Tuesday 12 November 2013

Media roundup: Justin, we have a problem

Not the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
For many months now La politica has expressed dismay at the popular support for the phenomenon that is Justin Trudeau. No doubt, Trudeau’s relentless showering of platitudes, aggressive fundraising, low-key performance in the House of Commons,  and unwillingness to offer specifics on any issue outside of the Keystone XL pipeline and Quebec’s proposed “values” charter, have combined to form an effective strategy.

In one day, however, it all fell apart. He participated in an ill-advised “ladies night”, then said he admired China’s government above all others. In a heartbeat, Trudeau found himself in the midst of a withering attack by the media, that very group that for so long has given him an easy ride.

The broadsides came from the left, the right, and, most importantly, the centre. The writing was inspired, at times funny, and had the effect of the built-up relief a crowd feels when a child, unable to abide the bullshit parleyed by conforming adults, blurts out the obvious: “The emperor has no clothes.” One headline to a video link in the Edmonton Journal was even titled “Justin Trudeau's gaffes getting harder to ignore” – an outright admission that, in fact, ignoring Trudeau’s gaffes is exactly what’s been going on these past months.

Our round-up begins with Terry Glavin’s blistering assessment of the young Trudeau in the Ottawa Citizen. Referring to Trudeau’s “latest bimbo convulsion”, Glavin noted the “imbecilities that erupted from Trudeau at that nauseating ‘ladies night’” and the “spasms of stupidity that gripped Trudeau in the aftermath.” Referencing Trudeau’s feeble attempt at a save, Glavin noted that a “Miss Teen USA contestant wouldn’t get away with saying something like that.” (Dear reader, check out that last link).

It got worse. Glavin unloaded on Trudeau’s “Edwardian drama-queen tone he adopts whenever he feels someone has been ungallant to him,” and ends that the only “fair-minded conclusion” is “one that recognizes the Liberal party as a shambles, and its leader, Justin Trudeau, as a ridiculous, morally illiterate and fathomlessly unserious person.”

Next up is the National Post, where a critique is not unexpected. Here, Michael Den Tandt offers Trudeau some kudos, then launches into an assessment of the “strangely juvenile promotion” for the Justin Unplugged “ladies night”, which when combined with the China comments resulted in “the worst kind of unforced, bone-headed error.” Also in the National Post, Andrew Coyne writes that "Not everything that comes out of Justin Trudeau’s mouth is simple-minded prattle, though you could be forgiven for thinking so."

In the Globe & Mail, plagiarist and full-time self-apologist Margaret Wente, no friend of the NDP, went so far as to say that “anyone who watched Question Period during the Senate scandals could see that Mr. Trudeau was totally outclassed. As the NDP’s Thomas Mulcair dissected Stephen Harper’s changing version of events with surgical precision, Mr. Trudeau came across as an earnest amateur.” With regard to the latest mess, Wente says it “reinforces the impression that he’s the guy in short pants”. Ouch.

And in the Montreal Gazette Celine Cooper wrote that when she saw the Justin Unplugged e-vite she “thought it was a Conservative attack ad”.

The CBC even contributed, with Terry Milewski comparing Trudeau’s China comments to Harpers cosy relationship with the Communist dictatorship. That hardly resulted in a pass for Trudeau (Harper never said China was his most admired government), with Milewski noting that in China “the internet is relentlessly censored; human rights are violated every day; courts are under the thumb of the party; and corruption is so pervasive that party bosses accumulate vast fortunes while dissidents rot in jail for thought crimes.”

But the most serious threat to Trudeau loyalists came from the Toronto Star, a reliable soft ride for most Trudeau-related stories. The Star is Canada’s largest circulation newspaper, and speaks to centrist Ontario, a must-win constituency for Trudeau. Under the heading “Justin Trudeau’s tone-deaf ‘ladies’ night’ sign of larger problem,” Semra Sevi Brandon Bailey writes that, with regard to tackling serious political issues affecting women, Trudeau’s ladies night was “like treating a runny nose with a stiff dose of influenza. And charging $250 for the pleasure.”

As it stands, October polling has Trudeau’s Liberals in the lead nationally at 35.2%, with the Conservatives at 28.9% and the NDP at 23.7%. That’s enough to make this man the next Prime Minister of Canada. At present, in the upcoming by-elections it looks like the Liberals are set to win in Toronto Centre and in Bourassa (Quebec), with the Conservatives likely to take Provencher (Manitoba) and Brandon-Souris (Manitoba).

We’ll see if the next round of polls will indicate a dent in Trudeau’s popularity. It may be that we have just witnessed “peak Trudeau”. If not, then the people will have only themselves to blame when the Gong Show that is Toronto politics moves to the national level.

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

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