Saturday, December 31, 2011

Not a Good Time for Stephen Harper to be Compared to Richard Nixon

The historian Garry Wills once observed that Richard Nixon wanted to be president not to govern the nation but to undermine the government. The Nixon presidency was one long counterinsurgency campaign against key American institutions like the courts, the FBI, the state department and the CIA. Harper has the same basic approach to politics: attack not just political foes but the very institutions that make governing possible. The state for Nixon and Harper exists not as an instrument of policy making but as an alien force to be subdued.

If it's not the media, or the courts, or the Senate, or Elections Canada, it's the Wheat Board, the federal government's own spending power, the bureaucracy, the gun registry ... Canadians should rightly wonder why their head of government has such a problem with so many Canadian institutions. (1)
It certainly is a "wonder" and a bigger "wonder" how someone who hated our institutions this much, was given the job of upholding them.

From Nixonland to Harperland, a story is told of unprecedented control in what are supposed to be healthy democracies.  National Post's Kelly McParland said that it was the result of a "siege mentality".
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.” 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. (2)
Richard Nixon kept enemy lists maintained by Watergate plumber Chuck Colson.  Word was that you didn't want to get on that list.  Many in the media did make it there.
"Never forget," he tells national security advisers Henry Kissinger .. and Alexander Haig in a conversation on December 14 1972, "the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy, the professors are the enemy. Write that on a blackboard 100 times." (3)
Harper's enemy list extends to young girls who share photos of themselves standing with his political opponents, on Facebook.

There is yet another book written on the life of Richard Nixon, that uncovers not only more control and paranoia, but a violent temper, a battle with alcoholism, wife beating and even homosexuality.  I'll leave out the last three in comparing Harper to Nixon, but his pathological control and violent temper are well known, despite attempts to keep it from the public.

Harper's former VP when he headed up the National Citizens Coaltiion, Gerry Nicholls, writes in his book Harper, Me and the NCC, that Harper's temper is not red hot but icy blue, and when he was in a "mood" you kept out of his way.

Lloyd Mackey in The Pilgrimage of Stephen Harper, tells of a chair throwing incident at a Conservative Party convention because things were not going his way.

Former Alliance MP Larry Spencer, in his book Sacrificed: Truth or Politics, relates an interview he had with Harper, where he was torn down for a radio interview, in which he spoke of a "homosexual agenda".  Harper wasn't angry about about the gay bashing, but it's timing, suggesting that he was "put up to it" by his political enemies.

Belinda Stonach and Garth Turner took similar dressing downs, where the air was so blue, the big guy may have set a new record for his use of profanity.  Others have confirmed, off the record of course, that Harper has quite a potty mouth, and they never want to get caught in his verbal line of fire.

In the many books written on Stephen Harper, the authors have tred softly, opening up many areas for discussion, that for the most part have remained closed.  Of the ones I've read, Lawrence Martin's Harperland and Christian Nadeau's Rogue in Power, are the most revealing, and the ones that we should be paying attention to.

Jeffrey Simpson in his critique of Harperland wrote for the Globe and Mail:  Looking for Nixon-like tendencies in Harperland
... the interesting comparisons arise between Mr. Harper and Mr. Nixon. By all accounts, and especially those in Harperland, the Prime Minister is not only a partisan, as all prime ministers must be, but he viscerally hates Liberals. His objective is not just to defeat but to obliterate the Liberal Party of Canada. For that purpose, the gloves are off all the time, from nasty attack ads against Liberal leaders to ritualistic, partisan punches from him and his ministers.

Mr. Nixon saw enemies everywhere: in the media, the “liberal elites,” the Ivy League colleges .... He carried enormous resentments, remembered many past slights, and bottled them up inside where they fed paranoid streaks in his character. He was a control freak, and demanded that his staff act accordingly.
With the release of Nixon's Darkest Secrets, Harper might want to tone it down a bit, before someone starts looking for his.

1. The Canadian Nixon: Stephen Harper's feud with Elections Canada is just the latest front in his war against government institutions, By Dimitry Anastakis and Jeet Heer, The UK Guardian, April 24, 2008

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

3. Recordings reveal Richard Nixon's paranoia: Recordings show Nixon urged staff to use all means to discredit his political opponents, both large and small, By Dan Glaister, UK Guardian, December 3, 2008


  1. Hi I love your blog! Just spent the morning reading it.

    I don't know how i will handle the years of harpers government. It's so not Canada! It's like the bully in school has gotten into the principles office.

  2. Maybe Helena Guergis will bring enough skeletons out of the closet to chase Harper away.. . or a few good men or women Con MPs might take inspiration from the wise and courageous Parliamentary page, Brigette DePape, and walk across the floor to Stop Harper.

  3. Is it ever a good time to be compared to Tricky Dick? If it walks like a duck...

    I recommend the Oliver Stone movie Nixon. It is a great dramatic representation of the man, and although it was written and filmed using what Stone likes to call "dramatic license" it draws on historical references and information put out by Nixon's own inner circle. Bob Halderman's book in particular is interesting considering his close proximity to the President. Anthony Hopkins' performance as Nixon is unreal and itself is well worth the time.

  4. According to a new book, Nixon was gay.

  5. Ever heard of Norman Finkelstein?

    This is what happens when powerful people don't like you or what you say. I know some right-wing people like to make them lose their jobs...