Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Flanagan Sees Part of the Picture

My problem with conservatives is that they quite often only see half the picture on things. The recent flap about Barack Obama looking at a young woman's posterior/helping a young woman down the steps illustrates the point visually. However, Tom Flanagan's piece in the Globe yesterday demonstrates it equally well. Flanagan points out that negative political campaigning is as old as politics itself and on this point he is quite right. However, he misses not just half but two-thirds of the picture on this. The first is a farily straightforward corollary to his argument: since the time of Pericles, politicians have feigned offense at being attacked. The most vivid recent example may be Hillary "3 AM" Clinton getting worked up over a nasty pamphlet the Obama campaign put out. Was she offended? Maybe but probably not. She definitely thought that she could fling the mud back at Obama for political gain (see Dalton McGuinty v. Ernie Eves and the reptillian kitten eater). The other part of the equation is why people are upset about the Conservative ads.

First, in many cases, they cross some lines. Saying your opponents support pedophiles (anti-Bloc leaflets) is a tad harsh even in historical context. Most of the time, however, what is being deplored is not the fact that the Tories are going negative per se, but that there going negative well outside of any election period. Liberals aren't still stinging about the attack ads the Tories ran during the last election. It was the ads they ran 18 months before the last election that rancoured them. Likewise, I don't think Liberals are necessarily surprised that Iggy is being criticized for his prolonged absence from the country. Sure, they are trying to turn it on the Tories by saying its an attack on any Canadian who has spent time abroad including foreign born Canadians. That shouldn't surprise an old hand like Flanagan. The similarly deplorable thing about the Ignatieff and Dion ads is not their content but rather the creation of a permanent campaign mentality in Ottawa. That is new. The idea that the campaign never stops is not something that has always been true. It is mildy disturbing especially when we are confronted by a seeming perpetual state of minority/coalition governments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the 'perpetual campaign' is going to be around as long as minority governments are. when the opposition leader has his hand on the button, ready to call an election at any given time, OF COURSE you're going to have a 'perpetual election'. when the opposition leader is a particularily flakey one like ignatieff, it just makes things worse.

flanagan is exactly right in that the only -truly- surprising thing about these so-called "negative" ads is the sobbing coming from prissy liberal bloggers who are either too young to remember liberal attack ads, or too bloody stupid to understand that unstable minority government = perpetual campaign.

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