Column: desperate politicians do desperate things

How desperate is Justin Trudeau to keep NAFTA?

Ask the Mexicans, now peering out from under the proverbial bus – where, you know, Trudeau pushed them.

Pretty desperate.

As they welcomed the Canadian Prime Minister to Mexico City on Thursday – and as they gamely extracted the Canadian-made stainless steel that had slipped between their shoulder blades – the Mexicans likely marveled about this once or twice. “¡Tan encantador! ¡Muy guapo! ¡Tan despiadado!” they must have said, to themselves. Rough translation: “So charming! So handsome! So ruthless!”

It wasn’t always thus. As recently as June, Trudeau was welcoming Enrique Pena Nieto to Ottawa, even bestowing one of those Trudeauesque both-hands-and-almost-a-full-hug things on the beaming Mexican president. (It almost went as far as those vaguely-unsettling, nose-to-nose eye couplings Trudeau also favours – but those mano-a-mano moments are apparently saved for swearings-in of new cabinet ministers at Rideau Hall.)

Still, it was pretty cuddly, back in June. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had previously ruled out throwing Mexico under the bus. On the record, no less. Said she: “I’ve always been clear, and the Prime Minister has always been clear, about the importance of our relationship with Mexico.” At the time, that unctuous windbag Brian Mulroney even chimed in, solemnly wheezing: “Throwing friends and neighbours and allies under the bus is a position for a weak leader. This is not the Canadian tradition.”

Resulting CBC headline: “Canada isn’t about to ‘throw Mexico under the bus,’ foreign ministers say.”

Uh-huh. Gotcha.

When he was still getting all grippy with Enrique Pena Nieto in June, Justin Trudeau continued to proclaim the same sort of stuff. “I think it’s important that allies and partners like Mexico and Canada work together to address the challenges we’re facing together,” Trudeau declared, and the Mexicans smiled and nodded a lot.

Well, that was then, and this is now. Belatedly, correctly, Trudeau has concluded that Donald Trump is a monkey with a machine gun – and that, if there has to be a victim supplied at the NAFTA murder scene, well, Enrique c’mon down! 

Thus, when Agent Orange was asked if he was open to a U.S.-Canada trade deal – one that excluded Mexicans, who he regards as rapists and killers, anyway – Trump responded: “Oh, sure, absolutely.”

At that moment, of course, Justin Trudeau could have said no way, José. He could have repeated what he had said to Enrique Pena Nieto. He could have declined to nudge one of the “Three Amigos” under the bus. But here’s what he said instead:

Nothing.

After an uncomfortable moment or two, during which Mexico’s government was likely coming up with imaginative new swear words to describe us Canadians, Trudeau was asked about a two-way trade deal. Said he: “I continue to believe in NAFTA…so saying, we are ready for anything, and we will continue to work diligently to protect Canadian interests.”

Translation: “Enjoy the view under the bus, Enrique!”

This Benedict Arnold-style strategy creates three new problems for us, the Snow Mexicans.

One, it mainly helps Trump, not Canada. The American “president” may be a racist, sexist, lying bastard – but he knows a thing or two about negotiations. Decades devoted to doing New York City real estate deals with his Daddy’s money taught him that the best opponent is weakened opponent. 

By dispensing with a united Canada-Mexico front, Justin Trudeau has reduced his bargaining power. As Donald Trump knows – and as Trudeau may soon discover – it is always easier to steal the lunch money of one kid. Not two.

If Justin Trudeau doesn’t watch Game of Thrones, he should. Every fan of that shows knows that, when seeking a bargain with a much-more-powerful opponent, you need to form alliances with other less-powerful kingdoms. In Westeros terms, Trudeau has sped up Winter’s arrival.

Two, nudging Mexico under the proverbial bus makes a big, big assumption that almost certainly will be proven wrong: namely, that Donald Trump’s promises are worth they’re printed on. They’re not.

As half his cabinet, all of his wives, most of the Republican Party and all of Puerto Rico can attest, Trump will turn on you in a New York minute. His word is no good. He was elected on a platform to tear up the TPP and NAFTA – and build a xenophobic, inward-looking, protectionist demi-monde. He hasn’t kept any other promise, but he’s kept that one.

Thirdly, finally – and seriously, folks – this makes Canada look bad. It makes us look like we will turn on our allies, even after we repeatedly said we never would.

Desperate people do desperate things. Canada is looking desperate. 

And that isn’t a good thing.

 


Did Donald Trump obstruct justice?

The Brookings Institute has just released a 108-page, single-spaced, fully-footnoted, tightly-reasoned indictment of Donald Trump. The whole document is here.

At the risk of spoiling it for you, here is the key part of the conclusion:

 With that caveat, our review of the facts and the law leads us to the view that the president likely obstructed justice. Should that conclusion be borne out, we believe he will be held to account under one or another of the vehicles we have outlined, for no one is above the law in our system. 

Accountability will have significant consequences for the functioning of our democracy. We offer this paper as a framework to evaluate the facts and the investigation as they develop, and to help prepare for the turbulence that may well lie ahead. 

The key factors in getting them to that conclusion include multiple, multiple violations by Trump (or his criminal underlings) of key federal obstruction of justice statutes. 

Say Brookings’ guys: “Trump may be liable for intimidating, threatening, and corruptly persuading Comey in order to influence, prevent, or delay his testimony or cause Comey or others to withhold testimony from congressional or grand jury proceedings even if his “words did not contain overt threats.”

What is most striking about their analysis, when you read it, is the astonishing amount of evidence there is in support of obstruction charges. There is a mountain of it. With Trump, because he says and does outrageous things so often, it is easy to forget what he did just a few days ago. 

What Brookings has done is assemble just the known facts, of which there are many – and then subject those many facts to rigorous, careful legal analysis. When they do that, you will agree the conclusion is pretty unsurprising. And they don’t even include the many facts that those of us outside of Mueller’s team don’t know. 

Reading this, it seems impossible to me that special counsel Robert Mueller is not going to return indictments against Trump and his cabal. Reading this, too, you would understand why the Unpresident would start issuing pardons for his cronies and his family members sometime soon.

They’ll need them. 


The Kinsellian Political Rules™

So, I tweeted about Donald Trump’s fired Chief of Staff being interviewed by Robert Mueller, the Russiagate special counsel. I said it recalls the Kinsellian Political Rule Two: never fire someone who knows lots of shit during a crisis. 

This then moved some folks to ask what Rule One was, and so on.

So here, gratis, are all ten. Clip, save and post to the war room fridge door. You’re welcome. 

KINSELLIAN POLITICAL RULES

1. Never discount the possibility that they did it because they’re just stupid. 

2. Never fire someone who knows lots of stuff about you during a crisis. 

3. Never call the other guy a crook, because normal people think we are all crooks. 

4. Never forget, never forgive. Forgiveness is for wimps, and forgetfulness is for the aged. 

5. Never fly first class. Fly economy and take a selfie. 

6. Never take a job with a politician who is screwing around. If he’ll do that to his wife, he’ll do worse to you. 

7. Never use acronyms. If you do, you should go hang yourself. 

8. Never be photographed when golfing, eating or doing shooters. 

9. Never talk about your relationship with God. Just don’t. God fucking hates politicians. A politician killed His son. 

10. Never get involved in party politics. It always ends in indictments or misery. 


Big political graves are dug with tiny shovels

Bev Oda’s orange juice. David Dingwall’s gum. Mike Duffy’s travel claims. British MPs claiming for barbecues and garden equipment. 

None were capital offenses, none approached the threshold for a crime, and none were very significant when compared to overall government expenditures. But it’s still the little stuff that ends big political careers.

As I always tell the candidates I work for: a surprising number of people don’t know how many million are in a billion. But they sure as Hell all know that paying $16 for a glass of orange juice is insane.

Charles Adler and I talked about this stuff on his show last night.  In particular, we talked about the possible scandal that the Blacklock’s people have uncovered: namely, that the Department of Finance spent nearly a quarter of a million for the cover of their budgetary document. 

Here:

The Department of Finance spent nearly a quarter-million dollars on artistic themes for its 2017 budget, say Access To Information records. Costs included $89,500 for talent fees and photos of models posing as middle class Canadians.

“I like the colour scheme,” wrote Natalie Rieger, senior marketing advisor for the finance department. “It’s fresh. I love where this is going.”

Staff paid the McCann ad agency $212,234 including the cost of photos depicted on the cover of the March 22 budget document Building A Strong Middle Class and related marketing materials. Images were supposed to illustrate budget themes. “The future of children is an issue that is central to the 2017 budget,” wrote McCann executives. “That is why they are the focus of every visual.”

It looks bad, and it comes after what seems like a nearly-daily string of Finance Department screw-ups. How will it all end?

Badly, I wager. I’ll bet you sixteen bucks. 

“”


From next week’s column: Enjoy the view under the bus, Mexico! Love, Canada

From next week’s column.  I was particularly proud of the gratuitous Game of Thrones reference, so I leave it here for your elucidation and merriment, gratis:

This Benedict Arnold-style strategy creates three new problems for us, the Snow Mexicans.

One, it mainly helps Trump, not Canada.  The American “president” may be a racist, sexist, lying bastard – but he knows a thing or two about negotiations.  Decades devoted to doing New York City real estate deals with his Daddy’s money taught him that the best opponent is weakened opponent. 

By dispensing with a united Canada-Mexico front, Justin Trudeau has reduced his bargaining power.  As Donald Trump knows – and as Trudeau may soon discover – it is always easier to steal the lunch money of one kid.  Not two.

If Justin Trudeau doesn’t watch Game of Thrones, he should.  Every fan of that shows knows that, when seeking a bargain with a much-more-powerful opponent, you need to form alliances with other less-powerful kingdoms.  In Westeros terms, Trudeau has sped up Winter’s arrival.

Two, nudging Mexico under the proverbial bus makes a big, big assumption that almost certainly will be proven wrong: namely, that Donald Trump’s promises are worth the paper they’re printed on.  They’re not.

As half his cabinet, all of his wives, most of the Republican Party and all of Puerto Rico can attest, Trump will turn on you in a New York minute.  His word is no good.  He was elected on a platform to tear up the TPP and NAFTA – and build a xenophobic, inward-looking, protectionist demi-monde.  He hasn’t kept any other promise, but he’s kept that one.

 


Publishers Weekly: Recipe for Hate “riveting…an unflinching page-turner”!

Publisher’s Weekly is the book trade publication in the United States.  As Wikipedia notes, it is the “American weekly trade news magazine targeted at publishers, librarians, booksellers and literary agents. Published continuously since 1872, it has carried the tagline, “The International News Magazine of Book Publishing and Bookselling”.

And I have never had one of my books mentioned in it.  Like, ever.

But here’s what they have said about my new one, Recipe for Hate:

“Riveting…Tension starts high and stays there in this unflinching page-turner, which offers a fascinating glimpse into the early punk scene and a moving testament to the power of friendship.”

Link is here.

Quill and Quire, now Publisher’s Weekly.

For those of you who have asked, yes: Daisy and Dundurn are working on a book launch in Toronto, to which all of you will be (somehow) invited.  And we are also putting together book events/media in different places in Canada in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned for details.

In the meantime, feel free to order your copy (or copies!) here and here!