Saturday, June 13, 2009

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

It might be said that American born Tom Flanagan was behind Stephen Harper's rise to the top, but I think he was just one of many. As a member of the infamous Calgary School, he certainly saw in Stephen Harper, a man who could bring about the changes deemed necessary to steer this country to the right.

But Flanagan's vision of conservatism, was more like Preston Manning's and he underestimated the depths of Harper's neo-conservative leanings. He may have also underestimated his blind ambition and pathological narcissism. Stephen Harper makes enemies easier than he makes friends, and as a political sociopath, prefers the former to the latter; to feed his need for combat.

Both Manning and Flanagan learned this the hard way. They are probably smarter than our prime minister, and as such assumed that Stephen Harper wanted their advice. But Harper only wanted their advice when it related to his personal success, but never on how to do his job once that success was achieved.

In the video above, Tom Flanagan expresses his disappointment in his former protegee, believing that he has abandoned his conservative principles for power.

But what he failed to understand, was that Harper had not abandoned his neo-conservative principles, which have very little to do with fiscal responsibility.

Tom Flanagan is quick to correct anyone who believes that he is a follower of Leo Strauss, but unfortunately did not see this in Harper.

Economists Eugene Lang and Philip DeMont, certainly did. In a piece entitled Big-spender Harper true to his neoconservative roots, written for the Toronto Star, they state: A new conventional wisdom has emerged. The Harper government has been labelled moderate, centrist – even "liberal."

This characterization is due entirely to the large fiscal deficits that have emerged on the Harper watch – $56 billion next year alone – deficits the government admits with a shrug will extend for several years.

No self-respecting conservative government could tolerate such profligacy, or so goes the critique. The Harperites have lost their way, abandoned their guiding philosophy, sold out to those soft-headed, big government political parties for which deficits are regarded as a normal part of governing.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Harper government has, in fact, remained very true to its ideology. But that ideology is not "conservative." Rather, it is neoconservative," and this makes a big difference on the question of deficits and fiscal policy.

So Tom Flanagan and others may have become critical of Stephen Harper for selling out, but Harper sold out to no one. Now that he has a dictatorship, just stick around and watch how a neo-conservative agenda works.

But fasten your seat belts because you're in for one hell of a ride.

PM's former mentor says repute 'tattered'
By Don Martin,
Calgary Herald
June 13, 2009

It's too harsh to qualify as constructive criticism, even if the author was still Prime Minister Stephen Harper's mentor and academic adviser.

The words are too deadly to be considered friendly fire, even if the writer was still running the Conservative's election war room.

And, if Tom Flanagan was still serving as Harper's chief of staff, his new assessment of the PM's postelection debacle would probably hand him the pink slip from a boss who takes bad news badly.

The University of Calgary political scientist served in all of these roles to this prime minister, yet he's come to the startling conclusion his star student and political protege is battered, tattered and almost beyond repair as a going-forward force in federal politics.

If this glum assessment was written by any columnist in the land, it would be vilified by party faithful as the predictable rantings of a Liberal-loving mainstream media.

But it's penned by an insightful Calgarian once described by former Reform party insider Rick Anderson as an "intellectual, philosophical soulmate" to a Stephen Harper he had nursed back onto the federal stage and nurtured along as the great right-wing hope to Canadian conservatives.

As such, his words deliver a painful punch. Flanagan's appraisal is part of an updated conclusion to his two-year-old Harper's Team insider's account of the Conservative leader's rise to power, a friendly account reportedly vetted by the PMO prior to its original publication.

The way Flanagan sees it now, Harper is adrift in a vacuum of policy and principle, conniving to retain power while hemorrhaging respect as a flawed political strategist. Harper's greatest gaffe was inserting the elimination of public financing for political parties into last fall's economic update-- "his single worst mistake, not just as prime minister but in his career as a party leader," Flanagan writes.

He had perfected the art of keeping political opponents squabbling among themselves, but that move united all three parties under a common survival strategy that gave the Conservatives a near-death experience at the hands of the short-lived coalition.

It dealt a mortal blow to Harper's vaulted reputation as a brilliant tactician.

"Before the fall fiasco he wasn't exactly loved by the public, but he was widely respected by political observers as a competent manager and a shrewd strategist. But after his misadventure with the political subsidy issue, many are saying that his strategic sense has been overrated. This is a dangerous development for if you are not to be loved, you must at least be respected."

What's worse, Flanagan lists the reasons the once-principled leader has "tattered" his credibility by embracing corporate subsidies, violating his own fixed election date law, diving into deficit and breaking election promises on income trust taxation and equalization calculations.

"Taken together, along with other less publicized reversals, they have created a widespread impression that Harper stands for nothing in particular except winning and keeping power. This is a major loss for a political leader who was once seen as a man of conviction."

Well, ouch. But all is not lost, Flanagan sighs. If Harper gets back to his base with moderate Conservative policies, ending the partisan trickery and reaching out to opponents, he could still rewrite the premature obituaries.

Of course, the fundamental flaw in Flanagan's salvage strategy is that his old protege surrounds himself with yes-prime-minister types who tell the boss only what he wants to hear. He's certain to turn a deaf ear to Flanagan, believing that the solution to having friends like these is to find new friends.

But Harper's survival demands a colossal shakeup of his government's senior staff, bringing fearless professionalism and fresh perspectives to a productive minority reign riding out tough economic times. If they can deliver that, getting the government re-elected will take care of itself.

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