Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Too clever by half, I think

Bob Tarantino has an excellent piece today about Gomery & fallacies, although he's probably overreached by accusing Paul Wells of confusing the relevant issues.

Charging a columnist (or blogger, for that matter) with ignoring anything is a dodgy proposition; there exists an infinite number of topics, and only a finite number of words a columnist can write. Writing a piece defending the effectiveness of the Chretien unity strategy (c/w sponsorship program), without addressing the cock-up (or criminal enterprise) that the sponsorship program became, is not a failure of either intellect or integrity - it just is what it is.

I myself won't be defending the strategy as a whole, but analysing the sagging of separatist fortunes from October 1995 to December 2003, I'd have an impossible time arguing that they tanked despite Chretien.

But back to Bob's piece, post-segue. He identifies essentially four questions, which the Liberals are indeed trying to intertwine:
1) Was the sponsorship program a good idea?
2) Does the Gomery inquiry cost too much?
3) Is Gomery biased?
4) Was the execution of the sponsorship program somewhere between a nasty mess and a criminal enterprise, where Liberals and their friends enriched party and corporate coffers with taxpayers' money?

The thing is, it takes a clever person like Bob to articulate that the answer to #4 is not at all related to the answers of #1/2/3, but just about anyone can recognize it.

And further to basic intuition: is there much of the public, when hearing Chretien, Pelletier, Kinsella, et al harp on Questions 1/2/3 - in the context of an inquiry struck to answer #4 - who dismiss the self-interest involved?

I doubt it, and I think that the old-Liberal triumphalism on display yesterday and today will be short-lived. The media, on balance, are thrilled at the moment because it fits in with their favoured narrative (at the moment), that being Equipe Martin is disappointing, incompetent, second-rate, etc. etc. (I guess you are caught up in this a bit, Wells). But this, too, shall pass.

Chretien's testimony achieved one thing that will endure; it will bolster claims of bias on his behalf after the no-doubt damning Gomery report is issued (mission accomplished, Warren). I think the media gets confused sometimes: they report on a political stunt, describe it as a stunt, and yet think it will make an impact on public opinion. Matt the reader is either impressed by a stunt he knows is a stunt, or he will forget that a stunt was described as a stunt in the lede and be impressed by M. Chretien's clever golf ball argument, i.e. Matt is either an idiot or an idiot.

Questions 1/2/3 are not irrelevant, by the way - it's just laughable to see them brought up in an attempt to discredit the inquiry.

- We probably need some debate on why public inquiries cost so much, and if they must, and how much is too much.

- I think plastering the maple leaf all over Quebec is both crass and unproductive, but J.C.'s point (noted by Wells) is well-taken; if it was useless, why was the PQ so chapped about it?

- Does "scamp" and "cheap" demonstrate problematic bias on Judge Gomery's part? Uh, I don't know how to address this exactly, except to suggest that if you want to accuse Gomery of bias, you might want to cite example statements that are not A) inoffensive to regular Canadians, let alone career politicians, and/or B) obviously true.

Cheers. And in Friday's papers, enjoy another round of pieces comparing Martin unfavourably to Chretien.


At 10:44 p.m., Blogger Paul said...

This is an unusually thoughtful post. One of the rarities I've been hungry for this week is somebody willing to admit this is a complex situation. If I'd been prime minister last February, I'd have called a commission of inquiry too. (although as one very smart person pointed out to me last week, the really brilliant thing would have been to hold two days of debate in the Commons on proper response to the AG report, so the opposition parties could have a chance to demand a commission of inquiry — *then* give it to them.) But I digress. Good points all around.


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