Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Harper Considering Nose Job - To Repel the Stink of his own Attack Ads

Since first entering politics, it would appear that Stephen Harper's nose has been growing at an enormous rate. The situation has become grave, with the stink of attack ads permeating his nostrils, that could cause his head to explode.

Staffers have been working overtime to plug up his nose holes, before a surgeon can be found to take on such a huge job; and heavy equipment operators are said to be on standby.

Of course this is just satire, because it would be pointless to perform such a surgery before correcting the root cause of the problem. He simply has got to stop lying to us.

His latest attack ads on Michael Ignatieff are pure fantasy. Cherry picking Mr. Ignatieff's enormous body of work to pull out comments, and place them out of context, shows just how desperate he and his party have become.

They have no idea how to deal with the economic crisis, so instead fear monger, using a quote of the new Liberal leader, from 1991!

How this will affect the polls, is any one's guess. It should work in the favour of Michael Ignatieff, because I still hold on to the belief that Canadians are smarter than this. We are not mean and vindictive; but an intelligent and caring people.

But we are also a people in trouble. The economy, the environment, escalating bankruptcies and job losses weigh heavy on our minds, and we expect them to also weigh heavy on the minds of our elected politicians. Not name calling for political gain.

So after posting that I thought these attack ads could backfire on the Conservatives, I thought I'd share a few more stories from across the country.

From Guelph Ontario:
The Guelph Mercury
Greg Mercer
May 20, 2009

Leadership? Pfft. Who needs it? It's not like we've got work to do.

Canada's exports are drying up like free beer at a high school party. Personal bankruptcies are soaring. The unemployment insurance program is so swamped that job counsellors are coaching groups of 25 rather than one person at a time. On and on, our economy continues to shrink. Jobs, people's retirement savings and the homes of the suddenly broke all disappear.

So what does Canada really need in tough times like these? You guessed it: political attack ads.

If you've turned on your TV or computer lately, you've probably seen a series of ads that portray Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff as an elitist snob who's just dropped in from the polo grounds to make a run at Canada's top elected office. The ads, paid for and approved by the Conservatives, all make reference to the fact he spent 34 years living and working outside of Canada.

One shows Ignatieff referring to himself as an American. Another declares the "only thing he missed about Canada was Algonquin Park." A third claims he's "just in it for himself."

The Conservatives message is clear: Michael Ignatieff is an opportunistic, out-of-touch intellectual who prefers the company of high-society to Joe Canadian. As if being away makes you less of a "real" Canadian. Never mind the not-so-subtle message that sends to immigrants.

The ads are clearly a response to polls that suggest the Liberal leader is surging in popularity over our current prime minister. Ignatieff, meanwhile, dismissed the ads as being "old-style politics." But that doesn't mean he's against the tactic -- his Liberals have also been attacking Harper and the Conservatives.

If only our leaders spent less time on this vicious self-preservation and a little more time on preserving things for the rest of us.

Sure, Ignatieff said stupid things, like calling America his country.

But what does that have to do with how he would address the things that really affect Canadians' lives -- like their jobs, their environment, their safety, their education, their savings or their health?

Canadians should not accept these kind of ads, which only drag politics further into the gutter. They dumb down the whole political process, deflect from what we should be paying attention to, and turn people off of politicians. They're insulting to voters who would like to make informed decisions on their governing options. Instead, all they get is slagging of rivals.

One anti-Ignatieff ad even asks: "Is he interested in people like you?"

Say it ain't so! A political leader who doesn't find me personally enthralling?

I don't need my elected leaders to be interested in people like me. If Ignatieff were over for dinner, I'd expect he'd try to run out the door during the fifth retelling of the time I made a really great grilled-cheese sandwich by adding ranch dressing to the bread. Or the time I beat my brother at bowling by getting a strike just when I needed it.

I don't care if my leaders are arrogant, self-entitled or egotistical. I do want them to be smart, visionary, hard-working, and good at solving problems, though. And I'd like them to tell me what they stand for and how they plan to address our country's challenges -- not tell me why the other guy is a jerk.

But the problem with attack ads is they seem to work. And that's why political parties continue to use them. They aren't interested in intelligent debates about policy and priorities. They just want to win. And they'll do whatever it takes.

Sadly, when the attack ads annihilated Mr. Dion, it turned Canadians off the democratic process. As a result, record numbers of them just stayed home.

From Fredericton, New Brunswick:
The Victorian Star
May 20, 2009

Prime Minister Stephen Harper cannot change his partisan political personality, and at this point it doesn't appear he wants to.

Despite the many opportunities political fate and the Canadian people throw his direction, he cannot set aside personal vendettas and his partisan ways to pursue the common good of the nation.

The launch of a series of personal attack ads against Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is the latest example of Harper's inability to separate politics and policy.

This is not the first nor will it be the last editorial comment chastising the prime minister for the folly of personal attacks against opponents during a time of national crisis. From coast to coast, editorial writers and political commentators, both left and right of the political spectrum, continue to slam the newly minted Conservative attack ads, using terms such as "demeaning," "insulting" and "poisonous."

At a time when Canadians need and expect true leadership, Harper and his small inner circle of advisers have placed their political interests above those of the public interest. Instead of spending heavily to encourage Canadian consumers to support Canadian business, to explain his government's stimulus plans or to call for co-operation to overcome the economic crisis, the Harper government chooses to demonize his opponent for being intelligent, successful and worldly.

The Vancouver Sun's Stephen Hume says Harper-style politics "demeans democracy, insults the voters and further undermines their desire to participate in the process and says far more about those who embrace such a campaign of divisive belittlement than it does about the targets of the advertising."

That's a point well taken and one which much be addressed by other Conservatives, including Tobique-Mactaquac MP Mike Allen and New Brunswick's senior cabinet representative Veteran Affairs Minister Greg Thompson. Do they agree with vicious personal attacks against Ignatieff? If not, why not raise their voice against the actions of Harper's inner circle.

The truth is neither Allen nor Thompson operate with the political vindictiveness of their leader. If they did, they would not earn the support of voters in rural New Brunswick. What Thompson and Allen demonstrate is the total lack of genuine input the average Tory MP has in the development of Conservative policy and practice. Their lack of public objection to Harper's attack ads reflects a fear within the Tory ranks to stand up to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). This is Harper's party and MPs like Allen and Thompson are along for the ride.

The lack of concern within the Tory tent contrasts greatly to the shock and revulsion expressed across the political spectrum by those who sit outside the PMO's reach.

CBC wordsmith Rex Murphy, who will never be accused as a voice of liberal media bias, noted the ads paint a picture of Harper's and the Conservative's shortcomings more so than those of their chief opponent.

"They are not good at reaching out," noted Murphy. "They are not good at broadening the tent. They are not good at getting beyond the bristling, mean way they view everyone who is an opponent."

Murphy's strong criticism of the Tory leader – for whom he previously expressed respect for his dogged determination and strategical planning – showcases the close relationship between Harper's greatest strength and weakness. Strong leadership when left unchecked becomes blind dictatorship.

One of the most alarming criticisms of Harper's attack-Ignatieff agenda was put forward by Quebec political journalist and well-known CBC pundit Chantal Hebert. She points to Harper's penchant to fan the flames of separatism if he believes it can hurt the Liberals.

"In the larger unity picture," Hebert said, "the notion of a prime minister launching an advertising campaign to fuel a nationalist backlash against another national leader is the equivalent of poisoning a common well in the hope that one's neighbour is the first to die."

The Harper government's attack-ad debate reaches well beyond whether negative campaigning is right or wrong. The unfortunate truth is , in the past, negative advertising has proven successful, not just for Harper, but for other Canadian political leaders, including Liberals, before him.

But, Harper has brought the negative advertising to a new and dangerous level. Never before have the attacks been so personal. Never before has such an advertising campaign been run so heavily outside an election race. And never before has a prime minister been so focused on partisan politics in a time of great crisis.

The attack-ad campaign also suggests the Harper team's inability to capture the public mood. While time will tell if the efforts effectively damage Ignatieff's credibility with Canadians, they have just as much chance of damaging Harper's own credibility.

To suggest the respect Ignatieff holds on a global level is a flaw is in itself flawed. To advertise intellect as a bad thing is not a good thing for the advertiser. To portray Ignatieff's knowledge of world politics and his interest in what is happening outside Canada's borders as a shortcoming is a shortsighted approach of small-minded, insular politicians who have little hope in developing a coherent foreign policy.

Those who designed the ad campaign and the Tory inner circle, including Harper, which approved it, must be forced to respond to the message they are delivering. The ads, which suggest Ignatieff is not a true Canadian because he worked for long stretches outside Canadian borders, is an insult to thousands of Canadians. To suggest Canadians, whose careers took them abroad or new Canadians who spent the majority of their lives in another country, are not true Canadians establishes a new low in political rhetoric. It also makes all Conservatives look like, as Hume noted, "narrow-minded bigots."

I'm certain that's not a description Allen, Thompson or any New Brunswick Tory wants to be associated with. However, by standing back silently while their leader blazes new roads into uncharted territory of character assassination, they run the risk of being guilty by association.

It is time all Conservative MPs take a stand to ensure their respective reputations are not sullied by their leader's dangerous efforts to destroy Michael Ignatieff's reputation.
And from Vancouver:

Times Colonist
May 19, 2009

Memo to Prime Minister Stephen Harper: Out here on the West Coast, the New Democrats went for attack ads in the provincial election, while the B.C. Liberals chose the high road. The NDP lost.

That's something the prime minister and his Conservative deep thinkers should keep in mind as they ponder the public's response to the series of attack ads unleashed on Michael Ignatieff, the leader of the federal Liberals.

The ads -- distributed on the YouTube website, backed by television spots and dedicated Internet sites -- focus on Ignatieff's three-decade absence from Canada and question his ability to handle the economy. The Liberal leader has spent most of his adult life working in Britain or the United States.

Ignatieff has dismissed the ads as being "old-style politics" -- but wait! His Liberals have also been attacking Harper and the Conservatives. It goes both ways.
(However, the Liberal attacks have been on the governing of Harper, not personal attacks on his life or character. All opposition parties do that. It's why they are called the opposition.)

The thinking in political circles is that voters respond to negative advertising -- and sadly, in many elections, these attacks have helped to get some candidates elected and other defeated. Consider the Liberal claims of Harper having a hidden agenda, ads that helped Paul Martin get a minority government in the 2004 election (down from a majority).

After St├ęphane Dion replaced Martin as Liberal leader, the Conservatives pounced with a series of ads designed to portray Dion as an ineffectual leader. They helped turn the public away from Dion before he even had a chance to prove himself.

The attacks on Ignatieff should come as no surprise, because there can be no doubt -- he was out of Canada for much of his life. It's an obvious weak point, and Harper is not known for being kind when he spots a weakness in an opponent.

They do, of course, give Ignatieff a platform for explaining all that he accomplished during his time out of the country -- and a chance for him to talk about his family's deep Canadian roots.

The new attack ads will surely be followed by another round by the Liberals and, at some point, the New Democrats will jump in as well.

It is all so predictable -- and so insulting to us all.

Voters are surely capable of basing their decisions on what the parties and the politicians stand for, yet, too often, all they offer us is slagging of their rivals. That does not help us make informed decisions.

Here in B.C., the Liberals made the decision to avoid attack ads. Had they lost, we would be forced to admit that attack ads, as repulsive as they might be, have a place in our political system.

But the Liberals won -- and the party that endorsed over-the-top attack ads, accusing Premier Gordon Campbell of being a baby-killer, among other things, lost.

British Columbians were not swayed by the wave of negativity, yet the federal Conservatives and Liberals still think that they can influence voters by using gutter tactics. It doesn't make sense.

Are British Columbians just smarter than other Canadians? As much as we would like to believe it, it would probably not be a valid claim.

The simple truth is this: Too many of Canada's politicians take us for fools. They are sadly out of touch.

Another good article. The difference between the federal Conservative attack ads are that they are personal. All opposition parties have been attacking their party's mismanagement of the economy, so if Harper wanted to run campaign ads outside of an election, why not instead rebut the opposition attacks? Could it be that he simply can't? That they are right after all, and he really doesn't have a clue what he's doing? That would be my guess.

Will they pull the ads, given the negative press? I'm guessing they'll wait to see if they had any affect. However, if they worked, then it is a sad day for Canada and for Canadians, because it means that we will have to admit just how low we've sunk. I'm still betting on us.

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