Friday, December 12, 2014

Chris Alexander's Faustian Pact

By all accounts, before he entered politics, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander was a competent and respected member of Canada's foreign service; his resume includes the fact that he was Canada's first resident Ambassador to Afghanistan. The lustre attending his career, however, has vanished since he become a member of the Harper cabinet, surely a Faustian deal if there ever was one. To dispense with integrity to merely parrot one's master is a choice hard to comprehend.

Earlier in the week, Tim Harper wrote a column on some of the Prime Minister's 'performers' and non-performers. Here is what he said about Alexander:
While his predecessor Jason Kenney could look tough but sell what he said were necessary immigration measures, Alexander usually looks defensive and a little flinty.

He has been accused of fudging the numbers of Syrian refugees who have been accepted by Canada, looked heartless in cutting medical care for refugee claimants, triggered a constitutional challenge with changes to the Citizenship Act and hung up on a CBC host on live radio.
That, in my view, is a rather restrained assessment of the man. In today's Star, letter-writer Pam Churchill of Toronto offers what is perhaps a more penetrating evaluation:

Re: Some weak players in PM’s dream-team cabinet, Dec. 8
Columnist Tim Harper speaks for many of us when he ponders the mystery of Chris Alexander, “a young, smart, former ambassador with world experience who should be a natural, but is still finding his way in a complicated portfolio.”

Maureen Dowd offers some insight (New York Times, May 19, 2014). When I think of Chris Alexander, her words come to mind.

She was speaking of Condoleeza Rice, “who had all the qualities to dazzle. Smart, attractive, hardworking, personable, chic . . . she sailed to success at an early age.” Yet, says Dowd, “she exceeded at failing better” because “her real ideology was succeeding.” So, says Dowd, “in order to succeed, she rejected old mentors, Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell, and went along with the preposterous pre-emption plan of the old hawks who had far less respect for her: Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld” and “made a Faustian deal to sell a fake war.”

To Dowd, it is a lesson in selling your soul, which should teach us about “the perils of succeeding at any cost, about how moral shortcuts never lead to the right place.”

Perhaps Chris Alexander does not believe what he says nor support the policies he espouses. That could explain why he is still finding his way. Whatever the answer, thinking about him always brings Dowd to mind and leaves me sad.
To be sure, both Rice and Alexander are sobering object lessons of the heavy price many are willing to pay to be key participants in today's political arena.


  1. I heard this morning -- on the CBC -- that Canada only wants to accept Syrians who are members of that country's religious minorities -- i.e. Christians. For a man of "worldly experience," Lorne, Alexander appears to be peculiarly dense.

    1. I just heard the story on our way back from shopping, Owen. I am preparing a brief post to address it.