Skip to comments.Mark Steyn: Debatable Points (Probably of interest only to Canadians; Yanks can safely ignore)
Posted on 06/16/2004 11:49:13 AM PDT by quidnunc
The debates are over, thank God, and you can find much useful analysis pus a soupcon of hooey from my old friends Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells, and my new friends at The Western Standard. I have nothing much to add, except to say that any Canadian who still believes in the inherent superiority of his more civilized articulate politics over the debased negative American kind must be on crack. Both the French and English debates were embarrassments.
In part, its the format, designed by third-rate TV producers to get the politicians to mix things up. This rapidly becomes very boring. You cant impose an entertainment format on performers who arent entertaining. They look like a bunch of flabby Rotarians forced into an extreme celebrity wrestling event. Thats one reason why the post-debate analysis concentrating on who, if any, landed good blows also misses the point. The experts made the same mistake their cousins down south did in the Gore/Bush debates, when Mister Know-It-All stomped around the stage listing Deputy Prime Ministers of Central Asia and the Balkans hed discussed global warming with.
TV is a cool medium, not a hot one. That means the guy who looks most comfortable in his skin wins. Advantage: Harper. His so-called bad French was in fact a plus in the first debate in that it prevented him from being as glib and exhibitionist as the the rest of the twerps. And in the second debate he was the only one who looked as if he was giving any genuine reflection to the questions as opposed to pounding the bejasus out of the other fellers.
Gilles Duceppe also did well, if only because hes the only guy up there whos not running for Prime Minister unless he wins every seat in Quebec, and Messrs Martin, Harper and Layton each get 70 seats apiece with the Greens picking up whats left. So his job is to persuade his very narrow electorate that hes effective at pissing all over the government. In this respect, he did a grand job. Indeed, in their own meretricious way, his questions were far more devastating than anything either Mondays or Tuesdays journalists came up with.
(Excerpt) Read more at steynonline.com ...
Is Harper the conservative?
This is why I love FR. I've been posting here for a little under a year, and would never have heard of Mark Steyn without the wonderful posters here. I've been poring through his archives for the last few days and I can't get enough of him.
His anecdote about buying gas in postwar Iraq with American vs. Canadian money is one of the funniest bits of political punditry I've ever read. The guy is sharp as hell and always on point without being acerbic or overly sarcastic (though I do admire those qualities greatly in Ann Coulter!!!)
I missed that one. Do you have a link or remember the name of the column?
"Im pleased to report, then, that the obscene Oil For Food program has been radically privatized. In much of Iraq, the government petrol stations have been pillaged and the gas pumps stripped of their metal panels so that they stand on two thin metal pins, their hoses hanging loose, like R2D2 before he goes in for a service. Instead, entrepreneurial Iraqis stand along the roadside with small tanks of mysteriously acquired petrol. Heading back to Jordan, I pulled up in the desert. How much for a fill-up? I asked.
Ten dollars, he said.
Ive only got a 20, I said.
Thats good, he said. Bush, he added, pointing to the picture of Andrew Jackson on the bill.
Close enough, I said. Afterwards, he wanted another 20 for his seven-year old boy. Im a softie but not that soft, so I fished out a Canadian 20.
What this? he said suspiciously. American one dollar? He pointed to the Queens portrait. Who this?
George Washington, I said. Hell have a hard job getting rid of the Canadian but that Yankee 20 hell change in one of the stores back in town and hell do himself and the local economy more good than the UNs bloated boondoggle ever will."
Harper is a Tory.
Some Tories are more conservative than others, but none of them are very conservative by American standards.
Where Harper falls within the conservative continuum I don't know, though I'm pretty sure he isnt a Red Tory.
I guess what I'm wondering is which one of the characters described by Steyn in the article is the conservative of the bunch.
(One of these days I'm going to have to sit down and figure out who's who in Canadian politics.)
The official title of the Tories is the Conservative Party, and Harper is their leader.
But the point I'm trying to make that by American standards the Conservative Party of Canada isn't very conservative.
Well, even though he's only relatively conservative, I'm happy to see that Steyn thought Harper had the best performance in the debate.
So Canada's where the pMSNBC producers ended up!
The debates are over, thank God, and you can find much useful analysis pus a soupcon of hooey from my old friends Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells, and my new friends at The Western Standard. I have nothing much to add, except to say that any Canadian who still believes in the inherent superiority of his more civilized articulate politics over the debased “negative” American kind must be on crack. Both the French and English debates were embarrassments.
In part, it’s the format, designed by third-rate TV producers to get the politicians to “mix things up”. This rapidly becomes very boring. You can’t impose an entertainment format on performers who aren’t entertaining. They look like a bunch of flabby Rotarians forced into an extreme celebrity wrestling event. That’s one reason why the post-debate analysis – concentrating on who, if any, landed good blows – also misses the point. The “experts” made the same mistake their cousins down south did in the Gore/Bush debates, when Mister Know-It-All stomped around the stage listing Deputy Prime Ministers of Central Asia and the Balkans he’d discussed global warming with.
TV is a cool medium, not a hot one. That means the guy who looks most comfortable in his skin wins. Advantage: Harper. His so-called “bad” French was in fact a plus in the first debate in that it prevented him from being as glib and exhibitionist as the the rest of the twerps. And in the second debate he was the only one who looked as if he was giving any genuine reflection to the questions as opposed to pounding the bejasus out of the other fellers.
Gilles Duceppe also did well, if only because he’s the only guy up there who’s not running for Prime Minister – unless he wins every seat in Quebec, and Messrs Martin, Harper and Layton each get 70 seats apiece with the Greens picking up what’s left. So his job is to persuade his very narrow electorate that he’s effective at pissing all over the government. In this respect, he did a grand job. Indeed, in their own meretricious way, his questions were far more devastating than anything either Monday’s or Tuesday’s journalists came up with.
Jack Layton’s grin wore out its welcome about ten minutes into the first debate. A third-rate mike-hogger, he had his only good moment when Paul Martin sneeringly asked, “Did your handlers tell you to talk all the time?” An effective put-down, but Layton riposted in his huffy NDP way that he was sorry Mr Martin thought missile defence and the militarilisation of space was a joke, and in doing so he neutralized the Martin stab: for however many people thought the Prime Minister got in a great dig, there were as many who thought it made him look small and un-Prime Ministerial. But Layton’s act works only in small doses and I doubt there are many Canadians who want to spend five years with this guy.
Paul Martin looked blustery and cheap and whoever trained him to do that hand-in-the-face gesture when he thinks the other guy’s yammered on enough must be cringing by now. The scary thing about Stephen Harper is that he’s insufficiently scary, and that’s why Mr Martin looked desperate. The aside that he could easily have "shovelled under the carpet" all the sponsorship stuff was unfelicitous and a small glimpse of the arrogance of his entitlement to power.
Worse than any of the participants were the useless CBC moderator, Anna Maria Tremonti, and two of her fellow journalists, Keith Boag and Craig Oliver. I urge all taxpayers, in the spirit of conscientious objectors, to deduct from their returns the amount that goes to Miss Tremonti's and Mr Boag's salaries.
The big news out of the debates is that Quebec is over. M Duceppe has the province sewn up and any Liberal candidate beyond Westmount and the West Island might as well go to the Bahamas for a couple of weeks. With Quebec lost to the Grits, that puts majority government beyond their reach. So Mr Martin’s job now is to figure out a way to damage Mr Harper sufficiently in Ontario that he can cling on to power as a minority PM or with the NDP. If I were Madam Clarkson, I’d be consulting with the Palace on the relevant precedents. The Liberals are unlikely to concede gracefully. STEYN ONLINE, June 16th 2004
ONE MO' TIME!
“Wow!” said Bono, the elderly rock star turned Zelig-like emissary to prime ministers and potentates. He was standing next to Paul Martin at the time, which made the “Wow!” all the more remarkable. “A politician who doesn’t break his promises. This is real leadership.”
Paul looked pleased. It wasn’t quite as fulsome an endorsement as the night U2 played Stockholm, when Benny and Bjorn from Abba joined them on stage for a rendition of “Dancing Queen” and Bono bowed before the two legendary Swedes and declared, “We are not worthy.”
On the other hand, it was a lot better than the night U2 played Oslo, and they came on stage in a 40-foot high lemon-shaped mirror ball, which was supposed to open like a flower, but instead jammed and left Bono and co trapped inside as the lasers and dry ice whirled around them, a frenzy of visual accompaniments lacking anything to accompany.
Bono may say “Wow!” but, to those who’ve been following him rather more closely, Paul Martin has spent the last six months giving an excellent impression of a man trapped inside a giant lemon – ie, the Liberal Party of Canada. He was ushered on with a spectacular light show and lots of sound and fury and then the unwieldy Liberal lemon promptly ground to a halt leaving Paul with his face pressed up to the window mouthing that he could still be a lively, dynamic, charismatic leader of the band if we’d just give him a chance.
Well, maybe. But Bono at least has a message (end Aids in Africa). Paul seems to be singing, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.
The Liberal lemon is a classic example of what I call rock’n’roll government. Like an over-the-hill supergroup that won’t stop touring, it staggers on – bloated, decadent, ever more dependent on special effects, the roadies and equipment out of all proportion to the small amount of talent it once had, wracked by impenetrable “artistic differences” and personnel changes that make no discernible difference to the tired refrains of the same old song.
Possibly this is not the message Paul Martin was endeavouring to communicate by his appearance with Bono, but it seeped through anyway. The Liberal lemons, like other elderly rockers, are relaxed about sex, drugs and full of hooey on the environment and other do-goody causes. They commend the virtues of community and social progressivism. “Imagine no possessions. It’s easy if you try,” as John Lennon advised his fans from his possessions-filled pad on Central Park West. “Imagine all the people/Living life in peace.”
You may say he’s a dreamer, but he’s not the only one. Our rock’n’roll government feels the same. “Imagine fewer possessions, a smaller older car than your cousin in Florida, no affordable vacations except to Cuba. It’s easy if you try,” sing the Liberal lemons. “Imagine all the people living life in peace, holding hands together as they sit in emergency at the Royal Victoria for 48 hours.”
Members of the aristorockracy profess boundless compassion for the little man at public appearances to which they’re ferried by private plane and limousine. Or rather, if you’re Bono and U2, the planes and cars are “private”. If you’re John Ralston Saul with a yen to commune with the northern wilderness or a minor Grit apparatchik en route to a meeting to deny benefits to veterans’ widows, the planes and cars are taxpayer-funded. But, given that most Canadian rock stars move south and take out US citizenship, getting on the Liberal payroll is the closest you can get this side of the 49th parallel to the rock’n’roll high-life. It’s not U2, but Me-Too, a vast web of the mutually connected giving themselves government jobs and government contracts back and forth for all eternity. A one-party state where the party never stops.
Will they pull it off one mo’ time? You’d have to bet on them. I said in this space a few weeks ago that the Liberals had adopted the slogan of the last French Presidential election: “Vote for the crooks, not the Fascists.” The demonisation strategy is already under way: Mr Martin talks about the “scorched earth” policies of the “Alliance-Conservatives”. This is presumably a reference to Stephen Harper’s extreme right-wing agenda of, er, universal prescription drugs coverage. But never mind that. He’s under the control of a sinister fringe group known as “Christians”.
If this goes like recent elections, one can rely on the demonisation approach being successful enough to throw the opposition off course – in 1997, Jean Charest, who was supposed to be at least pretending to be conservative, drifted so far that he ended the campaign to the left of the NDP; in 2000, Stockwell Day spent the first three weeks saying nothing on the grounds that he wanted to run a “positive” campaign and, when it turned out that he was positive mainly in the sense of someone who’s tested positive for the ebola virus, he spent the last three weeks proclaiming his allegiance to Liberal orthodoxy. The absolute nadir of his performance was reached in that leadership performance in which he held up a hand-written placard saying “NO TWO-TIER HEALTH CARE”. Joe Clark, ever the wag, reached over and crossed out the “NO”, though crossing out the “TWO” would have been a more accurate characterization of our present no-tier health care system.
Conservatives won’t win by singing lame cover versions of the Liberal lemons. Nor will they win by advocating private health care, a flat tax and a massive increase in defence expenditure, all of which I’m in favour of, as are maybe three or four other Canadians within a hundred-mile radius. For the Liberals to lose their majority depends on two things: the Bloc whumping them in Quebec, and the Conservatives doing just well enough in Ontario. Right now, the former looks a better bet than the latter. But the Conservatives can pull it off by making the issue one of competence – that the Liberals are simply too inept, wasteful, corrupt and/or just plain clapped out to govern. How far voters want to travel along that adjectival chain is up to them, but the theme of Harper’s election platform has potential appeal to all: “Demand Better.”
What we have in Canada is a crisis of the state. We have the outward appearance of an established Westminster constitutional monarchy, but the checks and balances, formal and informal, have ceased to function. In Commonwealth terms, we’re less like Australia and New Zealand, and closer to Malta in the Seventies under Dom Mintoff. Malta had a Governor-General and a Speaker and all the outward symbols, but it was no longer quite a respectable democracy. That’s us now. For our own self-respect, we should demand better.
No doubt Mr Martin was schmoozing a rock star because he thought it would signal youth and vigor. “We are such a young country,” as Lucienne Robillard always says when I catch her at Canada Day ceremonies in Montreal. Which is a funny way to describe such an old country, with half a millennium of political evolution to look back on. But in the Trudeaupian state it’s always Year Zero. As Mr Martin says, “When you look at our agenda, what we are about is very, very different from the previous government. So that’s complete renewal.” In other words, we’ve already had the change of government. The election is mere retrospective ratification.
Demand better. Don’t let him get away with it. Don’t reward the failed, exhausted greasers of Free-Lunch Liberalism with another five years. In the end, we’re the ones stuck in the malfunctioning lemon and they’re squeezing us till the pips squeak. Enough.
The Western Standard, May 31st 2004
~ Mark's column can be read every fortnight in The Western Standard. In the current issue, don't miss Steyn on the the election's great unmentionables, only in the print edition of The Western Standard, on newsstands now - or click here to subscribe.
A BIOLOGICAL DEAD END
Four years ago, I caught Alan Keyes, the magnificently conservative African-American speechifier and perennial Presidential candidate, at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “My friends,” he began, “we stand at the brink of the abyss.”
Wow! What a great opening, I thought. But perhaps not the best campaign slogan. Not exactly “It’s morning in America” or “A thousand points of light”, is it? Democratic politics requires the candidate on the stump, even when on the brink of the abyss, to keep his sunny side up and whistle a happy tune. And that goes double for conservatives.
But those of us in the media are under no obligation to ac-cen-tchu-ate the positive. And so I confess I was a little surprised when The Globe And Mail rounded up the latest grim statistics on Canada’s birth rate – it’s the lowest since records began, it’s fallen 25.4 per cent since 1992, the current fertility rate of 1.5 births per couple is well below “replacement rate” – and then concluded with a singalong chorus of “Happy Talk”:
Luckily for our future economic and fiscal well-being, Canada is well-positioned to counter the declining population trend by continuing to encourage the immigration of talented people to this country from overcrowded parts of the world.
Phew! So there’s nothing to worry about, eh? We stand at the brink of the abyss but we can fill it up with immigrants and continue on our path to the sunlit uplands. Thank goodness for that. Lucky, aren’t we?
Most 20-year projections – on economic growth, global warming, etc – are almost laughably speculative, and thus most doomsday scenarios are, too. The eco-doom-mongers get it wrong because they fail to take into account human inventiveness: “We can’t feed the world!” they shriek. But we develop more efficient farming methods with nary a thought. “The oil will run out by the year 2000!” But we develop new extraction methods and find we’ve got enough oil for as long as we’ll need it.
But human inventiveness depends on humans – and that’s the one thing we really are running out of. When it comes to forecasting the future, the birth rate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2005, it’s hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2025 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). We’re at that moment in the movie where the countdown’s begun and we have a choice of trying to defuse the bomb or accepting our fate.
Ping to the Steyn list, and to your list.
You're welcome -- and thanks. My latest version of the Opera browser has taken to intermitently gobbly-gooking my posts.
Bit of a bummer.
Best ones -- Brian
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