My latest: leadership in tough times

Leadership in good times means little.

Leadership in bad times means everything.

And these times, they are indisputably bad. Grim, grinding, grotesque.  For the rest of our lives, we will all remember the dark days of 2020, when nothing was again the same. Everyone, everything, everywhere: it’s all different, now.

“All changed, changed utterly,” Yeats wrote in Easter 1916, and which he could write again in Easter 2020, if he was still here.  (No “terrible beauty,” though.)

When times are this bad, we learn things about ourselves. We learn things about our leaders, too.

For this writer, few leaders are as inspiring as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. No adjectives, no spin, no homilies: in that New Yorker’s brusque dialect, Cuomo sits there every day, no notes, and simply offers up the truth.

He emotes honesty. He tells it as is; he does not give false hope.  And he seemingly knows everything.

More than once, I’ve been driving my Jeep – to locate toilet paper, to pick up some canned food my little band of survivors – and I’ve pulled over to the side of the road to listen to Cuomo. In the way that my grandmother told me that she and her seven children would stop everything, and gather around the radio to listen to Winston Churchill during World War Two. Giving hope, giving faith, giving a path forward.

Doug Ford, too. He’s given hope, and he’s shown no small amount of strength and decency. Even his detractors now admit that Ontario’s Premier has revealed himself to be an inspirational voice.  One they did not expect.

On the subject of Ford,  I’m biased. (He has been a friend, and I’ve done a couple writing assignments for his government.) So don’t take my word for it. Former NDP Premier Bob Rae: “With the Premier on this.” Current Ontario Liberal leader Stephen Del Duca: “Ontario Liberals support the government’s decision to shut down non-essential business.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the so-called Right, BC Premier John Horgan on the Left: they, too, have stepped up in a way that their political adversaries did not expect.

Our federal leaders, not as much. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative leadership frontrunner Peter MacKay have disappointed, lately.

Trudeau did so well at the outset of the pandemic, and then – when he perhaps thought no one would be looking – he tried to seize unprecedented, and unnecessary, spending and taxation powers.  The outcry was immediate and came from across the political and media spectrum.

The Prime Minister lost in ten minutes what had taken ten weeks to build up. His partisan adversaries are unlikely to fully trust him anytime soon.

Peter MacKay, too, seemed more preoccupied with power than the general good. With the pandemic raging – rendering hundreds of Canadians sick, killing dozens – MacKay stubbornly refused calls for his party’s leadership race to be paused.

No one was paying attention to the Tory leadership race. No one cared about it. But MacKay insisted that it continue, because no less than “democracy” was at stake.

He looked like a fool. Last week, his party completely rejected his demands, and thereby did the right thing.

The missteps of Justin Trudeau and Peter MacKay are nothing, however, when compared to Donald Trump’s tyrannical reign of error. Trudeau and MacKay were merely self-serving. Trump is far, far worse.

In a devastating ad, leading Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden documented Trump’s serial lies about the growing coronavirus threat – how Trump said “we have it totally under control.” How he said “it will disappear like a miracle.” How the virus was “a hoax.”

Trump’s fans will say that he is popular, now. And it is true: polls show Americans are currently prepared to give their “president” the benefit of the doubt.

But Jimmy Carter’s popularity soared, too, after the hostages were seized in Iran four decades ago. 

From the New York Times on December 10, 1979: “Public approval of President Carter’s performance in office has increased dramatically in the month since the United States Embassy in Teheran was seized and hostages held by militant students, according to a poll by the Gallup Organization. The percentage of people who approved of Mr. Carter’s handling of the Presidency jumped from 32, in a Gallup survey, to 61 in the latest poll.”

Jimmy Carter’s presidency would ultimately be destroyed by the Iranian hostage crisis. So will Donald Trump’s, by this new crisis, and for how he has mismanaged it. 

It is always this way: political careers are made in times of crisis. 

But they can be ended by crises, too.  


April Fool’s

There is nothing I can write, this year, that can seem more shocking than the reality that we all now live.

I’ll do the traditional April Fool’s next year, if I’m still around. In the meantime, be careful and be safe.


Kristin Raworth

Thanks to those of you who provided a heads-up. We’ve served her with a Libel Notice, and we intend to pursue it aggressively, whether she apologizes or not. Thanks.


Doug Ford. Wow.

See that guy?

That’s Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario.

Dental Brands, a company in Markham, texted him to say they were donating 90,000 masks to hospitals in Ontario. Ford drove to their warehouse and loaded the masks onto his truck. Didn’t tell his staff.

Got the masks. People noticed.


My living will, Jake Tapper and Brian Goldman

A living will is sometimes called an advance care planning document, or an advance directive. I call mine a living will, like the Americans do.

Basically, it’s a document that describes the care I would (and would not) want to receive if I’m not able to communicate my wishes about medical treatment.

My Dad had one, and he suggested we all get one, too. He was a doctor. He used to take me and my brothers to the hospital with him, sometimes, to gently remind us that sickness and death are part of the deal for all of us.

So, I got a living will. Originally, it was to give guidance to the love of my life and my youngest brother. But the love of my life dumped me, and my younger brother is far from where I am. (Everyone is far from where I am, these days.)

I got in touch with my estate lawyer, then, yesterday. He’s an amazing guy and a longtime friend. I told him I wanted my living will amended to specifically exclude the use of a ventilator or CPR when and if I get sick.

I decided to do that because of two people – Jake Tapper on CNN, and Brian Goldman on CBC. Truth.

I’m not friends with Jake Tapper, but I admire his journalism and his integrity very much. I periodically tweet funny stuff at him and he tweets funny stuff back.

A couple days ago, however, he had a New York doctor on his show and what the doctor said actually shocked me. The doctor said ventilators prolong “life,” but they don’t restore it.

Nobody ever really comes off the ventilators, he said. The clip is here, sent along by Jake Tapper. Around the four minute mark.

That shook me. I didn’t know that. I hadn’t heard that before.

Then, around the same time, Dr. Brian Goldman – the well-known CBC Radio doctor, and a friend who has given me advice that has helped get me through aforementioned difficult times – tweeted that, if he got sick, he would refuse a ventilator and/or CPR.

I thought about that for a minute, and then I tweeted: ditto. Use the machines on someone else. No heroic measures.

So, there you go. I told my daughter last night at supper, and now I’m telling you guys. None of my sons or brothers are around here to tell, so I’m telling you. I’m doing that to ensure it gets communicated to the right people at the right time, if needed.

Now, I’m pretty healthy. No health problems, no allergies, no headaches, no “underlying conditions” at all. I exercise, I eat right, I don’t do drugs, I dislike booze, I’ve never smoked, all that.

But this disease doesn’t discriminate. Young or old, rich or poor, healthy or not. So, if I get it – and, the available data suggests many of us will, eventually – I want the ventilators and doctors and nurses to focus their remedial efforts on more-deserving others. (If I get it bad, that is. Maybe I won’t. Who knows.)

Death is part of life, my Dad used to say to me and my brothers. So, if death beckons, all of you guys now know what I want, too.

You’re my living will. I’d shake your hand and thank you, but that’s not advisable in the current circumstances.

So it goes, I like to say.