Thursday, November 12, 2009

THE SWIFTBOATING OF LIBERAL LEADERS: TIME TO FIGHT BACK!


According to Wikipedia the definition of ‘Swiftboating’ is “American political jargon that is used as a strong pejorative description of some kind of attack that the speaker considers unfair or untrue – for example, an ad hominem attack or a smear campaign.”

The term comes from a smear campaign against Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry in the U.S. Presidential election of 2004 which was launched by a loud-mouthed, right wing group of ex-military personnel, who told the world that Kerry did not deserve the war medals that were awarded to him for his war service in Viet Nam, and that he was basically a fraud and a coward. The ‘swiftboat’ term relates to Kerry having been a swift boat commander in Viet Nam as well as to those who defamed him, some of which were comprised of rock-ribbed Republican swift boat veterans who called themselves the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The whole sleazy operation – including television ads and a best selling book - was financed by wealthy and extremist, right-wing Republicans.

Kerry to his lasting regret took the high road gently dismissing the charges against him and mildly chiding his opponents for their low level politics. He went on to lose the election and swiftboating thus became a new favorite tactic of the right. For further examples of this odious ploy, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiftboating, and for a further discussion of the term see: http://www.wisegeek.com/in-politics-what-is-swiftboating.htm
In the United States, politicians who have been ‘swiftboated’ have learned to fight back. For example, Sarah Palin made little headway on her ‘death panel’ allegations in connection with Obama’s health care reform initiative. Neither did the ‘birthers’ get much mileage in their efforts to convince Americans that Obama was born in Kenya and thus ineligible to become President. Much of the press in the U.S. – not being as monolithically conservative as it is in Canada – has figured out swiftboating as well, and is not as likely to roll over as it did in the Kerry episode.
Canadians have been slow to learn about swiftboating. The Conservatives used the technique with their attack ads against Stefane Dion. They knew what they were doing. They wanted to define him to the Canadian people as an inarticulate bumbler who was not a leader. To do so they peppered our television screens long before the last election with highly prejudicial film clips taken out of context which sought to portray him in a bad light. The Liberal Party of Canada –presumably in a Kerry-like misguided attempt to take the high road – pooh-poohed retaliation and did nothing. The Conservatives were allowed to smear Dion with their definition of him. They had swiftboated him. The Liberals had been fooled.

And now – quite unbelievably – the Conservatives have done it again to Michael Ignatieff. The swiftboating of Ignatieff, again in the form of television ads composed of out of context and highly prejudicial film clips, has portrayed him as a selfish dilettante with no attachment to the country. The polls seem to be showing that once again the swiftboating of a Liberal leader by the Conservatives is working. And once again the Liberals seem to be doing nothing to retaliate. Surely, they are not being fooled again. Even the immortal George W. Bush said, “Fool me once, shame on . . . you. . . . . You fooled me once, I can’t get fooled again.” See: http://video.google.ca/videosearch?hl=en&source=hp&q=george+w.+bush+fool+me+once+quote&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=pzj8SqrGMoe2swPj38mSAQ&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CA4QqwQwAA#
To the Liberals and Mr. Ignatieff I say, "Don’t be fooled again!" There is too much at stake. A Harper majority government will change this country so that none of us years hence will recognize it for the great country it once was.

It is time for Michael Ignatieff and his new chief of staff Peter Donolo, to take the gloves off. The country needs energetic engagement on the political battlefield. Politics is a tough and bloody sport with little place for a genteel Marquis of Queensbury rule book. This is particularly so when one’s opponent has no intention of engaging in the contest pursuant to any kind of a rule book.

Its time to fight and fight back – on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and in the streets, and in the hills,* not to mention the church basements, small town hockey arenas, barbecues, hockey tournaments, and anywhere else we do politics in this great country. It is time for some realpolitik! And there is not one moment to lose!
(*with all due credit and apologies to the great Winston S. Churchill)

9 comments:

WesternGrit said...

Great commentary Darryl. I could not agree with you more. We are hurting ourselves the more we take the God/god-forsaken "high road". I've always been a fan of "real politic"...

Politics IS a dirty game. The Conservatives are playing the dirtiest politics ever seen in Canada - and mixing it in with their own brand of "truthiness" (ie - blatant lies).

Pierre Trudeau would never has stood for ANY of this shit. Jean Chretien wouldn't have either. They didn't have to "lie, conceal, fabricate" like the HarperCons, but they defended their positions aggressively, and without holding anything back.

When we are the perceived "nice", we get dubbed that by the media. Ruthless is better. Driven is even better. Passionate is best.

The solution is to talk the "high road" - keep talking about how we must give people hope about the new style politics - then "rip em to shreds" in the background.

It's disgusting, how we've slinked around in the shadows the past few years. Pathetic. Time to grow some cajones. Where are the Sheila Coppses and ratty "rat pack" of today? Kennedy is a start (he too can be more aggressive), Rae (yes, but aggressive - please do, sir), Goodale (yup)... But WHERE are the "youngsters"? The Conservatives have their "street gang" mouths... Whither Liberals?

Darryl Raymaker said...

I agree 100%. To take the high road with these lowlifes is a formula to hand over a majority to Harper.
I have always felt that the Liberal Party of Canada owed a great debt to Sheila Coops, John Nunziata, Jean Claude Malepart,and Brian Tobin for the way they lifted the party out of the doldrums after the Turner defeat in 1984. They attacked the government effectively and proved to Liberals everywhere that there was a lot of fight left in the party at a very difficult time. We definitely need more of that spirit and fight! From the leader on down!

John Prince said...

A Call to Arms!! I LOVE it!!! Totally agree with your argument Darryl and with WesternGrit, 'no more Mr. Nice Guy' and no more bringing a knife to a gun fight with a bunch of goons. We need to get tough, and we need to get going!!

Chamberlain's role of fear and appeasement needs to take a back seat, and Churchill's one of truth and commitment needs to move to the front.

Darryl Raymaker said...

John
Well, as WesternGrit would say, "Let's see if we have the cajones?"

John Prince said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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Daniel said...

Darryl,
I am with you on this issue completely. I think Canadians usually find negative ads and negative campaigning distasteful but if anyone has ever deserved to be "swiftboated" its Harper. There is a long list of things that would lend themselves to attack ads (Cadman, prorogation, Atlantic provinces=culture of defeat, etc.) and Canadians are already uncomfortable with him. I think a well thought out and funded attack ad program timed well during an election is the best way to solidify their feelings. Governments are not elected they are defeated and its time we make sure we defeat Harper and work hard on getting the anti-Harper vote.

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