Not withstanding an impressive body of evidence to the contrary, politicians are human. Humans being flawed, politicians are also flawed. Politicians say dumb things, for example. They try not to, but they do.
David McGuinty said something dumb this week. At a House of Commons natural resources committee get-together on Tuesday, the Ottawa-area Liberal MP accused Conservative members of Parliament of being “shills” for Big Oil, and suggested “they should really go back to Alberta.”
Hoo boy! Assorted Conservative MPs immediately commenced rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, and declared how deeply offendedthey were. Out in Calgary Centre, Conservative Party byelection candidate Joan Whatserface suddenly made herself available to the media.
Stephen Harper and Whatserface could barely disguise their glee, as they invoked the Satanic Liberal trifecta: The National Energy Program, David McGuinty and, er, the National Energy Program.
Liberals like me — hailing from Calgary, as I do — were plenty mad at McGuinty for his dumb statement, coming as it did during a byelection that we could win. McGuinty thereafter quit his natural resources critic thing, and issued a poop-eater of an apology that must be read to be believed. It’s one for the Political Apology History Book, a rather thick tome.
The Harper Conservatives, enjoying an unprecedented opportunity to be cast in the role of put-upon, powerless victims, will not let it go, however. You will be hearing about David McGuinty’s sins until the Second Coming of Christ, and possibly for some time thereafter, too. Coming, as it does, from the same crew who used to suggest that “Eastern bastards” should “go freeze in the dark” — the same crew who said that Atlantic Canadians were lazy, shiftless and had “a culture of defeat” — the regional victimization routine is a bit rich.
The media like it when politicians are outraged about something or the other, and politicians like to oblige the media. So it goes on and on. Dumbstatements, too. Stephen Harper, before he started speaking French all the time, used to say “bilingualism is the god that failed.” Before he started welcoming a record number of gay and lesbian folks into his caucus and senior staff, Harper used to say that he wanted to “protect the traditional definition of marriage.”
Before acknowledging that the war in Iraq had been a big mistake, he used to say that Canadians who opposed the invasion were “cowards.“Dumb, dumb, dumb.
And, before demonizing coalitions with separatists and socialists, Harper used to say they weren’t so bad, and even wrote an August 2004 letter to the governor general saying he’d been in “close consultation” with those selfsame separatists and socialists, and asking for a chance to form a government with them, please and thank you. Dumb.
See? Politicians say dumb things all the time. Then other politicians condemn the dumb statements. Sometimes — like Harper — they end upcondemning the very dumb thing that they once dumbly said. Read his lips, etc. Dumb. Canadians, being more intelligent than most politicians, don’t get nearly as outraged about outrageous statements. Most of the time, in fact, they think dumb political statements are a well-established political behavioural trait.
Next week, another politician will say something dumb, other politicians will claim to be outraged, and the public will shake their collective heads. It will never stop. Therefore, it all brings to mind that old Billy Connolly adage: Don’t vote. It only encourages them.