What should the PM do?

Welcome back to the Senate "House of Horrors'. Just in time for Hallowe'en, the issue of the expenses 'scandal' has exploded into a media-frenzy which has captured the attention of the public like nothing else in recent years - thanks to the fumbled attempt to suspend the three Senators without pay. The three Senators have made impassioned  pleas for 'due process' and they seem to have succeeded in getting Canadians to put a hold on the suspension.

Following the latest 'wrinkles' revealed by Sen. Mike Duffy and his lawyer, Donald Bayne, and the release of emails revealing a second cheque being paid to Duffy by the Conservative Party to cover his legal fees, the issue has spun out of control. Sen. Pamela Wallin got some traction in her speech with her call for 'due process'. [The High School Confidential part starring Sen. Marjorie LeBreton and Sen. Carolyn Stewart-Olsen triggered more snickers than impact.] In her second appearance, she dropped that and honed in on the 'due process' issue to maximum effect. Sen. Patrick Brazeau revealed that he was offered a chance to reduce his punishment if he were to apologize. Interestingly enough, it served to open the door to a potential compromise. All of this at a very awkward and frustrating time for the Prime Minister and the Party on the eve of their Calgary Conference later this week.
So what should the Prime Minister do?
1. "If you've broken the eggs, you should make an omelette." Anthony Eden had it right, at least on that line. The Prime Minister should let it be known that he would embrace the Liberal amendment to hold off on the suspension and proceed immediately to a special Senate committee to hold hearings on it. In turn, Sen. Carrignan, the Conservative leader in the Senate could amend it to limit the time for the committee to meet and to vote based on the evidence before them. The three Senators would be invited to appear - as would Nigel Wright and others - to provide testimony, and answer questions. Yes, they should be allowed to have legal counsel, given the current RCMP investigation and the legal consequences. Then the Committee could vote its recommendations to the Senate as a whole on what, if any, should be the consequences for the Senators.
2. Won't this make the Tories look bad? There are no pure options. Yes, the Twitterverse would be filled with people saying that - but it's not likely that they're Tory voters anyway. Besides, now that new 'evidence' and allegations have emerged, it's worth clearing the air, and not letting it fester any further. It would provide a clear opportunity for the Prime Minister to say that he has listened to Canadians and has changed his mind. It's about restoring the issue that helped the Conservatives get into power - accountability. They need to look for the opportunity in this crisis, or as Homer Simpson put it, a 'crisi-tunity'.

3.  The PM should hold a news conference and clear the air about what he knew and when he knew it. Personally, I'm confident that he has nothing to
hide and can handle any questions from the Parliamentary Press Gallery that he is thrown. It would give him a chance to take care of, for example, his comments that he 'dismissed' Nigel Wright - rather than 'reluctantly' accepted his resignation. It may not be worth a hill of beans, but it's important to clear up the apparent contradiction. Also, watching him perform in the House this week (when he didn't hand it off to his Parliamentary Secretary), he was strong, clear and cool.
His sound bite of the week will probably be used again: "You're darn right I told him he should repay his expenses." The PM needs to do what he does best. Non-combative, strong, but 'more in sadness than with anger'.
4. Is the damage to the PM fatal? Given past history, and depending on whether or not there are any further damaging 'revelations', it is probably not permanently damaging. Despite all the heat developing around the issue, there still is no proof that the PM knew - either about the $90,000 Nigel Wright cheque or the $13,500 Party cheque to Sen. Duffy's lawyers. It's bruising, yes. And that's why it needs to be aired in public and then put to rest.
5. The PM needs to get back to his agenda - the economy...and fast. With news that the government is well ahead of its 2015 balanced budget commitment, combined with the huge EU free trade deal, this balloon has to be 'popped' and he needs the focus to return to his strong suit, the economy.
The Obama Administration's Struggles
Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is trying to recover from fumbles on two fronts - one domestic - the disastrous rollout of 'Obamacare'' and the other -  the revelations of spying on Allies - including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the Spanish and French governments. The key is to move quickly, and this, they did. The President held a news conference and used it as an opportunity to eat crow on the website roll-out and vow to get to the bottom of it.

The international 'bugging' embarrassment was handled by White House spokesman Jay Carney - who parsed his words carefully (allowing others to deliberately read into the remarks the silent admission that they had indeed bugged the Chancellor's telephone calls). Carney was also called upon to admit that - contrary to the President's previous assurances - some Americans would indeed lose their existing health insurance.
The decision to get out there and communicate is essential to credibility. Although they could have moved on a peremptory basis, instead of just reacting to the stories, nevertheless when the Administration did move, they were able to begin the process of regaining credibility.
Finally, the social media world was gripped with the battle of wits between the BBC's acerbic Jeremy Paxman and bad boy comedian Russell Brand. Paxman should have spent some time checking out some previous efforts by Brand to turn the tables on his interlocutors, as he did recently on MSNBC's Morning Joe. No matter what you think of his arguments, Brand seems to get a special joy out of throwing expectations to the wind and saying whatever he wants. I guess Katy Perry lost her fascination with it, but hey, it works!
Until next time....I'm going to focus on the rest of the World Series. Go Red Sox!

1 comment:

  1. loved what u said about darlin' , brilliant russell and evil Jeremy Paxman "you're a trivial man aren't you," said Paxman: Bwahahaha! He sure got schooled.
    However, you are, IMHO, wrong on the Senate Scandal. Harper's current take-no-prisoners attitude is dead right. He rose on this attitude. His base needs it from him. (Whether this was always his stance will come out, to his detriment or to his credit, as the events in his office with Wright present will have to be answered).
    Wallin is making a gigantic mistake, daring us to throw this case to the courts. Okay, (to Duffy and Brazeau too, Harper should say) you spoiled over-privileged brats: we tried to warn you, we tried to work it from the inside, etc. No hearings. No more inside assistance like that. We are letting the RCMP take control and over to the public courts it goes. Bwhahahaha.