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Ten reasons why Oprah would be a great candidate

Besides the weather, it’s all anyone is talking about: her speech at that awards thing was a blockbuster.

Personally, I think it’s a cool idea. Here’s ten reasons why.

1. If a corrupt, evil, mentally unfit TV billionaire could win, then a principled, decent, smart TV billionaire could certainly beat him.

2.  She would be a candidate at the precise moment when women are dominating the public and political agenda, and are looking for a candidate who will speak for them.

3.  She uses her celebrity in positive ways – to oppose bullying thugs (cf. Trump) and to promote great leaders (cf. Obama, the anti-Trump).

4.  The most motivated Democratic constituency – as we saw in Alabama – is African-American women.  An Oprah candidacy would keep them motivated and involved.

5.  She actually has a legislative record – cf. The Protect Our Children Act, an anti-predatory bill that became known as the Oprah Act.  She gets stuff done, even as a private citizen.

6.  She’s likeable and relatable, to say the least.  She didn’t get millions upon millions of viewers, and build a communications empire, by being a repellant reality TV circus act – she did it by being a person average folks want to bring into their living rooms, every single day.  As they did.

7. Does she have many years of political involvement?  No, she doesn’t, and so what.  In an era when many voters, on all points on the ideological spectrum (see: Trump and Sanders) are looking for atypical/outsider candidates, Oprah’s distance from Capitol Hill is a help, not a hindrance.

8.  She may be a billionaire, but she comes from humble roots – the child of an unwed mother in Mississippi, a survivor of sexual abuse, she was an honours student who could recite Bible verses off the top of her head.  She pulled herself up by her bootstraps.  And, she’s Oprah, for Chrissakes.

9.  She is unique, in that she is one of the few Weinstein-era celebrities who has retained her moral authority.  At a time when America is turning its lonely/anxious eyes to a Joe DiMaggio, Oprah is Joe DiMaggio.  She’s Poprah.

10.  She can win.  She can win.  Whether Trump is there or not – felled by Mueller or resigning to head off a post-midterm impeachment – she can beat him, just as she can beat the unholy cabal of Pence, Ryan et al.  She can win.

So, to those nay-sayers, objecting to my ten points here or on Facebook or Twitter, I say this:

If not Oprah, then who?  Who is the Democratic alternative?


Column: l’affaire Boyle

Not so long ago, I was in Vancouver at the same time as Jean Chretien.  He was there for his law firm, I was there for mine.  We decided to get together, in a spot down in Gastown.

It was sunny and a truly beautiful day.  Looking outside, Chretien suggested we go for a walk.  So, we left to take a walk – me, the former Prime Minister, and a single plainclothes RCMP officer.

Bruce Hartley, Chretien’s long-serving right-hand guy – and, frankly, the best EA in the history of Canadian politics – wasn’t with us.  He had business elsewhere.  So, Chretien, me and the cop strolled along Water Street, heading West.

People stopped and stared.  Japanese tourists took pictures.  BC Transit workers watched Chretien walk by, mouths agape.  Every few feet, Chretien would be stopped and asked for an autograph or to pose for a selfie.  It was a lot of fun.

At one point, in front of Waterfront Station, a homeless guy called out to Chretien.  The guy was sitting on the sidewalk, bearded and a little bit grimy.  He stood up and moved our way.  “Hey, Chretien!” the homeless guy yelled. “Hey, Chretien!”

The homeless guy now had the RCMP officer’s full attention, and mine, too.  I started pondering whether I could take a bullet for the greatest-ever Prime Minister, and concluded that I could and would.  But the homeless guy meant no harm.  He extended a grubby hand.  “Jean,” he said, giving a gap-toothed smile, “I just want to thank you for keeping us out of Bush’s illegal war in Iraq!”

Chretien burst out laughing, and so did I.  The Mountie relaxed.  Chretien gave the homeless guy five bucks.

Apologies for the length of this little anecdote, but it’s become relevant in recent days.  To wit: how does one get a meeting with a Prime Minister?

Quite a few folks are wondering about that, in the wake of the revelation that Justin Trudeau – a serving Prime Minister, and not just a former one – met with the rather-controversial Boyle family.  How did such a meeting happen?

The Boyles, of course, are the folks who were held hostage by terrorists and jihadists for half a decade in different locations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Joshua Boyle, the father, is a Canadian and was tortured and beaten.  Caitlan Coleman, his American wife, was raped.  Their three young children were born in captivity.

They returned to Canada in October and met with Trudeau in December.  The Boyles requested the meeting, apparently, and Trudeau agreed.  The Prime Minister received the Boyles in his Parliament Hill office, but precious few knew about it. After Christmas, however, the Boyles posted photos of the meeting on Twitter.  Eyebrows were raised.  Observers were puzzled.

When Joshua Boyle was last week charged with more than a dozen serious criminal offences – among them sexual assault, assault, administering a noxious substance, unlawful confinement and uttering threats – observers were more than puzzled.  Many, mostly of the conservative variety, were apoplectic.

In the National Post, Christie Blatchford wrote: “As Joshua Boyle, thank God, must be presumed innocent, so may Justin Trudeau be presumed to be merely stupid.”  Her colleague Chris Selley huffed that putting Trudeau together with Joshua Boyle was “a very strange decision,” a “bizarre misstep,” and a “backlash” is therefore coming that “could be legendary.”

“Legendary.” Could be.  Or, it could be – as in most things in politics – the most blasé explanation for events is the likeliest one.  This is Canadian politics, after all.

Sure, it seems likely that Joshua Boyle was under criminal investigation when he and his wife and kids met with Justin Trudeau.  It’s obvious, however, that Trudeau didn’t know that: there isn’t a political advisor alive – outside of Donald Trump’s circle, that is – who would knowingly put his or her boss in a meeting with a criminal, or a soon-to-be-alleged one.

It was in Joshua Boyle’s interest to get those photos published, because they potentially put a Crown prosecutor in a bit of a bind.  So we know Boyle didn’t tell Trudeau what was coming, in just two week’s time.

But what of the RCMP?  What of the Privy Council Office, Trudeau’s personal bureaucracy?  Didn’t they know?  Why not, if not?  And if they did, why didn’t they warn Trudeau not to meet with Joshua Boyle?

If the Mounties knew Boyle was about to be charged, and declined to tell Trudeau’s staff, it would be a massive scandal – but not the first time it has happened.  During this writer’s tenure on the Hill, it was well-known that the RCMP, CSIS and/or the uniformed guys and gals at the department of National Defence would sometimes place their political masters in harm’s way, so as to (a) be rid of them or (b) acquire leverage to be deployed at budget time or whatever.

Would PCO have known?  Perhaps, but highly unlikely.  The Privy Council Office mainly provides advice to the Prime Minister and his or her government.  In my experience, PCO is highly controversy-adverse.  They write memos and place ATIP-less yellow sticky notes on binders: they are not in the business of manufacturing scandal.  PCO dislikes scandal.

For now, no one is talking on the record about who knew what, and when they knew it.  We can be reasonably assured that Justin Trudeau and his senior staff are justifiably unhappy, and have had some interesting chats with the RCMP.  When it returns at months’-end, angry questions in the House of Commons are inevitable.

In the meantime, however, the most bland explanation for l’affaire Boyle is the most likely: Joshua Boyle asked for a meeting, no one objected, so Justin Trudeau agreed.

Sometimes – as with homeless guys, just as it is with a former hostage of the Taliban – these things simply happen.


Oh, that way madness lies; let me shun that.

Donald Trump’s latest tweets – about how he isn’t insane – indisputably make the case that he is. There can’t be much doubt, now.

What now? What do we do? What should be our method, in the face of such madness?

I wrote about his madness months ago, while in Boston. The problem I wrote about them remains the problem now.

BOSTON – Is being batshit crazy an impediment to ‎high public office?

It is a question being much-debated, these days, down here in the Disunited States. ‎As the Unpresident continues his ever-downward descent into the darkest, dankest depths – praising neo-Nazis and white supremacists, threatening to shut down the U.S. Government if Congress doesn’t give him his wall to keep out Mexicans – many serious people are asking a serious question: is Donald Trump insane? Is he nuts? Is he now, at long last, fit to be declared unfit?

Trump represents uncharted territory for the world. But the dilemma of what to do when a politician loses his or her marbles – not so much. It’s happened before, and not just down here in the United States, the nation now fully at war with itself.

It happens all the time, all over.  What isn’t so ubiquitous is how nations deal with the madmen at the top.

In Canada, we’ve had a leader who communed with his dead mother, and regularly talked to his dog. He thought Hitler was a saint. But ‎that man – Mackenzie King – was Prime Minister, and our longest-serving Prime Minister, no less.  Many knew he was certifiable, but history does not record any successful attempts to separate him from his office.

The 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution anticipated the madman named Trump. America’s constitutional forefathers were not so wise about everything – their idiotic Second Amendment pledge to permit citizens to maintain “militias” carrying around assault rifles, for instance, has rendered U.S. schools and ‎work places veritable shooting galleries.

That amendment was what allowed everything from Sandy Hook to the assassinations of Dr. King and the Kennedy brothers to‎ happen. It made this country the preferred jurisdiction of every modern mass-murderer.

But the 25th Amendment, in contrast, was smart. It was prescient. It reads:

“Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.‎”

The 25th amendment is mainly preoccupied with process. As with lawyers, as with founding forefathers: the solution to process is more process. And the 25th is certainly mostly about process.

But it is those ten slender words – “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” – that bedevil many Americans, in these dark days. What does that mean, to be “unable” to be President of the United States? What is the standard? What is the threshhold?

‎When a president brags about sexually assaulting women? ‎ When he calls other nations, allies, rapists and murderers? When he mocks the disabled? When he breaks laws, over and over? When he discriminates? When he aligns himself with the Ku Klux Klan, and – on Twitter – threatens a nuclear war that will claim the lives of millions? Then?

The 25th Amendment ‎has been used before, in real life and on TV. On the TV series ‘Designated Survivor,’ starring Canadian Kiefer Sutherland as president, the 25th Amendment is invoked when Sutherland’s character must go under a surgeon’s scalpel after an assassination attempt. It’s a big deal, taking up a couple episodes of the show.

And in the real world – which frankly seems far less real, since Agent Orange was sworn in as America’s 45th president – ‎the Amendment has been applied only a half-dozen times since it’s adoption. When Gerald Ford succeeded Richard Nixon as president; when Ronald Reagan needed a colonoscopy, or when George W. Bush needed one, too; and so on. Resignations and colonoscopies: that has been the history of the 25th amendment, until now.

So, how does one go about determining that Donald Trump is unstable and therefore unable? Who determines that, and how? It is no simple thing.

Trump is not the first lunatic to lead the Republican Party. In 1964, the GOP’s leader was Arizona’s Barry Goldwater, a far-Right autocrat who called extremism a virtue, and who wanted to use nuclear weapons against‎ anyone who disagreed with him. Goldwater was not dispatched by a constitutional amendment – he was destroyed in the presidential election by a Democratic Party ad caled Daisy (and after which I named my own firm, full disclosure). Daisy worked because it called Goldwater’s sanity into question.

But, in the days leading up to the November 1964 vote, a few psychiatrists also decided to opine on Goldwater’s mental stability from afar. Without having examined him up-close, the psychiatrists declared Goldwater mentally ill, and therefore unable to discharge presidential duties.

That set off a huge controversy in the American psychiatric community. And it led to the ‎creation of what is called, down here, the “Goldwater Rule” – that is, a psychiatrist cannot now diagnose a person without them having first been a patient. In fairness, it is probably a good rule: if unpopular politicians could be removed from office by a stranger’s psychiatric speculation, then there will not be many politicians left in office, will there?

For the 75 per cent of Americans who want Trump gone, the Goldwater Rule is a dilemma. Donald Trump’s regime, enveloped in crisis and scandal as it is, is unlikely to offer up their “president” for examination by anyone’s head shrinks, anytime soon. If he is to be removed, the 25th Amendment to the Constitution won’t be the methodology.

Besides, it is not enough to call Donald Trump crazy. He is far worse than that. He is a serial liar and a cheat, a swindler and a con man. And, by his own admission, he is a “man” who sexually assaults women.

My favourite poet is Theodore Roethke. In one of his masterworks, In A Dark Time, Roethke writes:

“What’s madness but nobility of soul

At odds with circumstance?”

There is nothing noble about Donald Trump’s soul. He may be a madman, but he does not belong in an asylum. He belongs somewhere else.

Jail.


Racist is as racist does

Firstly, sincere congrats to Andrew Scheer for expelling the extremist Senator Lynn Beyak. Delighted to hear that he objects to his Senators being so defiant about their bigotry – but that he’s a-okay with his Senators being discreet about their racism! Well done, Blandy!

Secondly: in my 30 years of writing about the racist Right, my experience is that committed racists eventually out themselves, no matter how hard they try not to. They just can’t help themselves.

I give you, then, the heroine of the alt-Right and conservative columnists everywhere, Lindsay Shepherd.


L’Affaire Boyle: who knew, and when did they know it?

…and if they didn’t know, why didn’t they know?

A snippet from next week’s column, about this mess:

Sure, it seems likely that Joshua Boyle was under criminal investigation when he and his wife and kids met with Justin Trudeau.  It’s obvious, however, that Trudeau didn’t know that: there isn’t a political advisor alive – outside of Donald Trump’s circle, that is – who would knowingly put his or her boss in a meeting with a criminal, or a soon-to-be-alleged one.

It was in Joshua Boyle’s interest to get those photos published, because they potentially put a Crown prosecutor in a bit of a bind.  So we know Boyle didn’t tell Trudeau what was coming, in just two week’s time.

But what of the RCMP?  What of the Privy Council Office, Trudeau’s personal bureaucracy?  Didn’t they know?  Why not, if not?  And if they did, why didn’t they warn Trudeau not to meet with Joshua Boyle?

If the Mounties knew Boyle was about to be charged, and declined to tell Trudeau’s staff, it would be a massive scandal – but not the first time it has happened.  During this writer’s tenure on the Hill, it was well-known that the RCMP, CSIS and/or the uniformed guys and gals at the department of National Defence would sometimes place their political masters in harm’s way, so as to (a) be rid of them or (b) acquire leverage to be deployed at budget time or whatever.

What do you think, O Smart Readers? A grand conspiracy, or a garden-variety cock-up?


Did Justin Trudeau just give Patrick Brown a gift?

It sure looks that way. Check this out:

Minimum wage hikes across Canada this year could cost about 60,000 jobs, despite the benefits they would bring, the Bank of Canada says in a new report.

The central bank published a report over the winter break, attempting to calculate what sort of economic impact a series of minimum wage hikes set to come into force this year will have on Canada’s economy.

As of Jan. 1, Ontario’s minimum wage is now $14 an hour, up from $11.60. By the end of 2018, Alberta, Quebec and Prince Edward Island are also expected to hike their minimum wages.

At Daisy, we have always paid more than that – and also covered cell phone costs, transit passes, and whatnot.  Toronto, we believe, is an expensive place to live in.

But.

When the angry phone calls from Queen’s Park start heating up, Trudeau’s guys will be able to say (rightly) that they cannot control what the Bank of Canada does and says.  That’s true.  It’s also true that you are not going to see a single Trudeau cabinet minister contradicting the Bank of Canada’s stated view: they can’t.

The political bottom line therefore remains the same: the Ontario PC leader now has a very useful talking point to deal with what was becoming his biggest vulnerability, the minimum wage.  He’ll be able to shrug and say: “Look, it doesn’t matter what I think.  What matters is the Bank of Canada agrees that thousands of jobs are going to be lost.  I’m not against raising the minimum wage – I’m against doing it in a way that costs Ontario jobs.  I’m against doing it as an election stunt, to save a tired old government.”

Will it work?  Probably.

And that’s why we say Mr. Trudeau arguably has given Mr. Brown a very valuable post-Christmas gift.


The new world disorder

2017 was bad; 2018 will be worse.

That’s been my view for a while. It’s centred on a three-part thesis: one, that the West’s enemies will take further advantage of the anarchy Trump has caused; two, that Trump’s Mueller problems will dramatically increase in 2018; and, three, that the midterms will make impeachment a more vivid prospect than President Pisstape ever imagined possible.

So, he will be besieged. He will lash out like never before, and not just on Twitter.

And he will do what every unpopular president does, but he will do it in a way no other president has ever done before: he will whip up distractions abroad. He’s rather good at creating distractions, after all, and he will therefore try and create chaos internationally to save his orange ass domestically.

Does that mean war is coming this year? Why, yes, actually, I think it does. I think it is inevitable.

And this important Politico essay – the whole thing is here and you should read it all – by Susan Glasser persuades me that I’m not wrong:

By the time the dinner was over, the leaders were in shock, and not just over the idle talk of armed conflict. No matter how prepared they were, eight months into an American presidency like no other, this was somehow not what they expected. A former senior U.S. official with whom I spoke was briefed by ministers from three of the four countries that attended the dinner. “Without fail, they just had wide eyes about the entire engagement,” the former official told me. Even if few took his martial bluster about Venezuela seriously, Trump struck them as uninformed about their issues and dangerously unpredictable, asking them to expend political capital on behalf of a U.S. that no longer seemed a reliable partner. “The word they all used was: ‘This guy is insane.’”


Happy New Year, y’all

Heading out to a fancy dinner and then a party with the most amazing woman. She’s beautiful and brilliant.

Have a great evening, all – and an even better 2018!




2018: the coming provincial and municipal elections

My former Sun colleague Antonella Artuso got in touch with me to seek my opinion on the coming Ontario and Toronto elections. Her story is here.

And my full response to her excellent questions are here:

Provincially, the Ontario Liberals have a very unpopular leader but a very durable party brand. The Ontario PCs have a not-bad brand, but not nearly enough people know their leader. And the Ontario NDP have a very popular leader – but few folks trust their party in the role of government.

The election will come down to the campaign. Campaigns matter. And I’d say any one of the three parties has a shot at winning – if they have the best campaign.

Municipally, I know both John Tory and Doug Ford and like them both. Doug’s problem is that John is seen as a decent and honest guy – and an antidote to the crazy Ford Nation years. John’s challenge is that the Ford Nation is still a factor.

On balance, I think John will win. There’s no progressive challenger – and Doug needs one in the race to have a fighting chance.

People like John, and likeability matters in this business!