Monday, May 02, 2005

No tinfoil necessary

Having read Ginna Dowler, and Kate, and Penny, I was going to make roughly the same point as Andrew Coyne does here: namely, that Paragraph K is standard language for terms of an inquiry, and doesn't really mean that Gomery is limited in the broad conclusions he can draw.

In fact, I had an email exchange about the terms of inquiry with a different professional political writer a couple of months ago, and here's what he said:
I'll tell you straight, I haven't read Gomery's terms of reference. Any self-respecting head of a commission of inquiry ignores his terms of reference and goes where the evidence leads him. That's called "empire-building" when he goes somewhere inconvenient, but still, it's what I would do if anyone were dumb enough to put me in charge of a commission of inquiry. The upshot, in any case, is that it never occurred to me to read the terms of reference because I assumed they wouldn't stay relevant long.

That said, Coyne is far too harsh when he says, "At ease, Tinfoil-Hat Brigade!", and indeed, he shouldn't be dismissing whitewash concerns so outrightly. The point Ginna makes nicely in conclusion is basically that Gomery's final report will necessarily use some fuzzy language when assessing blame. He can't find anyone guilty, in a judicial sense, of criminal conduct, so his language will reflect that.

Does Andrew, or anyone else, believe that Paul Martin and the Liberals won't seize on this same fuzzy language as mitigating their culpability? As a famous TV dad once said, "Now who's being naive, Marge?"

No, it's not a fix. But the PMO knows exactly what they're setting up for.


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