Politicians write books for different reasons.
They write them to show that they are men and women of substance. They write them to demonstrate that they are brimming with ideas and character.
They write them because they want to go above the heads of the news media. They write them because they have experienced some trials and tribulations, and they want to put the best possible spin on them. They write books to be taken seriously.
Justin Trudeau’s book – whose title is ‘Common Ground’ – has likely been written for all of those reasons. Trudeau wants it known that he is a person of substance, a serious person of character. He wants it known that he has ideas to share, and some revelations, too.
The book is only out officially today, so many of us haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But, hopefully, it contains more about the highly revealing exchange Trudeau recently had with sports writer Bruce Arthur. That encounter resulted in a fascinating, wonderfully-written story, and one hopes it – or something like it – makes its way into Common Ground.
In the story, Trudeau talks about his March 2012 charity boxing match against Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, in which Trudeau wiped the floor with the disgraced Tory. It is highly revealing.
“My dad taught me how to box as just a little kid, among other things,” Trudeau told Arthur, getting off some well-deserved jabs at Sun New Network along the way. “He was a black belt in judo and he wanted us to be adept in a wide variety of athletic pursuits.”
Trudeau recalled the insults being hurled at him ringside by the Sun people, and others. “Obviously you learn to ignore nasty negative attacks, but you also learn not to give credence to the people who think you’re wonderful because they loved your father,” says Trudeau. “People who say [I’m a silver-spoon kid] forget what kind of a man my father was, and what kind of father my father was…He was a tough man, and he was disciplined, and so filled with love for us; he knew we would have extra baggage to deal with and to carry, because of the name he was giving us, and he wanted us to have to tools to deal with it.
“So he never would have wanted us to take the easy way, or to take things lightly.”
As such, Trudeau told Arthur about the moment when he knew he was going to take Brazeau down. “I suddenly had permission. One of the things I had to learn as a kid, the eldest of three brothers, is to control yourself. To not lose your temper, to not get carried away, because I was bigger than my brothers. We were three boys close in age, and I had to learn to restrain myself a little bit.
“And in politics, as a teacher, my personality is to be nice, and it works in politics. But suddenly this was a moment where I was allowed, and fully expected, to give rein to a side of myself that I don’t normally allow out there, which was a ruthless and forceful side. It’s that moment that where push comes to shove, do you have it? And I always knew I did; I just knew I could never show that in life, and suddenly here was a moment where I could.”
And he did. And everything changed for him, after that.
Many of us don’t know if there’s more of that sort of passion in Trudeau’s new book. But one thing we do know: that passion, that ruthlessness, is already in him.
As they ready themselves to climb into the ring with Justin Trudeau, perhaps Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair should reflect on that.