We've just returned from Greenville, South Carolina where Laura and I did a seminar. Although the weather was unseasonably cool, we nevertheless enjoyed the beautiful town and people.
The Federal Election Campaign is Underway
The party leaders are out of the gate quickly - if not entirely cleanly. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff instantly hit a roadblock when he refused to cleanly disavow the possibility that he would form a coalition government with Jack Layton's NDP. It took him several news cycles to finally get off the fence and state clearly that he is ruling out such a possibility. It does beg the question, "what was he thinking?" My view is he didn't think fully through what, in effect, he was asking voters to do? "Vote for me and I may/may not run the government with Jack Layton and a few NDP'ers in my Cabinet." Instead he didn't seem to realize that all he needed to say was, "If I am asked by the Governor General to form a government which can meet the confidence of the House, I would attempt to do so on an issue-by-issue basis. Mr. Harper himself has done this, as Paul Martin before him did, as Pierre Trudeau and Lester Pearson before them did. I absolutely rule out a coalition government." In effect, that's what he ended up saying, but why the agony in getting there?
For the Tories part, Stephen Harper spent the first few days hammering the Liberals over the "C" word, but once it settled down have turned their attention to their economic policies, which they know must be the ballot question if they are going to get a majority government.
Jack Layton and the NDP are having trouble getting traction through the noise between the Liberals and Conservatives. They are clearly targeting small business owners and consumers with their policies as they hit hard at the corporate tax cuts of the Harper government. His broken hip appears not to be too much of an impediment, even though he has clearly cut down on the number of appearances and has stopped worrying about photos and videos of him with his cane.
I will be appearing weekly during the campaign on CTV's Power Play with Don Martin. during the campaign. My second appearance is this evening at 8:15 p.m EDT, so I hope you can tune in. Last week's appearance can be found here where pollster Nik Nanos and I examined the communications challenges facing the leaders.
Anatomy of a Runaway 'News' Story
During the election campaign I will occasionally be looking at some of the more egregious news stories that fail the test of fairness. Exhibit 'A' is a Global News Winnipeg item which managed to insert its own interpretation into a story about Conservative MP Shelly Glover's comments about the Liberal MP Anita Neville who is running in a neighbouring riding. The National Post did an excellent job dissecting the 'non-gaffe' . Actually, the reporter missed the real news in the piece, in which Shelly Glover, after telling the reporter that she wasn't going to reveal the name of Neville's opposing Tory candidate as there was no 'candidate of record' at that point, ended up revealing his name anyway. Also Glover declined an opportunity to do a Global Winnipeg interview to respond to the 'story' and waited until the next morning to clarify her remarks on CJOB radio. She should have known to move immediately to set the record straight.
What should be noted in the story is that the Global Winnipeg reporter and the news anchor Peter Chura introduced the word 'age' into the story in the first place - interpreting Glover's comment, "she's passed her expiry date" as referring to her "age" and "too old for the job". This was low-hanging fruit for the Global news team and they were determined to pluck it. They also made a feast of it the next day by constructing a phoney 'poll' of its viewers on Global Winnipeg's website, misrepresenting her remarks, as follows:
So this is a perfect media-generated news story that is a win/win for the media outlet in question. Even if they've mischievously hyped a non-story they benefit by milking it for days to come. Perfect!
It's still early days with lots of mud to be slung and real or imagined 'gaffes'. In other words, it's politics as usual. Let's hope that there is still room for real issues to be debated.
Barack Obama's Statement on Libya
After nine days of taking a 'shellacking' in the media over his Administration's actions in Libya, President Obama finally came forward with a speech to the nation making the case for getting involved in the Qaddafi horror show. How did he do? Great optics by delivering the speech with numerous flags as a backdrop at Fort McNair. He clearly wanted to present himself as the Commander-in-Chief and to that extent it was a compelling visual.
In substance, it bought him some time, but was not entirely satisfying for those looking for a clear set of principles. Clearly the President does not want to follow the Bush Iraq policy and yet wanted to be seen as taking strong action to protect innocent civilians. He continually pressed the point that the U.S. would only be involved in concert with other nations - which Canada, the U.K., France and others are contributing through NATO. The fact that the NATO mission is led by Canada's Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard is helpful to the case that he made. He took a swipe at the Clinton Administration's failure to move on the Rwanda genocide issue until it was too late, and he took a shot at George W. Bush's Iraq policies. What will he do about the Ivory Coast, Bahrain or Sudan? Those, apparently, will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
So what is the end game in Libya? Well, that's still up in the air. It's clear Obama wants Qaddafi gone - preferably by imitating Egypt's Hosni Mubarek and quitting. But that won't happen. Mubarek is a realist, while Qaddafi is a crazed extremist. More than a minor difference, there. So then what? Stay tuned.
Until next time......