Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Bar Has Definitely Been Raised
Poor Stephen Harper and, to a lesser extent, poor Iggy. Both must be feeling a bit like the sap who shows up in a pirate costume only to find it's actually a black tie affair.
The pirate costume is the mantle of the Bush administration. The black tie outfit is the new reality, the Obama administration. Folks who once backed the invasion of Iraq are laying low right now. Gitmo and enhanced interrogation techniques are so yesterday. The bar that the Frat Boy set easy low for the limbo party is no more. It's now a high jump bar again so everybody better ditch the Hawaiian shirts and put on their track shoes.
Poor Stevie Harper. He so wanted to bring the Reagan Revolution to his native land, hit us with it right between the eyes before we could do anything about it. But all that hinged on somebody keeping that dark farce playing to packed crowds in the theatre halls of Pennsylvania Avenue. Whoopsie!
A bit of Steve must've died as he watched his American Idol hop the last chopper out of the White House before the mob arrived with the pitchforks and torches. I'll bet in his pointy little mind he had an image of the Gipper weeping.
The era of rank ideology evaporated overnight. Sorry Steve. When it comes to mental flexibility, Steve has chronic osteoporosis of the brain. His brittle little mind is on rails, tightly tied down, not a hair out of place. He truly doesn't have a B Game at the very moment when that's the only game in town. Jim Travers offers these insights in today's Toronto Star:
Whatever Harper was doing up here, Bush was doing more of it down there. While the Prime Minister, like his Liberal predecessors, was trying to ignore the human and legal rights of one Canadian that were being denied at Guantanamo Bay, the president was keenly defending and justifying the U.S. abuse of hundreds of prisoners. Canadian opposition to the Afghanistan mission was a mere peep compared to the screams against the war in Iraq.
When only a few academics and journalists here worried about eroding democracy and the concentration of control in the Prime Minister's Office, a U.S. public debate was roiling over the Bush administration's determination to remove constitutional checks, tipping the balance of power in the president's favour.
For a federal government with a more or less parallel U.S. agenda, political cover that broad is priceless. Among other things, it reinforces the me-too logic of economic, social and foreign policies arcing across the spectrum; from the lethal combo of low taxes and high spending to climate change foot-dragging and big-stick solutions to problems begging more subtle answer.
Much of what the new president told America in his sobering inaugural address resonates with similar urgency in Canada. Fear is no excuse for injustice, greed can't be a synonym for free markets, and dumping the planet's problems on the next generation is not an acceptable option.
Obama is a phenomenon – a seductive mix of upright character, soaring intellect and stirring rhetoric – that Canadian leaders can't and shouldn't try to duplicate. They can, and should, rise to his challenge of restoring principles to policies and to politics.