Wednesday 13 November 2013

With Chantal Hébert turning on Trudeau, odds now in favour of having hit Peak Justin

Freeland and Justin: hand-picked and parachuted
The media are often misunderstood. If they are perceived as not being objective, they are criticized as “biased”. The truth is that the media function more like a pack of jackals or, worse, vultures. They descend when they observe weakness, and fawn when they believe they are in the presence of success, confidence, and power.

Which is to say that the media do not behave like individuals, but like craven pack animals. Though they can have ideological slants, which can hasten or delay their arrival at a “story”, once a belly is revealed they will turn and dine on the carcass.

Witness the Toronto Sun’s recent reporting on Rob Ford, and the National Posts eye-popping observations that Justin Trudeau can’t win on pot and personality (in fact, the previous National Post concern was that yes, that is exactly what he could do, which resulted in some desperate reporting).

But the Toronto Star’s response to Trudeau is perhaps most embarrassing. We expect the Sun to shill and then feed if it means they can make a nickel, and for the National Post to amuse us with patrician disdain. But we hold the Star to a higher standard. Sadly, the Star’s National Affairs correspondent Chantal Hébert, like so many others, notably the CBC, was embarrassingly late to call Justin Trudeau to account.

During the leadership campaign Hébert wrote of “a grateful party establishment”, saying that “Trudeau’s launch could turn out to be the most exciting moment of an overlong campaign.”

It got worse. In April of this year she wrote a piece for the Star with the headline “Justin Trudeau measures up well to his Liberal predecessors”, with a sub-head that read “Measured on the scale of the editorial board performances of his Liberal predecessors, Justin Trudeau was substantively more solid.” The article managed to make those claims without indicating the basis for such optimism – there was not a single quote from Trudeau, or a reference to anything substantive in the way of policy.

How quickly things change. After the Justin Unplugged “ladies night”, an event that Trudeau did not organize, and a single – though rather attenuated by Justin’s standards – gaffe when declaring totalitarian China as his “most admired” government, Hébert has suddenly realized that Trudeau is, in fact, a remarkably unimpressive politician.

The title of her piece in the Star on Wednesday, November 13, was “Justin Trudeau still making rookie mistakes”. Really? “Still?” When did we hear her call out any of Justin Trudeau’s other “rookie mistakes”? The Conservatives have certainly made hay of them, but the NDP has attempted to stay above the fray and much of the media, well, they simply gave Trudeau a pass.

It was the strangest thing. No doubt reading the polls, journalists commented on the amazing length of Trudeau’s “honeymoon,” all while helping him extend his stay at the all-inclusive.

What happened with “ladies night” was simple. It’s called Twitter. Despite having questions from the $250 a plate audience hand-picked by his team, Justin still came up with his doozy about China. And he did this while Twitter was in full swing with regard to the event itself, creating a perfect storm of social media that was beyond his ability to control.

You can be sure of it: if the Twitterverse hadn’t skewered Trudeau, Hébert  would not be writing a few days afterward that, while campaigning in Quebec:

 “On a bad day Ignatieff or Dion would have been hard-pressed to deliver a flatter stump speech than Trudeau did.”


“Reading from notes the rookie leader delivered rambling remarks that belied his years on the public speaking circuit.”


“If Trudeau wrote that text, he needs a speech writer. And if someone else wrote it, he or she needs a new assignment.”

The truth is, Justin Trudeau has been mediocre from the beginning. It just wasn’t news, because he was popular. Now it is news, and it will continue to be news.

We may be early on this call, but La politica believes that Canada has hit Peak Trudeau. Justin and his “team” which includes the inimitable Jim Karygiannis and handpicked “star” candidate Chrystia Freeland, who has been parachuted into Toronto Centre in a typical old-style Liberal move, are at 35% in the polls. That’s it – they’ve topped out, even if, as seems likely, they win a few by-elections.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

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