Unimpressed. Disgusted, in fact.
OK, let's purge the phrase "crossed the floor" from our lexicon when it comes to David Emerson. That particular idiom implies that there was a floor to be crossed, that he sat on one side of it and then walked over to the opposite side. Emerson didn't even wait for the Conservatives and Liberals to take their respective places in Parliament before flipping off every single person who voted for him by switching sides.
How exactly can he justify this? What new information came to his attention between his election as a Paul Martin Liberal and the swearing in of the Stephen Harper Conservative government that suggested his taking a cabinet post in a government he was elected to oppose is in the best interests of his constituents? Every single thing I've ever said or thought about Belinda The Bobblehead applies to David The Democratically-Challenged.
I wonder how his constituents feel?
I'll tell you how I'd feel if I were one of the plurality of voters who elected him as a Liberal: cheated.
And as for Harper and the Conservatives helping him vitiate the democratic intent of the voters of Vancouver-Kingsway, I say: for shame.
It's possible to have an honest change of heart in politics. It's even possible to have such a change of heart so soon after an election in which the lines of attack were drawn months in advance - unlikely, but still possible.
But it's also possible to sit as an independent, and vote your conscience. It's possible to seek the nomination of another party, and get an honest endorsement from the voters of your riding. In other words, it's possible to behave honourably in politics.
What an abysmal beginning to a Parliament for which I had such high hopes.
Update: The ranks of disgusted Conservatives grow - Staples, Wonder Woman, The Tiger, Sham, Daifallah, ProgRight, Arabian Knight, the geeks, Steve (and that's just at last count - the list is growing).
But Chris Taylor says it best in a strong rebuke to Stephen Harper:
What you should have done is send the turncoat back to his Liberal masters with a paddling; if he wants to be part of a Conservative government in the future, he should stand as one in the next general election. No freebie Cabinet posts, there's enough front-bench Tory talent that you need not rely on a Liberal-come-lately.
Thanks for giving the cynics in this country more ammo.
Updat-her: Geez, don't piss off Joan Tintor. Some people complain. Others organize:
I support Stephen Harper. I do not want to embarrass him. But it is because I am a loyal Conservative that I cannot remain silent while he commits the moral and political error of accepting an individual elected by voters less than a month ago as a Paul Martin Liberal – and a Paul Martin cabinet minister, no less – into the Conservative caucus and promptly appointing him to cabinet.
Conservatives who disagree with this act are not helpless. The party and its candidates rely on us to maintain their riding associations, raise and donate money, and identify and get out the vote during elections. If the Harper government bans all corporate and union donations as promised in the Conservative platform, the amount that individual candidates will have available will depend entirely on donations from individuals.
And then she tells you how exactly to get the party's attention.
Up-in-arms-date: Wonder Woman decides to wade back in with elbows flying:
Does the Conservative Party really want to see what a blog swarm looks like? Because I think George Bush is still rubbing the bitchslap off his face, from his nomination of Harriet Miers.
Do we collectively have the clout to make anyone in Ottawa sit up and take notice? Does CPC Galactic Headquarters really care what a few bloggers think?
I guess we're about to find out.
Up-Wells-date: OK, he's not a Conservative like the others noted above, but I get to link to whatever the hell I like on my blog, and I like what Professor Wells has written on this subject a great deal.
David Emerson should resign from the House of Commons and run in a by-election. He had two months to decide he was a Conservative and mention this fact to his electors. He forgot. Stephen Harper's excuses are transparently absurd. "It's not about Liberal or Conservative"? Uh. He ran a Conservative against Emerson.
Up-Tarantino-date: Bob speaks slowly and clearly for the terminally partisan among us.
Upside-the-head-date: Coyne has gathered his thoughts somewhat:
But still: it stinks. We now know two things after the election that we should have been told before -- that Dave Dingwall was to be paid $418,000 severance for being fired, and that Dave Emerson is a Conservative. The seat he holds does not belong to him. It is not his entitlement. It belongs to the voters of Vancouver-Kingsway. And they can be forgiven for feeling like they've been had.
As for Fortier, it is a fine thing for a Prime Minister elected on a platform of democratic accountability, who promised he would not appoint anyone who was not elected to cabinet or to the Senate, to then turn around and do both at one go. And to appoint his campaign manager, to boot!
Maybe I'm wrong, and no one cares. But if they do, then the government has a clear path before it. Put both appointments before the voters. Abide in their judgment. Seek their confidence, and it will be repaid. Trust the people.
Oh, and would someone call David Frum? He seems to have some experience with this sort of thing.
Upping-the-disappointment-date: More deflated Conservatives here and here.
It's not too late to do the right thing, Mr. Harper.
Up-my-nose-with-the-drink-date: Bob Tarantino owes me a new keyboard, seeing as he made me regurgitate my pop all over this one.
Son of an Emer.
Funniest. Title. Ever.
Oh, and new objections from Jarrett, The Loyalist, and Toronto Tory. The swarm grows.
I can't wait to see the editorials and opinion columns tomorrow. I'm sad, but I'm proud. This is just getting started.
Up-the-volume-date: Day Two, and more disappointment from Danté, Gerry (although he wobbles here), Aaron, and Richard.
I've been reading Greg Staples for almost two years now, and he is as straightforward a guy as you'll ever find. I've also met him, talked with him, shared drinks with him, and corresponded with him. He's the neighbour who waters your lawn when you forget. He's the guy who coaches your daughter's soccer team, and makes her feel like she's the best player on the field. He's the sort of guy every political party would love to have as a supporter. Here's what he has to say:
Conservative strategists have called this controversy a "one-day wonder". It better be. This better have been the one-day the Conservatives play games like this because a large chunk of us voted for politics as unusual and if we don't get it now don't think we won't look elsewhere. (Babbler's bold)
"Politics as unusual" is exactly what I voted for. Exactly.
John The Mad is typically incisive:
The Honourable Paul Emerson said on the radio (I was commuting home) tonight that he was not switching parties because of the opportunity to continue in power (no, no, of course not), but because he wanted to serve his constituents in the best possible manner (sound of trumpets). I only regret that it was radio so I couldn't actually see his nose grow. (Babbler's emphasis)
There you have it, Mr. Harper: you've made Conservatives call Conservatives liars on Day One of your government. Fix this, before it gets any worse.
Up-to-no-good-date: I listed Steve Janke's post entitled "Stephen Harper puts us in a pickle" as opposing the move. Janke doesn't oppose it, he supports it, as he indicated in my comments. Fair enough, Steve. Consider that support duly noted.
Up-to-the-top-of-your-hipwaders-date: Tarantino again. This time he's explaining why both the Emerson and Fortier appointments were made for the wrong reasons.
The "lack of urban representation" meme is a ridiculous parlour game, concocted by Liberal-friendly media types, who need something to fill column inches. Which leads us to our next point...
Second, and Conservatives should really be better at this by now, don't play games with a Liberal-friendly media - you can't win. They set the rules, not you, and they are wont to change at any time, for no reason at all. Let's take a couple of examples. On Day 1, media types darkly note that the Conservative caucus and Cabinet lack "urban representation". On Day 2, the CPC tries to counter this by naming to Cabinet a Vancouver-based politician and a Montreal-based hack. Aha!, thinks the CPC, we got them on this one! On Day 3, the goalposts are moved:
The other city that abjured the Conservatives was Toronto. So why is Senator Mike Harris not in the cabinet? There's a vacancy, and Mr. Harris might enjoy the show.
If Toronto really mattered, Mr. Harper would have found a way to get the city represented. (John Ibbitson)
Beyond whether or not this is an ethical move - and I have yet to hear a convincing argument that it is - there's a good case to be made that it's a wasted move.
What happens if Emerson - a political neophyte, for all his considerable business acumen - decides a few weeks from now that he doesn't like fielding e-mails from 20,000 irate Liberal voters in his riding, dodging phone calls from hostile media types, and taking constant abuse from the other side of Parliament? What if he decides to throw in the towel and go back to being a successful West-Coast businessman?
Then Harper's wasted all this political capital, taken the focus off his otherwise excellent cabinet and legislative agenda, turned upteen hundred thousand principled Conservative voters into cynics, and not gained any sort of a tactical advantage.
Look at Emerson's political record to date, and with a straight face tell me how implausible that scenario is.
Up-chuk-date: And what's more, Harper has given every single political enemy he has a big, thick cudgel to beat him with. The CBC offers a round up of reactions from politicians, media types, bloggers, and other folks.
Up-in-Buchans-date: Liam O'Brien, a measured and reasonable commentator, weighs in on the issue.
It matters not if Emerson didn't really have many strong policy ideas or position to begin with. It matters not that he'll be a capable minister. It still sends the wrong message. It makes Stephen Harper's job, as well as David Emerson's job much harder. Whoever decided to go with this sort of change in the transition/PMO team made a big mistake. It smells of old school tories more than Harper. I speak as somebody who worked on campaigns with some of those people. Still, the buck stops with Harper. He'll have to bear this one out. It's too bad.
Updamazon: How could I forget Kateland?
It’s easy to look at the appointment of Liberal David Emerson to Stephen Harper’s cabinet and say Harper is being pragmatic and playing grown-up real politic. Get over your outrage and shelve your sense of honour or integrity. Standing up for honour and preserving your integrity are so adolescent of you. Besides Emerson is a man of much experience and talent, and he brings much to the table and the discourse, forget the fact that the man campaigned as a Liberal, was elected as a Liberal, and now that the Liberal’s have lost the house; crosses the floor to join his political opponents. It’s a win-win situation for the Conservatives. Prime Minister Stephen Harper gains his talent, Emerson gains a seat at the Table of Cabinet and the Conservatives are made stronger for it and in the best of all possible outcomes, Canadians benefit from stronger conservative governance.
But I suggest that it all depends how one answers this biblical question: What does a man profit who gains the world but loses his soul in the exchange?
You don't need to be religious to understand the import of that question.
Up-and-up-and-up-date: McClarty, kickin' it old-school? Throwin' it down? Is that right? Lingo isn't my strong suit, Patrick.
Ed brings to light that one of Janke's "doughty band of brother and sister bloggers" shouldn't necessarily be on that list. Sauce for the goose, and all that, Steve:
Ed, I never said that I liked what happened.
I did say that Emerson should run in a by-election.
The only room I give Emerson is to say that to compare him to Belinda wouldn't be accurate. - Stephen Taylor
Yes, well, thank God Emerson's head doesn't bobble on his shoulders, or the comparison would be more accurate than any of us would like.
Up-to-the-minute-date: Cosh! I can't even decide which part to excerpt, the whole damn thing is that good.
Up-to-Day-Four-date: How the hell did I forget the Damian with more traffic than me? I especially like his line here:
Obviously, we didn't get the memo about how we're supposed to mindlessly support our party under any and all circumstances.
Also, Paul Kimball is up in arms.
Keeping-it-up-date: Joel expresses his disappointment.
Joan shows some principled perspective:
While I agree that the issue should not be overblown – and that we must always be careful to not help our enemies – I believe this is a misstep that can be fixed. I continue to hope that it will be.
I do too, Joan, but I'm not holding my breath.
Uplifting-date: Sean takes a break from his customary caustic cynicism and surprises me by saying it all very personally and eloquently:
Am I perfect yet? Hell, no. I make no claim to sainthood. All I can tell you is that I’ve changed my behavior enough that I’ve managed to stay sober for a few days. Nearly fourteen years worth of them, in fact. I wouldn’t have been able to pull that off if I had kept doing the same things in sobriety that I did when I drank.
Nothing changes if nothing changes, y’know?
So I am going to disagree with Kate on the Liberal MP that crossed the floor to join the Tories. The proper action on Harper’s part would have been telling David Emerson to sit as an independent or run again as a Conservative. That would have been a good start towards helping our government start to regrow the soul it lost under the stewardship of the Liberals. Instead, the Conservatives have put power before principle all the while telling us that they’re going to get different results while doing all of the same things the Liberals did.
Well said, sir.