“May you live in interesting times,” sayeth the font of all acquired wisdom – ie., Wikipedia – is an ancient “Chinese curse.” As in, if you live in an interesting age, you’re not going to be terribly happy.
By that measure, federal Liberals who endured their party’s first leadership debate should be deliriously happy.
That’s because the first Grit leadership debate was not very interesting, and that’s putting it mildly. It was more boring than an Antiques Roadshow marathon. It was more boring than a week-long jazz festival.
It was boring. It was not interesting.
There were some attempts at making Sunday’s debate in Vancouver less dull, inadvertent though they were. The pitiless moderator, for instance, recalled Austin Power’s ‘Dr. Evil,’ but with none of the charm.
For reasons none could fathom, the audio was also wildly out of sync with the candidate’s lips. It was like a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, but with none of the requisite carnage to keep you glued to your seat.
And finally, there were no less than five (5) contestants who could not recently win a seat in the House of Commons, but who feel that they should be leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
They were sort of interesting, too, but only in the way that unbridled immodesty and sheer gall are interesting. You kept asking yourself: “Why do these people think they can win the country, if they couldn’t win their own hometown?”
Other than that, it was – as noted – coma-inducingly dull. Justin Trudeau was a little less dramatic than before (good), and Marc Garneau was a little more dramatic than before (also good). They both acquitted themselves well.
Now, we know what you’re thinking: “It’s better to live in interesting times, isn’t it? Better than being dull, no?”
Well, no, actually. Per the Chinese aphorism, being too interesting is still bad. Especially in politics.
Liberals, for instance, had a series of debates in 2006 that were highly captivating. They were extremely interesting. Contestants like Michael Ignatieff, Stephane Dion and Gerard Kennedy went at each other hammer and tong. They were fiercer than a bunch of cobras at a sock hop.
At the time, they probably thought they were making things interesting, and that interesting was good. Except that, when the election rolled around, the Conservatives ran ad after ad showing the interesting Liberal leadership aspirants scratching and clawing each other.
Their message: “These clowns are more critical of each other than we are. Do you really want them running the country?”
Short answer: no.
Journalists, naturally, love conflict. It makes their bells go off. So, too, the Libs’ political opponents. They adore knock-down, drag-’em-out political leadership races.
Blood sells papers. And, for a Conservative, it’s always better to see Liberal blood spilled blood than your own.
Thus, Liberals are being very, very careful this time around. They are disinterested in giving the media more prime time Grit fratricide. And they are particularly disinterested in giving Stephen Harper more fodder for TV attack ads.
May you never live in interesting times? Damn straight.
Those ancient Chinese sayings-makers knew what they were talking about.