Friday, October 03, 2008

The "double header" debates are over. Molly began by watching the US vice-presidential candidates debate in the vain hope that Palin would pull out a real howler- grist for my joke mill. The ins and outs of the "ins", however, made this a time waster. Palin didn't fall flat on her face as I'd hoped. In this she was helped by her opponent Biden who had obviously been "over-coached" by his handlers to "not appear like a pitbull" (without lipstick). After watching him fumble the ball three times, missing great opportunities to play the good old game of "got you now you son of a bitch", I realized that Palin wasn't going to provide any amusement. Biden hardly spoke about Palin at all, mostly concentrating on McCain and his more than fuzzy "record" of how and when he voted in this that and the other thing over the past two decades. Too many "nerve tonics" I guess. Biden hardly noticed that McCain was not at the other podium and that his debate opponent was like a battleship with most of its armour missing and half its guns inoperative. It's probably a matter of "staying on script", and far be it for Molly to try and outguess the fine manipulators of public opinion that the Democrats have hired- the best that multi-millions can buy.
But speaking about "scripts" I then turned to the Canadian debate out of boredom. Something actually happened there. There was actually "real debate", if emotional heat (outside of Even-Steven Harper who had his spiel down to a tee, and displayed all of the emotion of Data on Star Trek, The Next Generation). Good plan actually. One wonders how many "nerve tonics" Sneaky Stevie took before the show. The probable answer is "zero" as Harper is undoubtedly the most hardened liar in the pack, and he can control himself to the millimeter. It's entirely possible that the term "psychopath" could apply to Harper. His style suggests the ability to lie with a straight face and feel absolutely no nervousness about such. This impression is more than reinforced by his record in government. It's interesting that he is able to mount simultaneous lies directed at both his left and right wing flanks.
As usual Duceppe came across as the most intelligent of the candidates. Too bad he sits on top of a machine devoted to a hopeless cause, but I guess that he is used to such a position being the ex-Maoist that he is. In terms of pure "reptilian cunning" he could best Sneaky Stevie in a one on one easily, but he hardly is in such a position. The Canadian debate rapidly became boring as well. The highlight was when Layton turned on Dion, basically making him cringe. One could almost hear the whimpery voice coming out of the side of his mouth-one could definitely see the pained expression on his face as Layton interrupted him, caught him in a boo-boo, and simply "took over" the situation. Jumping Jack definitely came across as much "tougher" than Dion, and much more able to stand up to the Great Satan Stevie who wants to offer more and more Canadian bodies on the altars of American wars.
But the amusement was short lived. After that high point it was all downhill. Layton scored the best opposition points on his attacks on the economy, but Sneaky Stevie "cooled his way through". No knock-out punches here. Dingbat Dion was way out of his league. Mealy-Mouthed May was a non-entity, as befits somebody who used to be one of Brian Mulroney's advisers, made sweetheart deals with the present Liberals (as part of a plot to undermine the NDP as the "left party"), and was part and parcel of a "capture attempt" on the Canadian Green Party that has thoroughly and permanently marginalized its "left" elements.
Still, a large number of Canadians are gradually coming to an "anyone but Harper" position. There are good reasons for this, as the following article from the Harper Index points out.
Hidden-agenda concerns keep Conservatives from majority :
Only ten percent in poll think Harper has told them the whole truth about his plans.
OTTAWA, October 3, 2008:
Stephen Harper attempted in the federal leaders' debate last night to dispel the fear many Canadians have that he has a hidden ideological agenda that will not come into full view until he has a majority government.

Despite a political career built on contempt for public services, marketing boards, social programs and unions, Harper steered a cautious path during his two-plus years of minority government, avoiding hot-button social issues. In last night's debate, he boasted about having increased spending on social programs as Prime Minister.

"There's no ideological agenda there," he claimed, about cuts to some arts programs while increasing funding to others. Later he chided the other leaders about funding he said his government had put into economic development. "This is hardly a laissez-faire attitude."

Harper knows that Canadians are concerned about what may be, as Jack Layton put it in the debate, under Harper's blue sweater. (This was a reference to Harper's attempts to soften his image in this campaign by appearing in sweaters rather than suits.)

A May poll by Vector Research™ was one of many that have pointed to the distrust many voters feel for Harper. "Some people feel that Harper has a hidden agenda and that if the Conservatives win a majority government in the next federal election he will do things he did not talk about in the election campaign," said Vector's Marc Zwelling.

"Forty two percent of Canadians, including 46 percent of the women we talked to, told us they feel Harper is holding back or covering up information about a lot of his plans that voters ought to know."

Only ten percent of those polled thought that Harper has told the voters the whole truth about his plans.

In a September 29 poll, two thirds of respondents said they thought a Harper majority government would expand the role of private health care, something Harper downplayed last night and throughout the campaign.

Harper's debate strategy confirmed what many observers have written, that he is running to attract voters in the political centre and establish a long-term majority by staying relaxed and in control, with barely a hint of ideology. He never used right-wing catch-phrases like "privatize," "war on terror," or "war on drugs," nor did he refer to religion, morality or any of the other ideas that would mark him as a right-winger. He boasted he does not use private health care.

The often-aggressive Harper took a much more subdued tone in the debates than he often does in the House. Both in the debate and through most of his tightly-scripted and heavily-guarded campaign, Harper has managed to skirt discussion of issues that provoked much of the distrust he now encounters.

Dozens of trust-disturbing incidents and policies from the past two years might have been raised that weren't: including a government culture of authoritarianism, blocking access to public documents, a revolving door between the government and top corporate lobbyists, tying the hands of future governments with secret deals like the SPP and TILMA. The Harper government's ideological attacks on Canadian Wheat Board haven't achieved much campaign notice. The politicization and muzzling of the public service did not come up in the debate. Neither did the government's outright hostility to the news media and its relentless attempts to control their access to government officials.

The final vote on October 14 will tell whether his performance last night and throughout the campaign successfully assured voters he is a moderate without a hidden agenda.

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