10.13.2012 09:12 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: experience counts – but not always in the way you think

Four years ago this fall, during the U.S. election campaign that would send Barack Obama to the White House, Sarah Palin made a mistake.

As historians are aware, Palin would go on to make a great many mistakes. Her name would become so synonymous with political misstatements and miscalculations, in fact, that her party would eventually come to treat her like political kryptonite.

But back in 2008, the former governor of Alaska — and the then-Republican vice-presidential candidate — was still a pretty big deal. Conservatives swooned over her. Pundits sang her praises. She was arguably more popular than the Republican presidential nominee, John McCain.

Some Democratic Party smart alecks poked fun at her, however, and Palin didn’t like it so much. The Democrats ribbed Palin for her apparent lack of experience, particularly as a small-town mayor in Alaska. So Palin struck back.

At the Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn., to thunderous applause, Palin said: “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer. Except that you have actual responsibilities.”

This was a swipe at the employment history of Barack Obama, of course, and the GOP crowd loved it. Obama was soon forced to defend the period in which he had worked as a community organizer in Chicago in the late 1980s.

As the above-noted historians will remind us, the insult didn’t really work so well, did it? Obama — a young black man, the son of a single mom and, yes, a community organizer — would go on to be president of the United States of America.


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    james curran says:

    Funny. I missed out on what Hudak did for a job. And Rob Ford? These cons just make me laugh at their hypocrisy.

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    ottawacon says:

    It is an odd line of attack, considering he was barely a school teacher either. He spent only a few years as a teacher before taking a job he could not possibly have earned on his own merits at Katimavik, a program that was very much a legacy of his father. Labelling him with the very few years where he did not have a silver spoon in his mouth is actually a bizarre choice, if only because Harper really has no corresponding period in his career. By that measure, Mulcair has more than Harper and Trudeau put together.

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    Beth Higginson says:

    I totally agree with Warren on this.

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    Mike says:

    What? You been reading my wife’s column Warren?


    “So it is that both sides of Justin’s opposition are already sharpening their attacks, the primary thrust of which seems to be defining him as a lightweight. Or perhaps at least a light-heavywieght according to boxing foe and Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, the martial-arts trained Canadian Forces reservist who took an unexpected drubbing at the hands of Justin. A drubbing that the Conservatives don’t want to see happen anywhere outside the boxing ring. But, the Conservative spins machine is already defining their attack strategy by asking of Trudeau: What has he really done? For goodness sake – he’s only a teacher!

    Only a teacher? As compared to perhaps a lawyer which is the most common former career for M.P.s? Care to guess which career is more respected in the general population?

    Only a teacher. Only somebody capable of leading a group to break down a problem and arrive at solutions. To explain complex new ideas so that people can understand them. To engage and motivate those who may have difficulty motivating themselves. A career that defines itself by not just teaching, but also by being a lifelong learner in order to stay current as the needs of their students changes, and as the subjects themselves are refined in the face of new discoveries and new technological advances. Exactly what about that job description isn’t something desirable in a political leader?

    How, for example, does a teaching career stack up against Stephen Harper’s resume outside of politics which, besides quitting three political Parties before taking the reigns of the Conservative Party, seems to be comprised mostly of his job in the mail room at Imperial Oil, and then the job handed to him by his political cronies at the National Citizens Coalition? Actually, compared to that resume, a real career in teaching sounds pretty good!

    And once again, this is just another attempt to frame this discussion in ways that the opposing Parties feel will benefit them. This is not a discussion of policy, but of the measure of a leader. They acknowledge that Trudeau wins hands-down on charisma, so they need another tack. They have moved on already to their own version of Hillary Clinton’s “who do you want answering the phone at 3:00 a.m.” campaign tactic, with the question asked being does he know enough about policy across the boards to run all aspects of our country? The answer to that right now is probably not. The same, however, could be said about any new leader. What experience does Thomas Mulclair have in negotiating trade deals? What experience did Stephen Harper have in military matters prior to becoming Prime Minister? Oh right – none. “

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    Pat says:

    There is also the fact that the Tories have been able to call the last three leaders “elites” based on their employment history, but you could hardly call a teacher “elite”. Also, sure he has a big family name and stuff, but so did Martin and Iggy.

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    Dan says:

    I think we should have MORE teachers in public office.

    But calling JT a teacher is a stretch. He did that for what, four years?

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    frazworth says:

    You forgot the part about Stevie dropping out of university to work at an oil company. Seems to be overlooked a lot/unmentioned by everyone….interesting. But I guess someone who put off school to work in the “mailroom” of an oil company is more fit to lead a country than someone who teaches.

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    Martin says:

    Electability and suitability don’t always correlate. I prefer John Manley, Cauchon, or another Liberal with some executive experience. Give JT some experience as a cabinet minister, then in 15 years or so, he’d be ready. Having read Jean Chretien’s memoirs, he placed a lot of importance on his own executive experience which helped him make decisions as a PM. Chretien was very realistic as to what the government was able to accomplish. His experience as a minister helped him, I think decide not to follow the U.S. into Iraq. He recognized a boondoggle when he saw one coming.

    Contrast Chretien with Barack. Barack waved his majic wand and created a health care system at a time when the U.S. was already drowning in debt. Chretien wanted to launch a national child-care program, but he had the experience to realise that the debt had to be tackled first, his experience taught him to implement things cautiously. Harper is the exception to the rule. He is cautious by nature, and that helped him. I see JT as the kind of leader that would simply launch new initiatives and then worry about the details later- that’s why he needs cabinet experience first in my opinion- so that he can realize how difficult it is to actually get things done and implemented.

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    CM says:

    If ever there was a group of people that bring both a love of the private sector free market and an addiction to the bi-weekly government pay cheques it is the members of the Harper Cabinet. Just take a look at the biographies of the members of the Priorities and Planning Committee. Look at all those captains of industry and wild-eyed entrepreneurs! Look at the risk takers! Led by a prime minister who, prior to becoming prime minister, had done fuck all other than write articles and complain about Canadians as government handout loving freeloaders.

    They are all life long government apparatchiks through and through. They would have made members of the Soviet politburo blush at their records of non-accomplishments. But they all have elephantine nads to critique ANYONE for being an unaccomplished lightweight. No doubt they all guffaw at each other around the cabinet table and sooth each other with the Harper Cabinet motto: “Its all pensionable time.”

    Marjorie LeBreton
    • Government payroll since 1962 in various positions

    Peter MacKay
    • Crown Attorney (1993 – 1997)
    • MP since 1997

    Vic Toews
    • MP since 2000
    • MLA Manitoba 1995 – 1999 (Minister of Labour & Attorney General)
    • Provincial Crown Attorney from 1976 – 1995

    Diane Finley
    • Administrator at the University of Western Ontario French Immersion School
    • Elected MP in 2004

    John Baird
    • Political staffer to Perrin Beatty early 1990s
    • MPP and cabinet minister Ontario 1995 – 2005
    • Elected MP 2006

    Tony Clement
    • MPP and Cabinet minister Ontario 1995 – 2003
    • MP 2006 – Present

    Jim Flaherty
    • Lawyer prior to elecion for 20 years starting law firm
    • MPP and cabinet Ontario 1995 – 2006
    • MP and Cabinet Minister 2006 – present

    Jason Kenney
    • 1988 Executive Assistant to Ralph Goodale when Leader of the Saskatchewan Liberal Party
    • MP Elected 1997 – present at age 29

    Christian Paradis
    • MP since 2006

    James Moore
    • MP since 2000

    Denis Lebel
    • Mayor Roberval 2000 – 2007
    • MP since 2007

    John Duncan
    • MP 1993 -present

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    JStanton says:

    .. jeez, the Toronto Spun commenters have gone rabid at the thought of their idolized leader’s credentials being critically scrutinized and then evaluated as no more than on par with the man who they despise because all that he is and has is so far beyond their their reach.

    Harper’s mediocrity they can abide, because they fancy that his achievements are within their own grasp. The very idea of Justin Trudeau, and whatever he represents now and for the future, leaves a sour taste in their mouths, born of the continual disappointments of their own ineffectual and meaningless lives.

    These are the people that pillory Chretien, Dion, Ignatieff and Rae as “stupid”. Those men, some of the finest Canadians and greatest achievers of their time, are considered to be shallow underachievers, bereft of the intelligence and wisdom held by Toronto Spun commenters. It’s laughable.

    Evidently, the next few years are going to produce some of the most divisive and nasty politics imaginable. It has taken the appearance of Justin Trudeau to crystallize in peoples minds the stark differences between Harper’s Canada, and the Canada that we and the world knew and loved.

    It’s been a long time coming, and I for one can hardly wait to start bustin’ heads!


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      Warren says:

      Yes, I do get them worked up, don’t I? I would say I hope I give the angriest ones coronaries, but that would be mean.

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    Jon Evan says:

    I think that JT gets it because he went to Calgary right after his speech. But if he really gets it he’ll move to Calgary. Move away from the tired old Liberal Party fossils and their outdated advice and get some fresh advice from a part of the country where it’s all happening!

    I agree with John Ibittson:

    “Stephen Harper is prime minister because he gets what Canada has become, and the Laurentian elites don’t. A government from the West is in control because wealth and power are flowing to the West.”

    If JT gets it and moves to Calgary I’ll take him very seriously!


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      Michael says:

      A government from the West is in control because they appeal to suburban and rural Ontario.

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    Ronald O'Dowd says:


    Some excel at mindless drivel. Others, at taking in and rendering credible useless prattle masquerading as alleged facts. Bring on the campaign!

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