Harper comes across as bold, badgered. Voters will judge his controversial moves
Posted By ALEXANDER PANETTA, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Posted -17 sec ago
It was a political Kodak moment in which the two sides of Stephen Harper were on full display -- a single snapshot of the prime minister at his best and his worst.
The question of which side of Harper prevails over the 37-day election campaign will likely impact the result as deeply as it did in the 2004 and 2006 campaigns.
In that moment two years ago he was decisive, bold and fast-moving.
He was also crabby, coarsely partisan and somewhat disingenuous as he blamed the opposition for his sudden decision to
break an election promise. As part of his pledge to clean up federal politics, the Conservative leader had said he would create a new appointments commission to help combat political patronage.
The opposition rejected his first choice to lead the commission, Calgary oilman and Conservative backer Gwyn Morgan.
So Harper strolled downstairs from his office and in the time it took him to enter the House of Commons he casually announced that there would be no commission.
We won't be able to clean up the (appointments) process in this minority Parliament," Harper said.
We'll obviously need a majority government to do that in the future."
In that, the prime minister's fans and foes will find evidence to support their differing views of the man.
His instant abandonment of a promised anti-patronage committee was one example of a leader who makes up his mind and acts quickly.
In 2006, he won plaudits and nourished a reputation for decisiveness by campaigning on a promise to implement a simple, tightly focused list of five easy-to-remember priorities.
He has since made a series of sudden, controversial moves that stunned his opponents: recognizing a Quebecois nation, taxing income trusts and calling a quick vote to prolong Canada's Afghanistan mission.
Now he's triggered an election despite his own fixed-election law that promised a campaign in late 2009.
His detractors will draw other conclusions from these events.
They will find evidence of a leader who is prone to petulant outbursts, and is far better at strategizing against real and perceived enemies than he is at making friends.
They will find a man who falsely casts himself as a decisive leader while frequently flip-flopping and breaking his word.
Even the announcements on the Quebecois nation and the Afghanistan vote seemed inspired more by a desire to embarrass the Liberal party than by conviction.
On Quebec, he had refused for months to describe the province as a nation -- but began singing a new tune the week of a convention where the Liberal party seemed destined to tear itself up over the issue.
On Afghanistan, he campaigned on a promise to let Parliament vote on all future military deployments. But just before the Afghan vote he told stunned MPs he'd simply ignore the result if they voted against the mission.
Some politicians will agree to meet with protesters, either to calm tensions, learn about an issue or just for the publicity. Not Harper. His reaction to demonstrators at a Three Amigos summit was to call them pathetic."
His hostility toward opponents knows no geographic borders. While most leaders might put domestic trash-talking aside when they're travelling abroad, Harper revels in it.
Standing near the former site of the Berlin Wall last year, he appeared to draw parallels between the collapse of communism and the end of 12 years of Liberal rule in Canada.
One Conservative who has worked closely with Harper on two election campaigns says he's not the first cutthroat partisan to occupy the prime minister's chair.
Chretien was just as bad -- and so was Mulroney," said the high-ranking Conservative source.
But what they had was the political maturity not to show it. They knew there's a time and a place to be overtly partisan. Stephen has a bad sense of timing on that."
An example of that came in the final days of the 2006 campaign. With a majority government within reach, Harper suggested he would be prevented from making drastic changes because Liberal senators, judges, and civil servants would keep him in check. That might have cost him a majority government.
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Posted by Fillibluster at 8:37 AM