemed happy to be so packed on a Wednesday evening.

Glowbal Grill and Satay Bar was pretty funky (especially with the Indian influenced house music that could put you in a pleasant trance). The food was tasty and the $25 menu included appetizer (I had the Satay Platter – the Lamb was melt in your mouth), dinner (Beef Tenderloin – small but excellent), and the best darn Banana Fritter (That’s right, Banana Fritter!) ever. It was worth it just for the Fritter. We also liked the Mojitos, which were tasty as hell. The service was exactly how I like efficient and minimal. The website promised a place where you could see and be seen – I think that may have overstated the place’s trendy factor, which was a good thing. The company was excellent.

Canadian Political Talking Points Wednesday Edition - - Only in Canada can the picture of a political candidate and a ridiculous large snowman hold equal weight with kissing babies on the campaign trail.

Hide and Seek:Did anyone watch even one debate thus far in the Democratic Primary race? I’ve watched at least four of them. All four were pathetic. The idea that it is actually a debate anymore is farcical. Today, Stephen Harper’s team is all over Belinda Stronach because she only wants to do the party organized debates which means she’s declined an upcoming one on CBC Newsworld. Instinctively I think Harper’s minions are right. The lingering question is what is she afraid of?

The problem with this is two-fold. First, debates these days are terrible. Second, there should be perhaps two debates. Anything more is overkill. They are so bad that the more ‘debate’ the less people will even care. The other thing is, why is Harper so insistent that Belinda do all these debates? Why not just do them without so she looks foolish. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that Harper’s strength may be in debating the issues (and don’t get me wrong that is great) and he could make up for his lack of strength across the nation by picking on the other two candidates? The funny thing about this, is that Harper’s team comes off, at least in print, as whiny and slightly lame while Belinda looks by all accounts thus far calm and above the fray. Bottom Line: Note that the story will be that she’s afraid to debate and that she won’t be prepared. Can you say lowered expectations? When she then shows up she’ll get outperform grade on her performance.

Today’s Leadership Poll: Belinda’s team leaked out the results of a new Northstar Research Partners poll they conducted showing Belinda is leading. “Stronach at 41% leads Harper at 28% and Clement at 19%. 13% of Canadians say they are undecided.” Now even those in the harshest stages of Belinda-Mania would agree that these internal polls don’t carry much weight.

In response Harper Co-Chair John Reynolds issued this ‘brilliant’ press release. Reynolds’ crack team of researchers read Belinda’s Campaign Director’s (John Laschinger) 1992 book on polling and all but accuses Team Belinda of either making up the poll or fudging the numbers. Oh, the irony. It’s getting ugly out there.

Bottom of the Barrel Round-Up: Eject! The new party has ejected MP Larry Spencer today. He’s the MP that wanted to turn back the clock to 1969 when homosexual acts were illegal.

The Belinda.ca Youth Page hot new features! Belinda in Animation form! Yikes how totally creepy. Plus get the Belinda “Let’s Get This Party Started” poster.

Stephen Taylor’s blog publishes a fundraising letter from NDP leader Jack Layton which surprise, surprise, highlights what can only be described as a tax cut. How delicious.

Not sure who you want to support? Check out the Clement-Harper-Stronach Issue Matrix by Darren Barefoot.

And Bourque is doing up the Question Period Day Two Drudge Style! “For the second afternoon in a row, Question Period was seized by the murky issues surrounding the byzantine relationship between Paul Martin's far-flung business interests and the Government of Canada. Today, Martin divulged that he has asked the Auditor-General of Canada, Sheila Fraser, to look into the whole issue. But that wasn't enough to appease the rabid Opposition, sensing an upcoming election if not a knock-out punch. Up on their feet, they jumped, a gaggle of Tories, Bloquistes, and NDippers, blasting the Government front benches about secret CSL sub-contracts, Barbados tax loopholes, and two-tier ethics.”

Knock out punch? Time will tell.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Cheese Eating French troops surrender to CBC’s Don Cherry - - I don’t usually write about hockey. But the small, and no doubt, tiny uproar over another comment by Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry this morning was simply too much to ignore. The imbroglio began this past Saturday when Cherry said that visors “are for Europeans and Frenchman.”

The Can West News Service’s Jack Todd is in full-blown “Visor-Gate” mode and makes the outcry over Janet Jackson’s infraction at the Super Bowl seem tame. “What Cherry said was not almost racist,” writes Todd. “It was racist, pure and simple. A slap in the face to one of Canada's two founding peoples, an insult to half the players in the league and, for good measure, a punishingly stupid argument in favour of more eye injuries in the NHL.”

See even more here in the Calgary Herald. At least this article says, “It's important to keep things in perspective, so let's not get carried away and suggest Don Cherry's loutish TV rantings can be connected with Hannah Arendt's enduring phrase ‘the banality of evil.’” (Just so you’re clear, Don Cherry and Hannah Arendt have no business being in the same sentence, ever.)

Look, if you can get away with calling the “French” cheese-eating surrendering monkey’s without the sky falling, I’m sure a hockey commentator can mock them for wearing visors too. National Review’s Jonah Goldberg routinely says absolutely terrible things about the French (as does Groundskeeper Willy by the way) such as, “Now, as we all know, there are many good reasons to hate the cheese-eating surrender monkeys — as groundskeeper Willie and all longtime readers know them. Survey after survey reveals that raccoons bathe more than the average Frenchman. They stuck us with Vietnam and took credit for liberating Paris after they spent most of World War Two chastising the chef for not serving Herr General a Fresh brioche.”

In the print version of Todd’s article I read in the print version of the National Post (This column is in every damned paper) he says, “For a man who loves to glorify the military, Cherry betrayed an almost stunning ignorance of every battle from Austerlitz to Verdun to Dieppe – and here we are speaking of the courage of French soldiers from both France and Quebec…” And it goes on and on like that celebrating the fighting spirit of the French soldier. I don’t doubt it, but if you can’t make fun of ‘The French’ for their pathetic hand over of France during WWII is there anything open for comedic interpretation anymore?

Basically calling hockey players who wear visors French (Read: Wimps) is not racist. Ridiculous and silly for sure, but it’s all in good fun. I guess when in other places referring to some European hockey players as “Euros” gets you suspended political correctness has won the battle of the day, again.

Today’s Canadian Political Talking Points - - It’s Tuesday, it must be time for more Belinda Bashing by the press. How much more can the Belinda Stronach campaign take?

Basically the same talking points as yesterday only better, since they are today’s! Charles Adler is still not impressed with our little Belinda. He hits the current one-two media punch:

1. Nobody takes her seriously “And no westerner believes that B.S. is electable for the simple reason that nobody in the country will take seriously the idea of B.S. being prime minister.” Okay he kicks it up one more notch: “You can write me at cadler @cjob.com and tell me what you think will happen to the conservative movement if B.S. becomes the boss. But my guess is it will kill the brand known as conservative for least a generation. The word conservative will be taken about as seriously as "Edsel."

2. Her Quebec strategy isn’t sitting well. “What happens if B.S. wins the leadership by virtue of gerrymandering the vote by buying up memberships for nonexistent people in Quebec? (Yes, that's been done before. Names have been literally scribbled off tombstones in Quebec graveyards. It is not an urban myth. It is Conservative reality.)”

We’ve seen the case made, early and often, against Belinda Stronach. What’s the case for Stephen Harper or Tony Clement? I haven’t seen it yet.

Val Sears really ratcheted up the rhetoric with this one (not). My goodness do they just handout columns in this country to everyone? (If they do, I’d sure like one, my god Sears is the about as exciting as Joe Lieberman’s now defunct campaign) Here’s his gripping opening barrage: “There are very few truths I know about women despite decades of close study. But one thing I am clear about: You can't tell what a woman is thinking by listening to what she is saying.”

And Adler is wondering why nobody is paying attention to this race? Please, where is American Idol’s Simon when you need him to laugh this column out of existence?

Question Period! And in the very first opportunity since yesterday’s Throne Speech Question Period heated up – well, I assume it did, it just doesn’t jump off the page like it surely must have in person. Interim Conservative Leader Grant Hill unloaded: “Yesterday's speech was a great pile of platitudes and promises that, if the past is any guide, the government has no intention of keeping.”

Phew, and we thought he was serious about all that stuff yesterday. Thankfully Martin served up even more platitudes and promises today.

The only response anybody who is actually paying attention really cares about is (surprise) Belinda Stronach’s. “There was nothing about tax relief and there was nothing to help our economy pay for his expensive promises," said Stronach. I liked that Stronach’s talking point of the day was that the Throne Speech offered few specifics, and no specifics on anything that really meant anything. She’s got no specifics? Well neither does our government in case you haven’t noticed and that hasn’t seemed to be a problem for them in the past few years. Just a thought. We’ve already heard that she’ll give up her salary if she were to become Prime Minister – She’s so very Governator isn’t she?(and hey, didn’t he win without specifics?)- now she’s talking set elections. If she keeps it up with this drip of easy to understand policy, she may pull a rabbit out of the hat. A hat the pundit class might have to eat by March.

A short word on the Liberal Left Flank - - There has been plenty of talk about how Jack Layton and the NDP are the biggest threat to Paul Martin because he’s not left wing enough. We wish! But I’m still not buying it. All we’ve seen from Martin so far is a textbook maneuver on Little Round Top at Gettysburg with bayonets. He’s not going right, he’s going left. This will help him paint whoever the presumptive Conservative leader as a heartless and evil conservative.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

’04 Journal Update: Kerry wins 5 of 7, Edwards and Clark still alive - - John Kerry won five of seven primary states tonight bringing his trophy case total to seven of nine. While Sen. Joe Lieberman ended his journey after yet another poor showing, Gen. Wesley Clark and Sen. John Edwards each won state and live on to fight another day.

Howard Dean vows to fight on too, although he barely contested these seven states. Momentum seems to have fallen from Howard Dean and his insurgent campaign. National Review Online’s Michael Graham writes, “Even over the TV, you can see the energy is gone and the passion has faded, both for him and his supporters.” Somewhere in the time after Iowa and before tonight, Howard Dean must have caught “Joe-Mentum”. It isn’t pretty. Speaking of Joe, William Saletan at Slate.com has the obligatory “Joebituary.”

Kerry won Missouri, Arizona, New Mexico, Delaware, and North Dakota. Kerry claimed victory and said, “For the second time in two weeks, a New England Patriot has won on the road!" More important for Kerry is that the field is still fairly strong, at least for another week, since Kerry’s worst enemy is, er, himself. But John Edwards beat Kerry by 15 points in his backyard of South Carolina and just narrowly lost to Clark in Oklahoma. Now three candidates can claim at least one victory in the 2004 race for the nomination and Edwards one victory seems to be the big story versus Kerry’s five. Will the anybody-but-Kerry-candidate please stand up?

The most interesting thing heard during the evening surrounded the possibility of a Kerry nominee who might chose to concede defeat in the South to fight in the North, West, and Sunbelt. This new idea spreading in 2004 is that you can win an election without the South. While technically true, in this case there may be a problem with that. As MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said tonight, presume a concession of the South to the GOP and the fight along the margins. The problem with this strategy is that George W. Bush could use his $200 million war chest in places like the outskirts of Philadelphia and other battleground areas that could swing either way in a 2000-style tight election. Some already would suggest that Edwards on the ticket would help this along the border states.

The question is whether or not Edwards wants to become Joe Lieberman to Kerry’s Gorebot this year or fuel 2008 ambitions by a strong second place – and who knows I heard Pat Buchanan talk about Attorney Gen and Supreme Court in the same breath as Edwards.

Super Seven Predictions - - I’ve was wrong about John Edwards in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Tonight, I think he’s going to pull one out South Carolina. (And thus, he’ll probably just barely lose, end his campaign, and endorse Kerry to be the VP nominee.)

The consensus seems to be that South Carolina and Oklahoma are the only two states Kerry doesn’t have locked down. So if Edwards wins South Carolina, will Crazy “Wes” Clark really be victorious in Okalahoma? My prediction is no. Kerry will win 6/7 and Clark and Lieberman may really have to get out – hopefully Clark will declare some insane tie for second place or something and hang in there. Edwards wins in South Carolina, but not by near enough in his own back yard. I think Dean is still going to act like he won tonight but he’ll use his speech, hopefully, to attack Kerry. But the big winner continues to be Kerry.

Here are the Dispatches Predictions:

South Carolina:
1. Edwards 2. Kerry

Oklahoma:
1. Kerry 2. Edwards 3. Clark

Arizona:
1. Kerry 2. Clark

Missouri:
1. Kerry 2. Edwards

Delaware:
1. Kerry 2. Lieberman

New Mexico:
1. Kerry 2. Dean

North Dakota:
1. Kerry 2. Clark

Update: It would seem that everyone is reporting on the leaked exit polling numbers. The Wonkette has all the links here. The early numbers look pretty darn good for Kerry, and could really be great news for John Edwards too. Political Wire is reportng these numba's:

South Carolina: Edwards 44, Kerry 30, Sharpton 10

Oklahoma: Edwards 31, Kerry 29, Clark 28

Missouri: Kerry 52, Edwards 23, Dean 10

Delaware: Kerry 47, Dean 14, Lieberman 11, Edwards 11

Arizona: Kerry 46, Clark 24, Dean 13

So if Clark loses Oklahoma, it has to be over for him. And if Edwards wins Oklahoma and S.C he'll be around some time yet. Joe-mentum my have run its course by the end of the day. Say it ain't so Joe!! Dean is predicting a New Mexican style stand-off upset too. Stay tuned.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Canadian Political Scene Monday Edition - - If you can rip yourself away from the 24-7 coverage of the ridiculous Super Bowl Half Time Show (can people really be calling this "Nipple Gate"?) for just a few minutes, there is plenty of politics going on here in the Great White North.

Let's run some numbers: I love the Globe and Mail headline on the latest poll numbers: "Poll Shows Tories have uphill battle". No kidding buddies. Stephen Harper, who has been on the national political stage for nearly two years, is tied with Belinda Stronach in the Leger Marketing survey. I wish that really meant something but both have a paltry 18 per cent. Tony Clement trailed behind at 8 per cent. Worse news 50 per cent didn't know who would make the best candidate.

More: "Nationally, 36 per cent of the 1,500 Canadians polled said they would have voted for the Liberals, compared with 16 per cent for the new Conservatives and 11 per cent for the New Democratic Party. The Bloc Quebecois had the backing of 8 per cent of respondents."

Meanwhile the National Post reports that another "Poll points to Liberal Landslide." The short version: "The Compas/National Post poll, conducted last week, found 49% of voters support the Liberals, compared with 19% for the new Conservative Party of Canada."

Take either poll. It doesn't matter which because as it stands now Paul Martin will remain the Prime Minister of this country.

Belinda Mania Watch: The Star, of all places, is defending Belinda Stronach for the wild (seemingly leftist crackpot populist notions) allegations of Stephen Harper and Tony Clement. "Last week, her opponents in the leadership race, Stephen Harper and Tony Clement, mused that Stronach could leave herself open to conflict of interest because Magna sells vehicles to the military."

Now, is it only me who thinks that the candidates of the Conservative Party of Canada should be less concerned about whether or not someone has successfully run a large corporation and may or may not be open to conflicts of interest? I've said this before but the more I hear from Stephen Harper in this race the more he sounds like a willy-nilly liberal (notice the small "l" - Perhaps this is a Harper ploy, figuring that Martin is going left he will too. No it can't be that.). A strong charge, but this is the sort of stuff best left to people registered as members of the NDP, not the conservatives.

Here's the Star again: "It's an odd argument because it smacks of the kind of hate-the-rich view one might expect from rabid socialists, not two poster boys for free enterprise like Harper and Clement."

I don't know what worse the fact that I agree with the Star or that two potential leaders of the party are so way off the farm here.

Another take on Belinda comes from Paul Wells in Macleans. Wells thinks that Belinda may be our very own Wesley Clark. And not in that "Crazy Wes" kind of a way either! Worse, that she is a dream candidate whose sole selling point is "electability" )for shame!) - which according to Wells is, well, just plain arrogant. "Belinda Stronach? Flash some ankle or a money clip and the rubes will forget they ever heard of Paul Martin. Stockwell Day? In 2000 a well-paid political columnist explained to me patiently that Day's sex appeal would net him millions of women's votes."

The other big Belinda story is Quebec. This province hasn't been this cool or so "it" for Conservatives since Mulroney. And if that doesn't give you pause think acid wash jeans being in style, Michael Jackson and Madonna still not entirely creepy yet, Ben Johnson before he was busted, or Miami Vice pastel chic. It would seem that in the race to become leader, "It's Quebec Stupid" and Belinda Stronach is the only person who understood that right off the bat.

In the Globe, Lysiane Gagnon writes: "In any case, since Quebec's 75 ridings outnumber the West's (B.C. has 34 and Alberta 26), the leadership of a party whose roots are in the West will be in large part decided by instant Conservatives who will return to political limbo once they have cast their paid-for vote. Already, every political operator with the slightest connection to Brian Mulroney is on board behind Ms. Stronach, and working to create thousands of Quebec Conservatives."

coverGagnon doesn't like what's happening in Quebec-and that it's "repugnant". Boo-hoo these votes don't mean anything and all that. I hate to throw it down like Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street" Lysiane, but seriously: "Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of it's forms - greed for life, for money, knowledge"

This "Quebec Strategy" is amazing in more ways than one. It seems to exist despite Belinda?s inability to speak French. (See this Montreal Gazette piece heavy on the irony alert: "It would be ironic if the unilingual Stronach were to win the leadership on overwhelming support from Quebec party members. It might also aggravate resentment in other parts of the country, where it's felt Quebecers hold an unfair sway over Canadian politics.")

And that brings us back to Mr. Gekko. "The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works." Quebec wants power. The West wants power. Conservatives want power. Belinda's deep pockets strategy might cater to both those greedy desires. However strange the rout might be.

The Speech from the Throne: If you can believe it but today's Speech from the Throne may well have beaten out such other boring political phenomenon's (such as a John Kerry speech) to be the most boring political event this year. At least it was an opportunity for the Governor General to show off her shiny medals.

Jeffrey Simpson has details on Paul Martin's lame, bloated, stinker of an agenda. Didn't read or hear it? Try the Simpson Shorter Throner: "Since Mr. Martin is seen as somewhat more conservative than Mr. Chreien, and therefore slightly vulnerable from the political left, the speech devoted page after page to social issues - the disabled, students, aboriginals, immigrants, children, health, lifelong learning - while according exactly one paragraph to balanced budgets and debt-reduction. Defence, a popular cause on the political right, got the prerequisite cliches in two paragraphs."

Adam Daifallah nicely sums it up this way: "Paul Martin will be one of Canada's most left-wing prime ministers is so far looking on the money. Billions in planned spending for cities, the environment and natives -- and he's only been PM for a matter of months."

EnterStageRight.com editor Steve Martinovich agrees more or less with Daifallah: "WELCOME BACK: Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin moved back to the political left today with his government's first Throne Speech, one that laid out billions of dollars for cities and environmental clean up.

Really, the only thing new in Martin's speech was the word 'new' which we heard over 30 times."

And back to Macleans.ca's own Paul Wells who adds that a, "quick read of the text suggests the speech is full of ideas that remain good even though they are identical to the ideas in this old, old, old, old, old government's last four throne speeches." (Bolding was Wells' idea and damn it if it doesn't work)

Quick recap: Conservatives still sucking it big time in polls. Belinda and Stephen Harper tied. Quebec good and possibly ironic. Greed also good! Throne speech boring. Paul Martin tacking back to left. Still boring.