PRIME MINISTER STPEHEN HARPER AT G8 MEETING IN L'AQUILA
Yesterday at the end of the G8 Conference in L’Aquila, Italy, the Prime Minister once again shot himself in the foot. And once again, his self-inflicted wounds were the result of his rash, nasty, and obsessive propensity to wreak havoc on his opponents, regardless of the occasion, appropriateness, or whether or not what he says is true.
With his wrap-up press conference Harper had his golden opportunity to act as a statesman. All he had to do was put together two or three coherent sentences of no-brainer reflections on the light-weight gabfest of the previous couple of days and he would have been home free. With CanWest and CTV doing the rest of his heavy lifting to drive the message home back in Canada, Harper would have looked positively Prime Ministerial – indeed, no small achievement for such a klutz. It should have been a romp in the park.
Instead, Canada’s Icarus* (or Inspector Clouseau** – take your pick) screwed it up for himself again.
* Read: STEPHEN HARPER: DONE IN BY HUBRIS AND IDEOLOGY
* * Read: PRIME MINISTER HARPER: CANADA'S INSPECTOR CLOSEAU
First of all, in his response to a question at the press conference Harper exhibited his usual class and elegance, vowing not to take “dumb” advice from Parliament budget officer Kevin Page. The courageous Page, increasingly becoming one of Harper’s chief pains in the ass, had earlier in the week stated the obvious – that the Harper government had misread the effect of the Canadian recession on both the economy and government coffers. As a result, said Page, there would be more job losses than previously thought. Furthermore, Page noted the government was now running a “structural deficit” which would preclude a return to surpluses when the economy got better. All of this, he said, pointed to “significant discretionary actions” for the government so that it could rid itself of the red ink.
Harper took Page’s words to mean that the government would have to impose higher taxes and slash programs, all of which said Clouseau, er, Harper, was a “dumb suggestion.” Sounding much like President George H. W. Bush (father of Harper’s pal, young George) when the elder Bush told a crowd on the campaign trail, “Read my lips. No new taxes” (words which later caused him much grief), Harper said, "It will not be the position of our government. We will not be raising the GST or any other tax during or after the recession.”
But it wasn’t enough for Clouseau to merely trash Page. There was little challenge in that, Page being in the PM's mind merely a miserable, lowlife bureaucrat. No, Harper now had to go after a bigger fish like Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff. Without the reporter even hinting of a question about Ignatieff or even mentioning his name, the PM gratuitously accused the Opposition Leader of saying publicly that the G8 should be replaced by a group of nations that do not include Canada.
As he ad-libbed his way through his attack it was clear Harper wanted to keep on message with his party’s earlier attack ads that belittled Iggy’s Canadian credentials. Those ads, you will recall, questioned Ignatieff’s commitment to Canada because he had studied and lectured at some of the best universities abroad, authored well-written books from a world perspective, and reported from war zones far from home. According to Harper and his cronies, Iggy’s background is no match for one whose intellectual pursuits and job experience consists of being of brainwashed in the neocon political science classes of Tom Flanagan at the University of Calgary, or reciting the collected works of Ronald Reagan as chief honcho of the National Citizen's Coalition - surely the lunatic fringe of Conservatism in Canada. Harper said of Ignatieff’s so-called remarks,
"I don't think you go out and throw out ideas like this that are so obviously contrary to a country's interest and nobody else is advocating them. I think it's an irresponsible suggestion, and Mr. Ignatieff is supposed to be a Canadian.”
But alas, Iggy had not said those words and Harper was forced to issue this ignominious apology immediately after the conclusion of the press conference:
"During my press conference I attacked Mr. Ignatieff for some things he had allegedly said about Canada in the G8. I learned shortly after the press conference this was not a quotation of Mr. Ignatieff. I regret the error and I apologize to Mr. Ignatieff for this error."
For a complete transcript of the exchange giving rise to Harper’s statement about Ignatieff and the abject apology, read this very carefully.
Of course, there is always somebody around to take the fall for the PM on the many occasions he puts his foot in it. This time it was his media mouth piece Dimitri Soudas – who seems to be getting a lot of press these days - what with having to explain the unexplainable, like the case of the missing communion wafer.
Soudas, who because of his yeoman service in taking bullets for his boss should be in line for a permanent job with the Fraser Institute before the summer is out, admitted passing false information about Ignatieff to Harper without substantiation.
In fact, it was former Canadian diplomat Gordon Smith, director of the Centre for Global Studies at the University of Victoria, who made the statement attributed by Harper to Ignatieff. Smith laments Canada’s not taking a leadership role in the G8 and believes the country is losing its importance internationally.
During the same press conference, Harper also displayed his continuing irritation over the wafer fiasco during Holy Communion ceremonies at the funeral of former Governor General Romeo Leblanc. Skipping over the fact that it was highly unusual - to say the least - that as a non-Catholic he should take Holy Communion in a Catholic ceremony, he said,
“First of all, as a Christian, I have never refused communion when offered to me. That's actually pretty important to me. Somebody running an unsubstantiated story that I would stick communion bread in my pocket is really absurd and I think it's a real, frankly, a low point. This is a low moment in journalism, whoever is responsible for this. It's just a terrible story and a ridiculous story and not based on anything, as near as I can tell."
Well, given his negative ads and his record as a campaigner/politician, Harper clearly knows something of ‘low' points. I mean, he’s an expert at low points, having spent a lot of time wallowing amongst low points of his creation himself.
As far as the wafer story not being based on anything, perhaps he should look at the video and see it for himself. Once again it can be found here.