Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sympathy For The Devil?

With tongue firmly ensconced in his cheek, Andrew Coyne writes that we are being too hard on Stephen Harper, a prime minister who has been cruelly betrayed by all those in whom he placed an absolute trust:
You will be familiar with the picture we have created of him: suspicious, paranoid, controlling, a leader who trusts no one, leaves nothing to others, insists on taking a hand in even the smallest matter. Well, you’d be suspicious, paranoid and controlling, too, if everyone around you was lying to you all the time.
Such deception would be enough to break the spirit of even the strongest person:
Consider what we have learned about the Duffy affair. More to the point, consider what he has learned. Wholly without his knowledge, several of his closest advisers, including his chief of staff, his principal secretary, and his legal counsel, together with his Senate house leader, the chairman of the Conservative party fundraising arm and the party lawyer, conspired over a period of several months to pay Duffy for his improperly claimed living expenses, then to pretend to the public that he had repaid them out of his own pocket, then to attempt to block, shut down, or rewrite a confidential audit, then finally to rewrite a Senate committee report so as to absolve Duffy of any fault.
To have the foundations of his world so shaken must have exacted an enourmous toll on Mr. Harper:
Imagine the sense of betrayal he must have felt — the vertigo, the nausea — as it slowly dawned on him that everything he had been led to believe about the whole affair was a lie: that in fact, everyone knew. Everyone, that is, but him. Imagine the humiliation, to have been played for a patsy in this way — him, Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada — and what is more, for the whole world to know it. He is a proud man, but not immune to feelings of self-doubt. Would anyone respect him now? Could he carry on as leader, if he were not master even of his own office?
And yet, while others might have lashed out in fury at the byzantine machinations of subordinates, the true character of the prime minister became apparent as he chose the road less travelled:
And yet, this good man, deceived, humiliated, betrayed on all sides, found it in his heart to forgive them. You or I, had we found ourselves in the same position, might have taken the most foul sort of revenge: fired the lot, paraded them in front of the media, forced them to answer for what they had done. But that is not, we can see now, Harper’s way: this supposedly ruthless autocrat, this cold, vindictive brute of caricature, responded to this monumental breach of trust with comprehensive mercy. No one was fired, though some were allowed to leave. Some are even travelling with him on his campaign. He was even going to forgive Wright, and would have, had it tested better.
"These are the times that try men's souls," wrote Thomas Paine. Out of this current political crisis confronting the prime minister, all Canadians have been presented the opportunity to see the stuff that Stephen Harper's soul is really made of.


  1. "Sympathy for the Devil" great song Lorne.Coyne's column shows that some media supporters of Harper are no longer supporting. Nice change. Too bad it didn't happen sooner, but at least it's happening now.

    1. To quote the Bible, Pamela, "There is more joy in heaven over the repentance of one sinner than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance." Clearly, Andrew has seen the light.

  2. I keep trying to imagine what must be going through Shifty's mind, Lorne. He's facing an election in which there's a very real prospect he'll be sent packing and, if that happens, Duffy-Wright will be his legacy, the memory with which he'll be associated for all time.

    At least Mulroney had some genuine achievements in his years in power. He fought apartheid, even standing up to Thatcher and Reagan. He was active in fighting acid rain. He's remembered today for that. Yet what are the highlights of Harper's decade ruling Canda? What great achievements will he be remembered for? I simply can't think of any. What he did was almost universally odious - gagging scientists, sequestering the public service from the Canadian public, corrupting every institution we have in the process of transforming them into his personal partisan agencies. In my province, stripping the coast of all its marine, fisheries and navigation safeguards and monitors. At best he'll get a C+, maybe a B- from the Calgary Petroleum Club and the Communist Party of China, a silver (not gold) star for effort but for most of Canada the best memory we'll have of him is the relief we'll feel at seeing him run out of Ottawa.

    As for Coyne and journos in general, I'm waiting to see the Globe's election endorsement. They've been in the bag for Harper for so long I'm not sure they'll be able to change course.

    1. Unlike the value of George Bailey's life in It's A Wonderful Life, Mound, i can't believe that there are too many who would think that Canada would have been worse off without the existence of Stephen Harper. Your brief rendition of his failures is ample testament to that sad truth.

      As for The Globe, there is little in their corporate DNA to suggest a 'come to Jesus moment' is pending. I can see it all now: "Do we wish Stephen Harper had run a more open administration? Yes, but now is not the time to go down risky new paths......

  3. Jonathan Swift would have been impressed, Lorne.

    1. As was I, Owen. Frankly, I didn't know coyne had it in him.