As in my Hill Times column next week, I was pretty tough on Justin Trudeau about the Indian imbroglio. Charles Adler said he’s never heard me be this tough.
To me, a Prime Minister’s job is essentially threefold:
- communicate to, and on behalf of, Canada
- promote policies that are developed by his or her cabinet, caucus, officials, staff, political party (and, very rarely, by him or her)
- articulate a vision that brings Canadians together
That’s it. And the thread that runs through all of that, as you can see, is communications. That isn’t what the job is mostly about – that is the job.
Justin Trudeau is one of the best retail politicians this country has ever seen (Messrs. Chretien, Mulroney and Trudeau Sr. were also amazing at the retail stuff, in that order). He has an ability to connect with people that is extraordinary.
But there is a danger inherent in being a great communicator: sometimes, when you are that good at the retail stuff, arrogance slips in, like an unwanted guest at a crowded party. You start to delude yourself into thinking that charm and conviviality will get you out of any mess. You start to think that you can win the people over with a big smile, and nothing else.
Justin Trudeau, in just about everyone’s view (if they’re being fair), is a terrific communicator. He has clearly convinced himself that the whole job is about communications, too.
But here’s the thing: when you get too cocky, too arrogant, too full of yourself, you start to forget that you need to be communicating/articulating/promotion ideas and vision, too.
In the most simplistic terms, I am now convinced this guy thinks it’s all sizzle, and no steak. It’s all about pictures, and forget about the words.
In that, he is gravely mistaken. And – as in all things in politics – his main strength is also his main weakness.
The thing that got him elected is the same thing that will defeat him. I’m convinced of that, now.
Here’s me and Charles.