In Friday’s Sun: a thousand points of light. Stay the course. Persian Gulf.

Capricious, unstructured and even dangerous: That’s what American political thinker Walter Lippmann once wrote about the public’s views on foreign policy.

“The unhappy truth,” he wrote in 1955, “is that the prevailing public opinion has been destructively wrong at critical junctures. [The people] have compelled governments to be too late with too little, too long with too much, too pacifist in peace or bellicose in war.”

Not very nice, Lippmann’s view, but he isn’t alone. Many politicians privately feel likewise. And no less than the Athenian democrats restricted participation in democracy to those who were adult, male and not a slave.

Lippmann, the Athenians and the like-minded friends are wrong, however. The electorate is entirely capable of understanding foreign policy. A quick glance at social media these days will make clear that foreign policy can and does frequently capture the attention of regular folks.

On Facebook, for instance, photographs of pets and favourite meals have given way to angry posts about the war now raging in Gaza. On Twitter, armchair generals are doing likewise.

Some members of the commentariat, therefore, are suggesting that foreign policy, if done right, can be a sure-fire vote winner. Some are even opining that Stephen Harper’s path to re-election, and another majority, is to be seen as the foreign policy muse of the G8.

On the much-read National Newswatch Thursday morning, then, a column on Harper and foreign policy was the top headlined item. In it, the Public Policy Forum’s Dr. Don Lenihan wrote that Harper’s approach to foreign policy “just might pay off at the ballot box.”

Writes Lenihan, who is influential in Ottawa: “Harper has positioned himself as a champion of democracy and is using his place on the world stage to stand up to tyrants and terrorists.”

Politically, “[Harper’s foreign policy moves are] starting to look like a very smart. By contrast with Vladimir Putin or Hamas, Harper can’t help but look good. Standing up to them looks even better. While he’s been criticized for being too one-sided, and even of shooting from the lip, lots of people agree with his hard line.”

Indeed they do. This assistant to a former Liberal prime minister is one of them. Harper’s willingness to be tough with the likes of Putin and Hamas – in effect, punching above Canada’s foreign policy weight class – is something to be admired, whether you agree with him or not.

But will it pay electoral dividends? Can Harper actually win an election against the surging Trudeau Liberals with foreign policy?

Not a chance.

Ask George H. W. Bush. The 41st U.S. president was similarly preoccupied with foreign affairs. During his tenure, from 1988 to 1992, Bush was a blur of foreign policy movement – on Panama, on the Somali civil war, on the Gulf War, on the then-Soviet Union, on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Bush was the foreign policy president, to the point that Saturday Night Live’s Dana Carvey regularly lampooned him for it. “We’re on track,” said Carvey in one sketch, a dead ringer for Bush. “We’re getting the job done. Stay on course. A thousand points of light.”

Bill Clinton, meanwhile, had a different strategy. “It’s the economy, stupid,” Clinton’s war-room boss, James Carville, pithily wrote on a sign on the wall of the campaign headquarters in Little Rock.

And, as history records, Clinton won, Bush lost.

Foreign policy is important, sure. But if Harper seriously thinks it’s a way back to 24 Sussex, he should give George Bush Sr. a shout.

Or even Dana Carvey.


What I had to say about Kathleen Wynne and her opponents on Sun News, because Harrison Ruess never posts our clips

The senior web producer at Sun News is Harrison Ruess, a charming and dashing young man.  He has no faults I am aware of, apart from the fact that he never, ever puts clips up of the lovely and talented Ms. Kirbie or, most importantly, me, on the Sun News web site.

As such, I cannot offer you a clip of me responding to a question from the scintillating and prescient Adrienne Batra yesterday.  Her question was about Ontario P.C. MPP Vic Fideli running for his party’s leadership.  Because no link or official transcript exists, you will have to trust me when I say that I responded thusly to Ms. Batra’s query:

“Vic Who? Vic Who? Seriously? This guy was one Tim Hudak’s attack dogs, and look what that got them.  Vic Fedeli is one of the guys who drove the P.C. bus into the ditch, and now he wants them to give him the keys, permanently? Seriously?

But make no mistake: whoever the PCs select as their leader will be facing off against Kathleen Wynne, who all of us have learned that you underestimate at your peril.  She is a formidable politician.  And she absolutely crushed the PCs in the June election, and – if Vic Fedeli is their next leader – she will do it again. The PCs have learned nothing.”

There, Harrison.  Was that so painful?  My public want to hear from me, you know.


Our best Deadmau5/Ford lines

There’s a ridiculous amount of coverage, this morning, about the totally ridiculous summit between Rob Ford and DJ Deadmau5.  As a public service, we at Daisy came up with some funny lines for the other mayoralty candidates. We offer these to you, gratis.

  • Hey Rob – we don’t need City Hall run like a Mickey Mouse operation anymore.
  • Hey Rob, poor old John here thinks someone actually showed up with a dead mouse, today.
  • I’m more into classic rock.  I particularly like the Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’.
  • Rob, where are your glow sticks?
  • A giant mouse? Better than a pink elephant, I guess. 

Help wanted

Looking for a Toronto-area accountant who can do occasional accountancy stuff for smallish consultancy-type firms. Anyone know anyone? God bless.


In Tuesday’s Sun: A column in which I again stand with Israel. Hate mail landing in 5…4…3…

For political parties, winning elections is – naturally – the big prize. Almost as good: stealing away an entire demographic group from an opponent.

Case in point, Canadian Jewish voters. The Liberal Party of Canada used to have ‘em. Now they don’t. The Conservative Party of Canada, Stephen Harper, prop., stole ‘em.

It is an extraordinary achievement. But when you consider how dissimilar Canadian Jewish voters are to their equivalents south of the border, maybe not.

In the U.S., about three out of four Jews have traditionally voted Democrat. An overwhelming majority of American Jews – 73% – have described themselves as moderate or liberal. Only 19% of American Jews voted for the guy who claimed to lead the war on terror, George W. Bush.

That’s less than half what Ronald Reagan got in 1980, the high-water mark for GOP share of the Jewish vote. The Jewish vote trend line, among all but Orthodox Jews, is down for conservatives in the U.S.

In Canada, it’s the reverse. From almost the moment he assumed control of the united Reform and Progressive Conservative parties, Harper has devoted himself to moving every Jewish voter from the red column to the blue column. A decade later, there can be no argument that he has succeeded.

The Ipsos polling firm has estimated that, in the 2011 federal election, as many as 52% of eligible Canadian Jews voted for Harper. The vast majority of them used to be hardcore Grits. They love Harper, it seems, and they love his unabashed love for Israel.

Canadian Jews are different than American Jews in critical ways. Many more Canadian Jews consider themselves to be Zionists, and many more have visited Israel than their American counterparts.

Whatever the reason, one thing cannot be disputed: Stephen Harper owns the Canadian Jewish vote.

All of this has been very frustrating for Canadian Liberals, and particularly Canadian Liberals who are also Zionists (like me, for instance). I recall attending one Jewish community dinner with Herb Gray, the first Jewish federal cabinet minister. Stephen Harper was speaking, and when he finished, the hundreds in attendance rose en masse and started chanting Harper’s name.

“This is like a Conservative Party rally,” Gray said of the supposedly non-partisan event. “No kidding,” I said. Gray and I felt lonely, to say the least.

As of last week, all of that may be changing – perhaps, maybe. Last week, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau issued a little-noticed statement that – perhaps, maybe – marks a significant change in the Liberal Party’s decade-long breakup with Jewish voters.

“Israel has the right to defend itself and its people,” the Liberal Party website declared. “Hamas is a terrorist organization and must cease its rocket attacks immediately.”

Liberal MP Marc Garneau went even further, with the support and encouragement of his leader. “Israel has no choice but to defend itself,” he said in an interview. “We would do the same thing here in our country.”

From the right, there was dismissal. In the National Post, David Asper called the statement “honest broker mush.” From the left, there was dismissal. In the Toronto Star, Haroon Siddiqui whinged that “Trudeau has fallen in line with Stephen Harper’s support of Israel.”

For Trudeau, this is as good as it gets.

When you’re a Liberal, and both the hard right and hard left are attacking you, you’re happy. And (for those of us who are Liberal and liberal Zionists), it is a long overdue development.

There are no votes, really, in foreign affairs. The Jewish vote is centred in only a few ridings in Toronto and Montreal. The reason for supporting Israel is only this: principle.

Justin Trudeau has done the principled thing. Stephen Harper, Canadian Jews, take note.