Today's newspapers are full to the brim with Jean Chretien's theatrical testimony at the Gomery inquiry yesterday, and rightly so. Not only is this story worth keeping on the front pages, but Chretien and his unholy cabal of back-room arm-twisters and professional dissemblers are masters of political spin, and yesterday's choreographed appearance was a tour-de-force
in that respect. As John Ibbitson said in the Globe & Mail today, this "is why we miss him so, and why we're so glad he's gone."
A cursory spin around the Canadian blogosphere looking for commentary on this subject earlier today was quite frankly disappointing.
pushes the 'context' argument as hard as I've seen him push anything. It's an uncharacteristically poor effort, as this entire line of reasoning misses the point.
repeats all the Chretienite talking points, including the 'Liberals are the only federalists in Quebec' excuse.
takes aim at that particular argument, as does Damian Penny
. Personally, I think their points of attack play right into the Chretienites' hands - but more on that later.
is disgusted with Chretien, and finds nothing redemptive in his testimony whatsoever.
, being an admitted political creature, is amused by the theatrics, but only reminds us at the very end of his piece: "Just don't forget the rest of the testimony and why we're here in the first place."
echoes that sentiment, nodding to Liberal mastery of political wet-work.
Don at All things Canadian...
continues to focus on the behind-the-scenes efforts to smear Gomery, and has both a trolling megalomaniac and Paul Wells join in on the conversation - neither of whom, strangely enough, contribute much insight.
The various contributors to PolSpy seem to be all over the map on this
, as usual, provides a couple of views, and insightfully points out that "Liberal supporters are latching on to today's bravado from Jean's like a lifeline - they've been so beat up lately that they will cling to any glimmer of hope"
without really addressing why Chretien's testimony is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
and Greg Staples
are the only bloggers I've read who tap into the core of this mess: whether you agree or disagree with the idea of a sponsorship program to combat Quebec separatism, this particular program was spectacularly mismanaged to huge partisan benefit
Don't get me wrong: Currie and Penny can make perfectly lucid arguments against the wisdom of using federal tax dollars to fight a PR war in post-referendum Quebec. But then Chretien's Colonel KLAPP
rebuttal comes into play. The man in the hot-seat makes the best decision he can with the information available to him at the time; if it's the wrong decision, then so be it. The Monday-morning quarterbacks look petulant, and 'wrong' isn't on the same ethical plane as 'corrupt'. Besides, 20/20 hindsight has the disadvantage of missing all the other what-if possibilities - like what-if the feds hadn't
pushed a Canada-brand across Quebec for all those years?
This line of argument will always remain inconclusive, because we can't play the game all over again a different way to see if things would have turned out better or worse. And inconclusive means a win for Chretien on this file.
That's why I think Gomery's "small-town cheap" comment was a double-whammy. Not only did he give the Chretienites a blunt object with which to beat his judicial impartiality, but he framed the issue as a 'golf-balls: good or bad' question. When JC pulled golf balls from a couple of different holders of the title "Most Powerful Human On Earth" out of his briefcase, that question was effectively answered.
The real issue should have been why the hell it costs Canadian taxpayers over $83 to get a single golf ball with a maple leaf and Chretien's name on it.
Because the patriotic necessity of fighting Quebec separatism doesn't answer that
question. The only plausible answer to that
question is that the Liberals were either incompetent or corrupt.
To be clear: once the decision has been made that a PR campaign will be waged in defence of the country, I don't care if Liberal-friendly ad agencies get the contracts. Honest to heaven, I don't. The idea that all the best agencies in Quebec are either separatist or Liberal/federalist doesn't surprise me, and the decision to use only federalist/Liberal ones doesn't trouble me.
But even if you concede those points, that doesn't mean the governing Liberals were free to overpay for services rendered, or - more incredibly - were free to overpay specifically so contracted firms could funnel tax dollars into Liberal party coffers. Corrupt or incompetent, take your pick.
No matter how many decoys the Chretienistas throw out into the public forum, there remain a number of core defects to AdScam. That's where the focus should remain. To do otherwise plays to the one Liberal suit that remains strong: misleading, unethical political spin.
Update: Timmy the G
breaks from leftist ranks and *gasp* agrees with Stephen Harper. Scandalous!
Your political theatrical skills are impressive Jean, but at the end of the day, the sponsorship program accomplished exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do. That's your legacy.
Another update: Matt Fenwick
hits the ball out of the park.
But back to Bob's piece, post-segue. He identifies essentially four questions, which the Liberals are indeed trying to intertwine:
1) Was the sponsorship program a good idea?
2) Does the Gomery inquiry cost too much?
3) Is Gomery biased?
4) Was the execution of the sponsorship program somewhere between a nasty mess and a criminal enterprise, where Liberals and their friends enriched party and corporate coffers with taxpayers' money?
The thing is, it takes a clever person like Bob to articulate that the answer to #4 is not at all related to the answers of #1/2/3, but just about anyone can recognize it.
And further to basic intuition: is there much of the public, when hearing Chretien, Pelletier, Kinsella, et al harp on Questions 1/2/3 - in the context of an inquiry struck to answer #4 - who dismiss the self-interest involved?