Friday, May 1, 2009

Is Stephen Harper Afraid of His Own Shadow?

For all his bravado and strong leader nonsense, Stephen Harper is a man filled with fear. The fact that most Canadians simply don't like him, and many actually hate him, I suppose some his fright is justified.

However, some of it is simply paranoia; looking for enemies that exist only in his mind, but hamper his effectiveness as leader of this country.

Harper discovers it's easy to find enemies, if you look hard enough
National Post
April 23, 2008
by Kelly McParland

One of the many online encyclopedias defines “siege mentality” as “a shared feeling of helplessness, victimization and defensiveness” which “refers to persecution feelings by anyone in the minority, or of a group that views itself as a threatened minority.”

It goes on: “Dictatorships have been known to encourage this point of view among their own people, since it justifies the continuance of those in power. A contemporary example is North Korea. This is also very commonly used in the field of sports, where coaches or managers often create a siege mentality in their players by highlighting an environment of hostility from outside the club (whether or not the hostility is real or exaggerated doesn’t matter).”

Hmmm. Stephen Harper as Kim Jong-il, the pint-sized Korean despot? I don’t think so. I’m also not sure the Prime Minister feels especially helpless, given the feebleness of his opposition. But there’s something in those two paragraphs that sounds a lot like this government, and may explain its chronic need to identify and destroy enemies, real or imagined.

If there’s anything that typifies the Conservatives under Mr. Harper, it’s the notion that anyone outside the party is to be viewed with suspicion, and even within the party trust is to be handed out sparingly. Beyond the fortified redoubt of the Prime Minister’s inner circle, everyone is on permanent probation.

A degree of paranoia in the Tories is understandable. The party’s long history in opposition, the maddening ability of the Liberals to hold power no matter how cynical their actions or arrogant their attitude, the inbred bias of a system built and sustained for decades by Liberal interests, and the Conservatives’ own tendency to self-destruct ... it would have been surprising if the Conservatives DIDN’T have a sense that the gods were against them.

Before he became prime minister, Mr. Harper didn’t hide his belief that Liberals had stacked the courts and stuffed the civil service with fellow travellers. “The reality,” he said near the end of the 2006 election, “is that we will have, for some time to come, a Liberal Senate, a Liberal civil service -- at least senior levels have been appointed by the Liberals -- and courts that have been appointed by the Liberals. So these are obviously checks on the power of a Conservative government.”

It shouldn’t come as a total shock, then, if the government views official Ottawa as less than a welcoming environment, or if it sees the need to place a few more sympathizers on the boards and bodies and commissions that have been relentlessly packed with Liberal sympathizers for so many years. But well into its third year of power, the list seems as lengthy as ever, the enemies seem to be multiplying, and the government’s tolerance for resistance growing weaker.

Linda Keen won a place on the enemies list when she dared to challenge the government’s view of who caused the problems at the Chalk River nuclear reactor before Christmas. Back talk from civil servants is not encouraged around the PMO, and Keen was peremptorily canned.

When St├ęphane Dion made some nasty allegations about Mr. Harper’s role in the Chuck Cadman affair, Mr. Harper could have shrugged it off as he shrugs off so much other silliness directed at him by the opposition. Instead he sued, accusing the Liberals of a “reckless indifference to the truth” while acting “with spite and ill will toward the prime minister.” Similarly, when Elections Canada denied a rebate to dozens of Conservative candidates after the 2006 election, ruling their claims invalid, the Tories launched a civil suit rather than swallow the loss and let the issue die. It’s not like they couldn’t afford it: Tory coffers are jammed full of money just waiting to be spent.

When Elections Canada sent the RCMP around to Conservative headquarters last week, the party responded with charges of bias. Pierre Poilievre, another in a seemingly endless supply of Tory attack dogs, was sent out to declare the government is “very concerned with the conduct of Elections Canada.” Reporters who sought access to documents related to the case were told the party didn’t have them; then when they suddenly appeared they were handed out only to a favoured few. When other reporters showed up anyway they were told it was all “a private meeting”, even though it clearly wasn’t.

The thing is, if you expect to find enemies everywhere, you’ll probably succeed. The Liberals have been justly criticized for refusing to accept that Canadians knew what they were doing when they kicked them out in the last election, that it wasn’t all just some giant misunderstanding. But the Tories are similarly guilty of dragging out old grudges well beyond the best before date, treating criticism like an attack on the legitimacy of the government itself, reacting to dissent by trying to silence the dissenter, rather than dealing with the substance of the issue.

It doesn’t inspire public trust. If the Tories think there’s a conspiracy to get them, how do we know we’re not all part of the conspiracy? Confident governments slough off the kind setbacks and accusations the Conservatives have faced as part of the job. They don’t haul out the lawyers, shut down the committee, fire the commissioner or flee down the back stairs before anyone can ask a question. That’s what you do when you’re hiding something.

Since Mr. McParland wrote this article, we've discovered that Stephen Harper lied about the Cadman tape, and many Conservative MPs could be convicted of fraud in the "In and Out" scandal.

More Postings on Stephen Harper:

1. Harper is Reckless, Petty, Arrogant, Incompetent, Paranoid, Sinister....

2. Stephen Harper Gives Ontario Re-Fried Beans

3. Harper's Latest Promises to Play Nice Have a Familiar Odour

4. To Be or Not to Be? Another Unanswered Question

5. Harper's Mentor Claims He's a Slow Learner But Maybe it's Tom Flanagan Who Needs a Lesson

6. Stephen Harper Learned Nothing From Stockwell Day

7. Stephen Harper Has Just Received his Election Kit in the Mail

8. When We First Learned How Harper Really Feels

9. Harper Apologizes and Admits He's Wrong in the Same Week. Maybe Pigs Really Can Fly.

10. Harper's Poison Pill Had Horrible Side Effects

11. Stephen Harper's True Religion: American Money and Power.

12. Harper Finally Remembers His National Citizens Coalition Roots

13. Holy Communion Batman. The PM Really Screwed Up This Time!

14. What exactly DOES Stephen Harper Stand For? I'm Dying to Know

15. Is Harper Bored Now That He's the Only Right-Wing Nutjob Left?

16. Harper Tired of Suing Us is Now Just Blaming Us

17. I, Me, Stephen Harper, Will Never Stack Up

18. I, Me, Stephen Harper. It's All About Me

19. Harper's Ignorance of Canadian History is Inexcusable

20. Margaret Thatcher and What a Stephen Harper Majority Would Look Like

21. Stephen Harper is Unfit to Govern, Says a Man Who Would Know

22. Stephen Harper Goes To Court for Breaking Law on Elections

23. Latest Poll Results Show Reform-Conservative Momentum Waning

24. How Can We Have an Adult Conversation When Harper Thinks Everything is Dumb?

25. This Little Girl Should Be Writing Harper's Speeches, not Nigel Hannaford!

26. Stephen Harper Paves Way for Abolishment of Public Education

27. Stephen Harper: Conservative? Narcisist? Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs? All of the Above?

28 Canadians Vowed Never to Vote For Stephen Harper. We Goofed!

29. Harper's New Years Resolution Should be to Grow Up. We Need to Have Adult Conversations

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