The revelation that the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has maintained an enemies list isn’t much of a revelation, is it? I mean, if there has ever been a Canadian administration that is positively Nixonian in its style and approach, it is Stephen Harper’s.
Now, that’s not to suggest the PMO has engaged in cover-ups, payoffs and dirty deals, like the disgraced former U.S. president did. Nor should it be taken to mean that the elite crew surrounding the Conservative prime minister has turned a collective blind eye to fraud, theft and breach of trust, as Nixon did.
The ongoing Senate scandal. Right. Never mind.
Anyway, the Harper PMO kids — showing up to work every morning buffed and scrubbed, and looking very much like the bad guys in the Matrix movie series, but without the interpersonal charm — are more and more like the Nixon cabal with each passing day.
Just consider the latest count in the indictment: News Harper et al. maintain an enemies list, like Nixon did.
The existence of Harper’s enemies list was revealed last week when an e-mail sent from the PMO to ministerial aides ended up in the wrong inbox. The e-mail cheerfully requested that lists of enemy bureaucrats, as well as lists of “enemy stakeholders,” be developed for incoming ministers and their staffs.
Nixon, as historians will note, did the same thing. His list was concocted by his White House counsel, a subsequently convicted criminal named Chuck Colson.
It was variously referred to as the “Opponents List” or the “Political Enemies List,” and it contained the names of journalists and politicians who Nixon and his orcs disliked — including actor Paul Newman, whose career did not seem to be impeded by the designation.
Enemies lists, as the Harper gang are (hopefully) about to discover, are lots of fun to put together, but not so much fun to defend in the public realm. That’s because, at some point, an enemies list has an actual purpose.
It is supposed to be used. And that’s where it becomes slightly less comedic and arguably illegal.
The Nixon list certainly was. In that case, the enemies list was used to “screw” — the word used by John Dean, another White House lawyer — the president’s enemies with IRS audits, denial of federal contracts, litigation and even prosecution.
And that, of course, is when an innocuous enemies list stops being funny and becomes much more ominous.
It is a crime to use the power of the state to initiate tax audits of one’s political enemies. It is a crime to commence an administrative or legal process with the purpose of “screwing” someone the Conservative Party hates. It is a crime to prosecute a political adversary because they possess different views and priorities.
The Harper PMO, when they finally get around to concocting talking points about their enemies list, will say that (a) it was the fault of a misguided young staffer, (b) it was never acted upon, (c) the Liberals did the same thing, and (d) the sponsorship scandal. Rinse and repeat, etc.
But no one should be fooled: The Harper PMO drew up an enemies list, and they did so because they expected it to be acted upon by ministers and staffers who possess real power. If even one of them has done so — even once — they have committed a crime.
The Nixon-Harper comparisons being made by the opposition and some of us in the media are, at one level, kind of amusing. But when we pause to reflect on this latest controversy — and we should — it all becomes a lot less comical.
If you’ve ever written a letter to the editor criticizing Stephen Harper — if you’ve ever stood for office against one of his allies, or if you have participated in a grassroots campaign against one of his policies — you deserve to know if you are on that list.
And you deserve to know what, if anything, was done to you by Stephen Harper’s Nixonian PMO.