02.27.2012 09:11 AM

In today’s Hill Times: throw mud, and some will get on you

I was reading a history of the Clash when the Vic Toews thing broke.

This may seem more than tangential, but bear with me. In about 1984, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon kicked Mick Jones out of the Clash. No one’s quite sure why they did it, but they just did. Mick Jones, the guy who created the Clash, had been kicked out of his own band. It was a huge shock.

Here’s my stab at making a link: if you were a progressive person — a Liberal or New Democrat — watching your comrades swim through the muck of the Toews file was a bit like Mick Jones must have felt. People you had worked with for years, people you had admired, utterly took leave of their senses. They looked like jerks of the first order.

So, there were the Toews’-haters on Twitter, or on Facebook, or whatever else they consider to be “social media,” digging giddily through the muck. There they were on comments threads, excoriating Tim Harper or Dan Gardner for having the decency to demand that people act with decency. There they were, piously claiming that some new media revolution was underway, and they were leading it. There they were, saying over and over that “Toews deserves it.”

But you know,Toews’ kids, and Toews’ ex-wife, and Toews’ wife DIDN’T deserve it. Not at all.

What in the name of all that is holy did they have to do with a poorly-conceived, over-reaching, invasive piece of legislation? What did they do to deserve being dragged through the biggest wave of slime and muck Ottawa’s seen in ages (when Ottawa’s seen plenty of slime and muck)?

Here’s another little tale: I was at a campaign meeting with the Ontario Liberals last spring, and we were getting ready for the October 2011 election. And one of the smart and experienced McGuinty senior staffers there just said, out of the blue, what the difference was between us and the Conservatives. “We have boundaries,” she said. “They don’t.”

I don’t remember anything else from that meeting, but I remember that: we have boundaries. The Conservatives don’t.

Well, in the past few days, we boundary-observing types have fully become what we once claimed to despise. We have become just as bad as them.

So, when Steve Maher’s amazing robocall story broke, around the time the Toews thing started to subside, Lefties were in full dudgeon again. They were entitled to be angry. But the high ground, they no longer had. When the choice came, quite a few of them didn’t hesitate to toss Vic Toews’ wife and kids onto the funeral pyre, did they? No, they didn’t.

Like I say, it’s about boundaries. The Clash crossed one, and they never found their way back.

Liberals who dug through Vic Toews’ divorce files may find their way back. But it’s going to take a while to get the stink off them.

23 Comments

  1. Derek Pearce says:

    I am utterly unconvinced that airing Toew’s dirty laundry via Twitter contributed one milligram to the debate over the bill. Yes, he’s a douchebag who hates gays and blah blah blah. That all still has nothing whatsoever to do with how turdtastic Bill C-30 is.

      • Steven says:

        The mud has splashed.

        It turns out that the source of the leak was a Liberal Staffer.

        Rae has unconditionally apoligized to Toews in the HoC and announced the Staffer’s termination.

        One the one hand, good move on Rae’s part.

        On the other hand, I can just wait for the HarperCons to ramp up the spin about the Liberals being in no position to point a finger at the Tories in their election fraud(s).

        The HarperCons can teach Mugabe and Ahmadinejad some lessons!

  2. fred says:

    Yes, the mudslinging leaves everyone smelling stinky. If Harper establishes a police state plutocracy will it really matter if you have noble intentions
    and you don’t stink? And will the RCMP really be participating in uncovering the election fraud, or will they be helping the cons cover it up?
    Canadians want to know.

  3. Matt says:

    Warren,
    I don’t disagree with you in the Toews case, however, in the broader sense I don’t believe embarrassment to the spouse and family is the only criteria for determining the threshold for deciding when to report about public officials. Take for example the Spitzer case in New York. The reporting of his actions brought equal (maybe even more) embarrassment to his family as has been brought on the Toews family. So for you Warren, what other criteria must be met for a journalist or anonymous poster to pursue a story that will ultimately bring embarrassment to the subject’s family?

    • Jan says:

      Or John Edwards. The press turned a blind eye to his philandering during the primary. It took the National Enquirer to finally expose him.

      • Mark says:

        Spitzer paid for prostitutes, which is illegal. He then lied about it. Anthony Weiner emphatically denied he took a picture of his junk, and excoriated the press for even daring to ask questions – he lied.

        Jan brings up John Edwards – the media DID turn a blind eye to his philandering, on his cancer stricken wife, with a woman who bore him a child out of wedlock. Funny how Herman Cain wasn’t afforded the same courtesy. But I digress.

        The point is, Spitzer broke the law – and everyone above blatantly lied to the public about their comings(and goings). That is not only a legal issue in Spitzer’s case, but a basic trust issue between a politician and his constituents. I.E. it’s newsworthy.

        Toews’ only ‘crime’ was his marriage broke up – he’s one of us, imagine that. He didn’t break the law, and he didn’t lie to the public. His divorce has no bearing on his ability to serve the public. And yet this Liberal staffer thought he’d ‘get’ him and embarrass him publicly in what was essentially a case of extortion.

        Politics is a dirty game, but personal lives, families, and personal attacks have almost always been shunned.

        The sad part for Liberals is that this sad debacle will take them off message re: robocalls and make the public look at the Liberal Party as being just of capable of dirty tricks – which it apparently is.

  4. que sera sera says:

    You know Warren, I admire your passion and commitment to this issue. And I admire your blog. After reading thousands of comments, articles and blogs on this entire issue I just cannot agree with you. I usually do agree with you on most issues so it troubles me that I do not on this particular one.

    The sleazy slow motion train wreck that is Vic Toews is his creation, not the publics. The fact that his spectacularly disastrous private life was neatly summarized in public documents was his choice. And the fact that his wives, children, ex-lovers, and his credibility have been damaged by his actions was also his choice.

    I suppose the best the public can offer, since Toews abdicated both his privacy (in public court) and his families privacy (messy, public divorce), is to offer to avert their eyes & comments from his spectacular Internet implosion of such phenomenal sleaziness.

    And I suspect that is even too much in light of the fact that the ruling party openly treats Canadians with contempt, refuses to answer Canadians questions, demonizes democratic dissent and freedom of speech, demonizes and criminalizes Canadians, spends Canadians money like a drunken sailor encouraging Canadians not to vote, and buys off the MSM through GoC and CPC advertising dollars.

    Perhaps it’s a tad too unrealistic expecting Canadians to wait & only show their public displeasure once every four years by showing up to the polls – in the event that they haven’t been misdirected to non-existent polls by election fraudsters with total contempt for democracy and Canada.

    Perhaps it’s a tad too unrealistic to insist that Canadians wait another decade until the Opposition parties get their sh!t together to speak on what remains of Canadians behalf.

    It’s a conundrum for me, Warren. This ugly Conservative Party has lots to answer for – and not all of it is fiscal or electoral. Their contempt, derision, scorn, dishonesty, towards their governing obligations and Canadians is simply quite unfathomable. The kakistocracy rules and it appears that is not good enough anymore for Canadians.

    Perhaps the savaging of Vic Toews is an example of what is yet to come. To make it entirely partisan is to miss the greater point.

  5. Charles Slim says:

    The author has taken a very strong position against those who have targetted Toews’ personal life. He is right to. I don’t recall, however, what his position was when the Star went after Giambrone’s personal life which, in the process, caused significant embarrassment to Mr. Giambrone’s significant other. I hope and trust he was equally strenuous in his denunciations. Regards.

    • Warren says:

      Are you talking about me? If so, say so.

      Adam is a friend. I told he made a mistake in resigning, and only validated the dirt-digging.

      If he had stayed in, he could very well have become mayor. He would have been better than the bloody fool we now have.

  6. Glen says:

    Let’s get to the real issue here: By 1984 The Clash sucked. Mick was lucky to be gone.

  7. JH says:

    WK’s right. Most folks have messy private lives to one degree or another. They’ll probably give Toews a pass on that and maybe even take a harsher look at those who did this to his family. Particularly those politicians who seemed to condone the attacks or their surrogates.
    The Bill itself was the better target and had traction with the folks – but now that it’s gone to committee, it’ll die or be tweaked enought to dampen the criticism. That’s a missed opportunity for the opposition, who allowed themselves to be sidetracked.

  8. Geoffrey Laxton says:

    Well, Mick Jones does seem to be the last man standing… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcL91CKyivE&feature=related
    With regard to bringing women and children into the fight. I’m with Warren on this.

  9. Kevin says:

    Have to admit to a certain conflict about all this. On the one hand, I agree with WK that kids/wife/ex-wife don’t deserve the public spotlight. But neither does Col. William’s wife. Unfortunately or not, though, those records are public records, and I didn’t hear of anything being made public that wasn’t already out there. Of course, not being on social media I didn’t see any of the details. All I saw in the media I follow was that info about this and info about that was being posted on Twitter and as a result Toews was being humiliated. And since the courts found that this and that were true, and in view of Toews’ subsequent behaviour, I am perfectly fine with Toews being publicly humiliated.

  10. Mulletaur says:

    Newsflash : Rae apologizes in the House to Toews for the actions of a Liberal Research Bureau staff member who has now resigned.

    Sounds like LPC could use some help with managing their opposition research, Warren.

  11. Bill Stewart says:

    I am an idiot.

  12. CA says:

    Forgive me while I go on a rant here.

    Seriously?? What the fuck is wrong with this party? Vic Toews serves up a juicy issue on a silver platter and the first thing some Liberal staffer does is run over to a computer in Parliament and copy word for word from Toews’s divorce proceeding affidavits from almost a decade ago? Did he really believe that nobody would find out? Seriously?? And who the fuck cares that they were public documents? 99.99999% of the population had never read them and never would. That’s why they were called “Vicileaks”. Got that — LEAKS.

    This reminds me of the 2006 World Cup soccer final when Zinedine Zidane fucked himself and the entire French team when he stupidly head-butted Marco Materazzi of Italy for no real good reason. I remember watching a clip of that fucking play and the French announcer losing his mind, screaming “mais pourquoi, mais POURQUOI?!

    And that’s what I feel like screaming today. This idiotic move actually takes the heat off the Conservatives and makes Toews and his personal life an issue when it shouldn’t be. The idea of Vic Toews as some fucking victim makes makes my head ache. All those people who have argued that this is just some good ol’ fashioned politicking are deluding themselves.

    The Liberal Party of Canada has — and it fucking pains me to say — descended into amateur hour. This is the sort of shit you do in high school. This is not a party made for governing. Don’t even get me started on Justin Trudeau and his childish boxing match.

    For my fellow Liberals, let me remind you that the goal is forming the next government not ignominy.

    Why? Why?

  13. SF Thomas, Ottawa says:

    Warren I have to greatly disagree with the idea that the fact that a Liberal staffer was behind ‘Vikileaks’ somehow blunts the right of Liberals or even ‘the left’ to be mad about the bogus phone calls during elections or that it will really blunt the robo-call scandal. Posting Toews’ divorce records on twitter isn’t exactly appropriate but it isn’t anywhere near the same scale as trying to potentially rig an election or prevent people from voting. I’m pretty sure that posting Toews divorce records online isn’t illegal either, misrepresenting yourself on the phone and trying to deceive people about where polling stations are is. Furthermore posting his divorce records on twitter is pretty easy for one guy to do so it is much more easily dismissed as the actions of an individual, while the scale of the bogus calls during the election and the financial resources it would require make it much more likely to be the work of multiple people.

    • JenS says:

      It doesn’t make the robocalls any less wrong; it simply lessens Liberals’ opportunity to claim moral high ground. It gives the Cons an easily rebuttal. It reinforces the typical citizens’ idea that all politicians are sleazy, so it matters not for whom or even if they vote. It does nothing whatsoever to enhance the cause it claims to support; in fact, it has the opposite effect.

  14. Blackhawskfan says:

    1. For whatever reason, the selective use of affidavits really rubs me the wrong way. An Affidavit is one person’s story about what happened. No one has cross examined that person on the contents and parts(or all of it) may be disbelieved by the judge. It’s slimy, lazy, rumour mongering to grab a family law affidavit and hold it out as truth.

    I wonder if this is something the courts should be cleaning up. As I understand the Saskatchewan Queen’s Bench Rule’s (for those interested, see rule 588 at the following link http://www.qp.gov.sk.ca/documents/English/Rules/qbrules.pdf), doing this would have been contempt of court in Saskatchewan. I’m not an expert on Manitoba law, but I couldn’t find anything similar in the rules there.

    2. The guy that probably comes out of this looking the worst is Trudeau. For those of you that don’t remember, he posted this on twitter:

    Just to reiterate my condemnation of @vikileaks30 (that’s @vikileaks30) for being meanies towards the always nice and reasonable @ToewsVic.

    Unless there is something I’m missing, that seems both sarcastic and an endorsment of Vikileaks, especially when paired with the fact that Toews had just made the comments that were being almost universally met with scorn and derision.

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