, 07.09.2019 01:55 PM

Dimples? Simple

Dimples.

That’s what you actually get some Trudeau trolls nattering about online: Andrew Scheer’s dimples.

Seriously.

For some reason beyond the understanding of sane people, the Trudeaupian types think that the Conservative leader’s dimples disqualify him as a candidate for Prime Minister. They go on about it all the time.

The same criticism used to be made about Bill Clinton. The Democratic president’s many Republican antagonists would say that Clinton’s ever-present grin was unsettling. They would say that Clinton seems to be smiling when, you know, he shouldn’t be.

In recent months, the upward tilt of Andrew Scheer’s lips haven’t been as evident. We don’t know if he’s received advice to look less happy, or if he is simply distressed by the state of Confederation. Either way, Andrew Scheer is not smirking nearly as much as he used to.

This tendency of some people to attack politicians for something over which they have no control – to wit, their physical appearance – is nothing really new.

Haters on the left attacked Doug Ford for his weight, just as they did with his deceased brother, Toronto Mayor Rob. Kathleen Wynne was mocked for resembling the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live.

And, as Wynne would certainly know, female politicians are regularly attacked – viciously, ceaselessly, unfairly – for their appearance: their hairstyle, their style of dress, their relative attractiveness. All the time.

Such attacks can change the course of political history. The infamous 1993 Conservative Party ad that pointed out the facial paralysis of my former boss, Jean Chretien, is the most infamous example. On the night those ads hit the airwaves in the midst of the 1993 federal election campaign, this writer was running Chretien’s war room at his Ottawa headquarters.

We did not know those attack ads were coming, and we were shocked when they did. Unidentified voices could be heard asking if the Liberal leader “looked like a Prime Minister.“

My boss had been waiting his whole life for that attack. He responded a few hours later, at a campaign stop in New Brunswick. He pointed out that “this was the face” that God gave him, and – unlike Tories, he said – “I don’t speak out of both sides of my mouth.“

Boom. Tories reduced to two seats.

In political back rooms, however, a great deal of time is still devoted to discussing and debating the physiology of political candidates. Example: prior to this writer arriving in British Columbia in 1996 to assist the BC Liberal campaign, some nameless genius strategist decided to stick BC liberal leader Gordon Campbell in a plaid shirt, so he would look a little more proletarian, and a little less house street.

The gambit backfired dramatically. Campbell was ridiculed for trying to be something that he was not.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau presents a political anomaly. Trudeau, like Gordon Campbell, is a handsome fellow. Even Rolling Stone gushed in a cover story that Trudeau and his family are “photogenic” and “glamorous.”

In Canada, the politicians who tend to succeed are unlike Trudeau. They are the ones who possess the hockey-rink-and-Timmmies Everyman look. Ralph Klein, Rene Levesque, Mel Lastman, Jean Chretien and Rob Ford were frequently attacked by the elites for being dishevelled or, at least, somewhat less than a Hollywood matinee idol.

But voters, clearly, loved them for it. Because, in the main, not too many voters resemble Hollywood matinee idols either.

If they’ve gotten this far, serious students of policy  will be offended by all this talk about physical appearance.

They’re right. We shouldn’t make important decisions based on looks.

But, not long after he lost the aforementioned 1996 BC election, Gordon Campbell ruefully remarked to this writer: “It’s 70 per cent how you look, 20 per cent how you say it, and only 10 per cent what you say.”

Campbell knows whereof he speaks. And, if you don’t believe me, go looking for Andrew Scheer’s dimples.

They’re gone.

59 Comments

  1. Gord says:

    Good column, although I assume “house street” was supposed to be “Howe Street”.

    (Incidentally, having worked in corporate Vancouver for years, I always wondered why Howe Street became the equivalent of Bay Street – i.e. a metonym for the financial district. Pretty much all the major banks, corporate head offices, law firms, etc were along either Georgia or Burrard.)

  2. Karl-Milton Marx-Friedman says:

    Those dimples are not going to make the dent, not the crater you image. Yes, it’s weak sauce to focus On a politicians face (we make those judgements subconsciously as the somewhat advanced apes that we are); symmetry is a factor… but Trudeau is going to get a majority in October. it could be this wine I’m drinking it could be the swinging pendulum. But south of the border; the elephant in the room is that Joe Biden is an intellectual light weight, you can still get on the Buttiegeg bandwagon if you want. Biden actually apologized without providing info on how he would do better. Or I was too bored to follow his full speech. Let’s face it; Buttiegeg is the nuke needed to take down the Trunp machine. Boot a Judge needs talented spin doctors to attack the talking pumpkin. Joe Biden is toast. We need Warren, we f@&$ing need you!!!!

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      KMMF,

      Nope. Biden isn’t toast, yet. But yes, the toasting has begun. No doubt about that.

    • Gord Tulk says:

      Buttigieg has almost no chance. Barring a miracle that gets him traction with the black vote he will remain mired in fourth or fifth place.

      It’s harris’ to lose. But she’s moved so far left she’s marooned like McGovern.

      • Ronald O'Dowd says:

        Gord,

        What is killing all of them is their ability to pivot for the general but their absolute refusal to do so once we get there.

        Nixon got it right: hug the base in primaries and caucuses and then pivot to the centre for the election.

        • Gord Tulk says:

          Agreed. The difference is the base of the GOP is not generally interested in totalitarian statements.

          They want tax cuts, debt reduction, secure borders etc. And that leaves a lot of room to manuver.

          Compare that to:

          Medicare for all – including illegal immigrants,
          Free Post secondary education
          Unlimited abortion rights – right up to the moment of birth
          and a whole long list of black and white positions that whoever wins will have the impossible task of walking them back.

          I think this even is qualitatively different than McGovern where the party will tear itself apart if it ever tries to walk these declarations back – the far left will bolt. If my memory of my readings about the Dem platform in ’72 they just weren’t that black and white on issues.

          • The Doctor says:

            I agree there are obvious parallels to 1972 and McGovern, and that should make any Democrat nervous.

            However, there are also some important differences from 1972 (which I hate to admit I’m old enough to remember). For example, Trump’s net negative ratings are way way higher than Nixon’s ever were. Nixon was good at playing to the base AND the centre. Trump is very small-tent by comparison, and it goes to his narcissistic personality that he gravitates to the alt-right base because of the unqualified adoration and narcissistic supply that they give him. Those rallies are a perfect example. As one Republican strategist put it, those rallies are empty comfort food for Trump and his supporters.

            The other thing is that the “enthusiasm” and “determination to vote the other guy out” numbers are very good for the Democrats, and it looks like (unlike 1972) those may well hold up, almost no matter who the Democratic candidate is. And that is also a significant difference from 2016, when a lot of Democrats (e.g., disaffected Bernie fans) stayed home on voting day.

            The other general problem is the tendency of Trump and his most rabid supporters to deny and dismiss how unpopular he is and to overestimate how popular he is (e.g., dismissing any poll that they don’t like). That’s no way to go into battle, i.e., underestimating the strength of your opposition.

            I’m not predicting a Trump loss, but I think Trump has some serious problems.

          • Gord Tulk says:

            Doctor :

            Trump will likely win with a narrow majority unlike nixon who won in a massive landslide.

          • Gord says:

            Even though McGovern got tagged as the candidate of “Abortion, Amnesty and Acid” in 1972, the 1972 Democratic platform was not particularly radical by today’s standards.

            It was pretty much silent on abortion (only amorphous support for “family planning”), said nothing about prison reform or decriminalization of drugs, and had a very very modest health care proposal which proposed to cover serious injuries only while rejecting single-payer. It was pro-coal and pro-nuclear power. They proposed simplifying the tax system rather than creating new taxes.

            It’s a sign of how moderate it was, even by the standards of the day, that a number things it proposed were later implemented by Republican presidents: indexing Social Security to inflation, more money for low-income schools, Medicare drug benefits.

            The fact that the 1972 platform was considered so “out there” at the time is pretty weird when you consider how much further to the right the American political spectrum (and the Overton window) have shifted since the 70s.

          • The Doctor says:

            Gord, you make an interesting point there. I think you have to look at the Big Elephant in 1972 (which really has no equivalent today), and that’s the Vietnam War. McGovern was unequivocally against the war and in favour of immediate pullout.

            Nixon, being the weasel he was, played it brilliantly. He managed to retain the redneck, middle America pro-war people while peeling off moderates claiming that pulling out would be rash and foolish. Then he and Kissinger pulled their little surprise out of their hat.

            But beyond specifics, the Vietnam War had morphed into a classic culture war issue. And McGovern was identified by a lot of Archie Bunker Joe Six Pack middle Americans as being the candidate of the hippies and the flag burners.

  3. Samantha Banks Quills says:

    It was pure inside baseball team to make the comment that “ I don’t speak on both sides of my mouth.” Yes a politician by definition must promise one thing to one cluster and another thing to another amorphous clump of human preference. Of course, Trudeau would have said “physician appearances do not Matter” or something flat an universally Daft and self evidently correct. Plaid shirts don’t matter much; We imagine that JC’s joke was in fact a factor in the election but to be honest there were a lot of variables at play in determine that election outcome: 2
    Seats for the PC; Joe Clarke’s return etc. It was desperation. It was crass. Problem is I can’t prove that there were so many other factors and you can’t prove that it was that single shite John Tory-led ad campaign LEAK that destroyed the PC majority.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      SBQ,

      I’m a Mulroney guy. But let’s face it, the Brian jet lag took the party down.

      • Gord Tulk says:

        Three things sunk the PCP:

        1. Mulroney’s tolerance of corruption in quebec (and elsewhere and disatrous deal-making with the separatists coupled with his shafting of Western Canadians

        2. Kim!!

        3. The Face ad… Presumably approved by Campaign manager John Tory.

        The First item made it nip and tuck that the PCP could be re-elected. The second guaranteed defeat. The third drove it to down to two seats.

        • The Doctor says:

          That’s interesting you mention Quebec corruption. I’ve always thought that one of the most underreported things from that era was the fact that a ridiculously high number of the examples of corruption trotted out by Stevie Cameron in her book Behind Closed Doors emanated from Quebec. As I recall, it was like Maritimes in second place, rest of Canada distant third. Doubly remarkable when you think about our population distribution.

  4. Robert Bernier says:

    There are many things a politician can do to alter her or his physical appearance. Hair colour and makeup, for example. It’s called packaging. Our current PM, should he lose his position in the next general election, could be a consultant and advise politicians in how to manipulate public opinion in this way. Hint: It helps to have an official photographer paid for with public funds.

  5. Gord Tulk says:

    Good looking candidates have done well – sometimes epically well – in Canadian Politics:

    PET, Mulroney and JT.

    Good looks help.

    What really can hurt is physical ineptness:

    Stanfield and Clark and Dion.

    For some reason that is fair game.

    But being the polite (is that changing?) culture that we are, Canadians punish those who poke fun/ cast aspersions on a person’s looks.

  6. The Doctor says:

    They constantly went after Harper over his haircut, because it wasn’t cool. And his middle-aged dad wardrobe and physique.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:

      Doc,

      Harper is the obvious exception that confirms the rule. I think it had more to do with the ever present stylist.

    • Gord Tulk says:

      I think you overstate. His opponents certainly didn’t run ads based on it.

      • The Doctor says:

        Gord, you’re correct, and I should have made clear that I was referring to what Liberal fans were saying about Harper online all the time rather than what the Liberal Party was saying in its ads, etc.

  7. Pedant says:

    Seems to be a theme with Liberals attacking the physical characteristics of Conservative leaders.

    – Preston Manning’s voice
    – Stephen Harper’s eyes and introversion
    – Kim Campbell’s earrings and clothes (okay, not an inherent trait)
    – Brian Mulroney’s chin
    – Doug Ford’s portlinous (if that’s even a word)

    Conservatives never do this – the one time they did, infamously in 1993, they were rightly massacred for it.

    The “nice hair!” barb at Justin doesn’t count since it clearly is NOT really about his hair but rather about the fact that nice hair is all he has.

    • The Doctor says:

      Liberal fanboys and fangirls also went bananas over the blue sweater that Harper was wearing in that one ad, for some reason.

      The thing is, near the end, everything and anything Harper did or said made hard-core partisan progs go ballistic.

      I remember one of them arguing that the fact that Harper said the word “obviously” a lot was proof that he was evil incarnate.

      • Dan says:

        I suspect that the last sentence in your comment is straight b.s. Someone might have said his constant use of obviously was annoying, which it was, but that’s it. Try to keep it real eh.

        • Pedant says:

          I actually don’t recall Harper saying “obviously” all that much.

          I do recall his “but let me be clear…” catch phrase in every interview.

          Sure beats the “uhh, aaah….ummm” catch phrase of the current occupant.

          • Gord says:

            Wasn’t that Martin’s trademark?

            “Let me be perfectly clear….” while jabbing a pen in the air, followed by dissembling that was anything but clear.

      • Doug says:

        Harper drove Liberal supporters nuts because he was usually the smartest guy in the room. Smart people can only come from at least several of Upper Canada College, the Annex, U of T, Power Corp, Westmount, U de Laval, Outremont or McGill.

    • Liberals may make those attacks when chatting among themselves or commenting on the Internet, but the 1993 example was a national television advertisement paid for by the Conservative Party.

  8. Pedant says:

    “Kathleen Wynne was mocked for resembling the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live.”

    More like Orville Redenbacher, but yes Dana Carvey’s church lady as well.

  9. Walter says:

    If you look at all the qualities and qualifications (I’ll list them at the end) that Trudeau had to be leader and PM, I think they have remained intact. The reasons he won in 2015 are still equally valid today.

    Qualities:
    1. Nice Hair.
    2. (that’s it).

  10. the real Sean says:

    Andrew ‘s hair will never be as cool as Justin’s. Therefore we are doomed to four more years of dirty construction gangsters running the government.

  11. Tod Cowen says:

    John Turner certainly looked the part.

    • Fred from BC says:

      “John Turner certainly looked the part.”

      He did, didn’t he? But one sentence from Brian Mulroney in a debate finished him (“You had a CHOICE, Sir!”). Joe Clark was done in by his honesty over his intention to impose a 10 cent (?) gas tax, and Robert Stanfield fumbled a football. Oh, Canada…

  12. Gord Tulk says:

    If you think Michael Harris is an actual journalist you need to get out more. Possibly one of the worst, most fanatical leftists writing in Canada today. He’s been run off of every employer he’s worked for and now is left writing for the Tyee.

    • The Doctor says:

      Harris completely lost his mind over Harper. There was lots to criticize with Harper, but Harris completely shot his credibility with his foaming-at-the-mouth hyperbole.

      There’s a way of reporting on things critically and with toughness, without coming across like some dyspeptic 14 year old. Harris lost sight of that. It doesn’t mean he hasn’t ever done good work, he has, but as a journalist your credibility and ability to be objective are key assets that you tarnish at your peril.

      • Gord Tulk says:

        Harris was a crock going back all the way to his days in St. John’s in the ‘70s. He is without integrity.

      • Pedant says:

        Michael Harris is a bit of an enigma.

        I remember watching him on CTV’s Sunday Edition hosted by Mike Duffy 20 years ago. At the time he was actually one of the more right-leaning members of the panel. Arrogant as hell but not really ideological.

        I wonder what happened in the intervening years that he became a sort of ANTIFA in written form with the most severe case of Harper Derangement Syndrome in the country.

        • The Doctor says:

          I agree with you, in that my recollection is that on those TV panels many many years ago (well before Harper), he seemed like a fairly reasonable guy. Then something happened.

  13. Douglas W says:

    PMJT has a very limited supporting cast, led by C. Freeland. He once had a strong team, anchored by JW-R and and Dr. JP. But that didn’t work out so well.

  14. Derek Pearce says:

    This says almost everything, and WK, we’re this far out already but I’m calling it: it’s going to be at least a Liberal minority gov’t. Scheer will not win even a minority of seats. He played this wrong (and he is wrong), he should’ve just agreed it was a good idea but no he couldn’t, and it’s tipped enough people into the “meh not Conservative yet” column.

    https://globalnews.ca/news/5479933/conversion-therapy-ban-2/

    • Pedant says:

      Does this bill mean that toddlers claiming to be the opposite gender can’t be coaxed by a psychologist to resolve back to the child’s biological gender – which is exactly what eventually happens in the vast majority of such cases? Would parents be BREAKING THE LAW if they did such a thing?

      I suspect that’s why Scheer is hesitant on this issue and only far-left extremists who were never voting Conservative in the first place could blame him for his hesitation.

    • Derek,

      It’s the start of a polling trend and it may hold, provided that progressives actually vote.

      • Fred from BC says:

        “It’s the start of a polling trend and it may hold, provided that progressives actually vote.”

        Yes, and way, WAY too early to make any sort of prediction.

        The VA Norman incident isn’t over yet (the public doesn’t have ‘closure’ as far as what happened and why, as you yourself have pointed out), climate vs pipelines is still in play, JWR and JP may have more to say, groping could rear it’s ugly head again, international embarrassments and possible corruption, ethics violations, repeated displays of poor judgement, etc, etc…all of these will be rehashed at some point.

        But the big one, for me, is what happens if China threatens to execute one or both of their hostages?

        It’s going to be the most ‘interesting’ election in years.

        • Ronald O'Dowd says:

          Fred,

          My predictions aren’t cast in stone. They are always made in the moment. Hence me going from a CPC majority to an election that was Scheer’s to lose, to a likely Libersl turn-around. Notice I didn’t yet say Liberal government.

          As for our four nationals, I suspect at least one is CSIS, while another is a political prisoner. The other two are alleged drug traffickers — and you know what that means.

          • Ronald O'Dowd says:

            Fred,

            Put another way, this call won’t be in the mold of my Trudeau and Trump predictions. They were made relatively early and I religiously stuck to my view that they would both win.

            The guts tells me that 2019 won’t be that kind of election.

    • The Doctor says:

      It’s been noted by a number of smart people that the problem the Tories have is that for them, it’s majority government or bust. Which is a bit of a tall order.

      The Liberals have no such problem. If it’s a minority, they’re all but certain to be propped up by some sort of Dipper/Green/BQ collective.

      Plus even at 5% or whatever in the polls, Mad Max’s alt-right crusaders may well peel enough right-wing votes from the Tories to do some damage in tight races. My money’s on a Liberal minority or squeaker majority.

      • Doc,

        I don’t know. Remember the wise comment Darwin put up a while back: both the NDP and the LPC at some point propped up Harper but at least the NDP’s support was results-oriented. Translation: they actually got substantial funding in exchange for their support. So, anything can happen. IF Scheer can think out of the box and horse-trade, he could still form a minority under such circumstances.

        • The Doctor says:

          Not outside the realm of possibility, but green/climate issues are a big priority for Green and Dipper voters, I think more so than ever. Scheer and the CPC are seen by the Green and Dippet faithful as climate villains. That’s one reason I see their propping up a Tory minority government as unlikely this time.

  15. Pedant says:

    Michael Harris…..hmm, ok.

    What next? Heather Mallick as a reputable source of info on Doug Ford?

    • Fred from BC says:

      “ie missed the point of the comment completely as well.. ”

      Your point seemed to be that it’s too bad more people don’t read The Tyee (no, it’s not) and Michael Harris is still a serious journalist (no, he’s not). Right now The Tyee is begging for money (60k, to be exact) to “turn Michael Harris loose on the upcoming federal election”. It’s not going well. Doc (and others) are correct: Harris *used to* be credible…then Stephen Harper somehow broke his brain (or so it seems).

      As for the always hysterically over-the-top Montreal Simon, again you’re not even close. He has the same five posters mindlessly parroting his unending hatred of anything and everything conservative (I challenge any liberal to read one of his vicious and vile diatribes and ask yourself if this is the guy you want representing your side), which is a far cry from what WK has created here. Here, the entire political spectrum seems to be present, and most posts become a learning experience of one kind or another.

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