Wednesday, August 12, 2009

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

Even before reading Norman Spector's column about the poor performance of our Prime Minister at the Three Amigos summit, I noticed in all the photographs, that Harper really looked out of place.

I wondered if he was tired of having to hold up the right-wing ideology on his own; tired of having to pretend to like President Obama, or just plain bored with being Prime Minister?

Maybe all three, though he did have an opportunity to prop up his Republican buddies who are trying to portray our health care system as some evil socialist scheme. Way to stick up for us there Harper.

Of course he should get a little pick me up, courtesy of Jack Layton and the NDP. They are now guaranteeing his victory by parroting the Conservative attack ads, and are lauding the carbon tax. He'll think he's died and gone to heaven.

Harper's Bad Day
Globe and Mail
Norman Spector
August 11, 2009

The good news is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper showed up on time to the Three Amigos press conference and did not keep the others waiting. The bad news is that, once on camera, he appeared ill at ease and off his game — in comparison to President Barack Obama (no surprise), but also to Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

On Buy America, the Prime Minister may have been let down easily by the U.S. President, but the kiss-off was no less a kiss-off for being delivered so smoothly. On health care reform — a question he knew he would be asked and had obviously prepared —he ducked instead of helping the President counter Republican disinformation by seconding Mr. Obama’s observation that the Canadian model is not on the table. Most gratingly, with an insipid smile on his face, Mr. Harper referred to provincial jurisdiction over health care — a half-truth, at best, given the constraints set out in federal legislation.

On Honduras, by way of contrast, Mr. Harper felt it appropriate to answer a question that was not directed to him in support of President Obama; while his answer may have appealed to his political base, how Latin Americans view the U.S. role in their region is none of his business.

Meanwhile, on Afghanistan, Mr. Harper confused NATO and NAFTA, and had nothing to offer —even after repeating his old, and odd, refrain about Canadians’ concern for the security of the United States.

In a later interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper, the contradictions in his, and Canada’s, position were even more apparent. As was Mr. Harper’s slipping, sliding and ducking on the question of health care.

No doubt Mr. Harper is hoping for greater success at his one-on-one meeting with President Obama in Washington in mid-September. However, after a rough couple of months, the President appeared yesterday to be husbanding his political capital on controversial issues — most notably on immigration reform. In this frame of mind, he’s unlikely to want to spend much of it on Buy America — particularly for a Prime Minister who seems disinclined to spend any political capital on his behalf.

I like some of the comments at the end:

"Another little slap in the face for Harper, I thought, was that Obama referred to Calderón as his "great" friend whereas our own little thug rated merely a "good."

"It was amusing to see Steve talking to an aide as Presidents Obama and Calderon were signing autographs. I believe in partisan politics but surely Alliance Conservatives supporters are aware of how hurtful and an embarrassment our 32% Prime Minister is on the world stage. Next time he should send in the clowns...either Van Loan or Kenney."

"Yes, I would agree! Harper had a very, very bad day at the so-called 'three amigos' meeting and this did not improve with his insipid interview on the ABC network. Harper opted to trash Canada on the refugee matter rather than using it as a teachable moment, as Norman proposed. He was subjected to a very public put down by Obama on the issue of the buy American conditions for stimulus spending. I also agree that Harper's comments on the Canadian Health Care system are quite hypocritical and very disingenuous.

Billions of dollars in health care transfers (based on the Provincial governments respecting the federal law) are the biggest ticket item in the federal budget (no small matter that Harper opted to mislead Americans about). Canadians are in for a rude awakening once the Harper government starts to slash federal transfers for health care in order to return to balanced budgets. Yet, Harper's ill-tempered remarks make one thing very clear, Harper loves the way that American Republicans are trashing the Canadian health care system because this trashing appeals to his political base and helps his Canadian goal of further privatization of Medicare.

Clearly, Harper and Obama do not get along. They can barely tolerate the presence of one another. This is obvious in Harper's and Obama's respective body languages. Harper appears completely ill-at-ease in these international meetings, life a fish out of water.

Yes, Harper is transforming Canada's image in the world but not in the way that the majority of Canadians will approve. Harper's vision of Canada's role in the world is narrow, one focused on Canada as a natural resource pool and Canadians as hewers of wood and drawers of water. This vision, much like Diefenbaker's, explains the Harper government's discourse on Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic. It is a potential storehouse of resources for the US private sector to exploit. Canadians will get a few jobs but the profits will flow south. "

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