In Tuesday’s Sun: Obama’s bad night, Harper’s bad year

Nate Silver, the Oracle, has spoken.

Silver – the U.S. statistician and political analyst, the Warren Buffett of modern politics – said over the weekend that President Barack Obama’s Democrats are facing a 75 per cent chance of losing control of the Senate Tuesday night. Given that the Republicans already control the House, this is no small thing. Obama, already a lame duck, would be rendered the lamest of lame ducks.

“The polls are clear enough that the GOP will probably win the Senate,” Silver, who exactly predicted the 2012 outcome. “[The mid-terms] look fairly poor for Democrats.”

Much is at stake, so Silver’s prediction is important. Every one of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives is up for grabs Tuesday night – along with a third of the 100 seats in the Senate. Assorted state governorships are on the line, too.

Having been in both Boston and New York City in the past few days, it seems likely that Obama is facing a loss. The mood on the ground certainly suggests a late-race Republican surge.

But why? And, as we poke through the entrails in advance, what does all this mid-term stuff portend (if anything) for Stephen Harper?

We know, we know. Messrs. Harper and Obama could not be more dissimilar. One is a conservative, the other is a progressive. One runs a super power, one does not. One liked George W. Bush, one did not.

But Obama and Harper share some of the same circumstances. For starters, both have wielded power for most or all of the last decade. Both are the undisputed leaders of their respective parties. And both are facing the same challenges (ISIS and Ebola), while simultaneously experiencing the same opportunities (burgeoning economic growth, shrinking unemployment).

In both Canada and the U.S., there are no general strikes. There are no constitutional crises. There are no mass rallies, seeking a premature end to Obama and Harper’s rule.

So why is Obama likely to lose Tuesday night – and is Harper to do likewise, in less than a year?

On any given day, Nate Silver doesn’t have much to say about Stephen Harper. But what he has to say about Barack Obama should give the Canadian Prime Minister pause for thought. There are three principal reasons for this.

One, Silver says, incumbency has become a bit of a curse at the national level. The electorate in the U.S. have not fallen in love with the Republicans, says Silver, so much as they have been seized with what he calls a “very anti-incumbent” mood.

Two, notwithstanding the fact that growth is up and joblessness is down, fear is upon the land. In their advertising, Republicans have relentlessly hammered the fear button – on ISIS, on Ebola – and the media have provided an uncritical echo chamber. Silver tweeted that, “in NYC, I’ve seen zero people wearing surgical masks or otherwise acting paranoid about Ebola. It’s only the media that’s been irrational.” But the fear campaign has paid dividends. When no one else is offering hope, fear works.

Finally, all politicians claim to oppose the status quo, because they know that voters dislike it. With the exception of Obamacare, Obama hasn’t exactly been a rousing agent of change. If anything, he has favoured a caretaker type of presidency, where even the most modest of achievements are celebrated. As such, Silver dryly notes, “President Obama remains unpopular.”

Anti-incumbency. Anxiety about an unpopular war, and an uncertain future. A desire for change, and a rejection of the status quo. All of these things have combined, on this day, to almost guarantee a bad night for the U.S. President.

All of those things should concern Stephen Harper, too.

Ask Nate Silver, Mr. Prime Minister. He’ll tell you.

LPC fundraiser in Mississauga-Lakeshore!

I love how they call me a “political raconteur.”

Anyway – if you are in the neighbourhood on November 12 (and even if you aren’t), try and come by.  It’s for a great cause – namely, ridding the nation of the scourge that is Conservative majority government.  Come one, come all! Bring your chequebook!



I hate that picture, but the hair looks pretty good.

Questions for CBC about personalities other than Ghomeshi

Sent from a former senior CBC person I know and respect. It wasn’t just Jian, seems.

Warren, I just read your piece about who knew what and when at the CBC and one of its reporters who is on the fast track to oblivion. Great piece. And I have my suspicions! Indeed, there are some lingering questions:

i. Will the external investigators limit the scope of their enquiry to complaints related to Jian? What if employees come forward with complaints about other CBC on-air persons?
ii. Has the CBC entered into contractual arrangements involving financial compensation for employees who have departed the corporation due to workplace harassment or improprieties on the part of high-profile on-air personalities including but not limited to Jian?
iii. If so, how much money have taxpayers spent on making amends for such workplace improprieties and have any offending employees maintained their positions, if not Jian?

Those are the questions I would be asking were I covering the story…


I don’t know what is going on – Twitter is never a good place to look for context or truth – but I’ll say this: Jaime Watt is one of the best at what he does. If you ever got in trouble, you’d be grateful to have him in your corner.

In Friday’s Sun: I didn’t know

[I’m posting this early because I’m starting to think my first reaction – disbelief – was wrong. Really wrong. Time will tell, etc., but here is my stab at trying to understand this.]

What did they know, and when did they know it?

That’s a question that has its origins in the Watergate scandal, forty years ago. What did the President know, and when did he know it?

In the intervening years, in respect of assorted real and perceived scandals, it’s a question that you hear a lot. Most of the time, it’s reporters asking The Question about politicians.

In the past few days, the roles have been reversed. Lots of political people are asking The Question of media people: when did they know about Jian Gomeshi, and what did they do about it?

The sordid details are ubiquitous, now. Jian Ghomeshi – who, full disclosure, I knew and liked – is accused of multiple cases of abuse by at least eight women. Most of the complainants are anonymous, but at least one has gone on the record.

None of the allegations have resulted in charges. But all of the allegations have certainly resulted in nausea. As in, it is enough to make one want to throw up.

In the first few hours of the Ghomeshi story, quite a few of us felt that the state broadcaster had no place in the bedrooms of the nation, and said so. But as more details oozed to the surface, quite a few of us started to reconsider.

I sure did. And then I remembered something, from long ago.

In 1984, I was president of the student council at Carleton University, and a journalism student. I wasn’t very good at either, but that’s what I was when a good friend and fellow journalism student called me.

She was crying. She said that she had made the mistake of trusting a very senior reporter with a major TV network. When she didn’t agree to go out with him, this reporter started to threaten my friend. He told her she would never work in TV news, ever, if she didn’t do his bidding.

I’m a bit of a hot-head. I’m a walking Irish bar fight, a pollster friend once said, and it’s true. My friend was scared, and I was thoroughly pissed off. So I found out who the reporter’s boss was, and I called him up.

The boss received my complaint without evincing the slightest degree of empathy for my friend. Zero.

He said he’d look into it.

Here’s what happened next: (a) my female friend was being shunned (b) the reporter was being promoted (c) the reporter and the network were going after a Liberal candidate I was helping out.

I know this because, as I was squiring the candidate around some event in Ottawa, the very senior reporter walked in. “Ah, the famous Warren Kinsella,” he said, and proceeded to put together a hatchet job of truly epic proportions.

What happens next to Jian Ghomeshi is mostly up to the courts. What happens next to various alleged victims is mostly up to the victims themselves.

What interests me, mostly, is what happens next to the CBC. What did they know, and when did they know it?

The allegations were myriad, and had been well-known for months, we are now told. So, did the CBC investigate? Why not, if not?

And if they did, why did they not act sooner? It’s The Question, and it’s one to which the CBC had better have a damn convincing answer. (If it wants to survive, that is.)

Oh, and my friend? She went on to success after success, and is now one of the top PR folks in the country. The very senior reporter, meanwhile, is facing a criminal trial – on an unrelated matter – in the Fall.

And three guesses where he worked? First two don’t count.

You got it.

The CBC.