Lawrence Martin gets another smackdown today for twice mocking Dion's English language communication skills in his column. I have never understood, from the get go, why it is perfectly acceptable to mock his English. It's not his first language. His first language is the other official language. Just like Chretien's was. And Dion's English is actually much better than Chretien's. Yes he has pronunciation difficulties, particularly when he's self-conscious about it. When he's engaged in conversation, it's not nearly as problematic. But why is it that it's become OK to take this issue and turn it into an indictment of the man as a political leader? I have no problem understanding what he's saying. Nor does Lawrence Martin, I'm sure. What's more important...that he doesn't have perfect emphasis in his diction because it's his second language or that he's essentially an honest guy with integrity who's trying to advance a significant policy debate? He certainly doesn't deserve this condescension from Martin - and others, principally Conservatives who have taken up the attack with glee. Here's Martin:
Stéphane Dion, hardly a renowned communicator, wants a series of debates on his proposed "green shift" plan with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.And this:
The Prime Minister is quick on his feet, reasonably articulate and does not have the Liberal Leader's English-language pronunciation problems. Mr. Dion has been ridiculed repeatedly for his lack of strength before the cameras, making it all the more surprising that he wants to go head-to-head with Mr. Harper.Are Mr. Harper's smooth delivery and verbal shots the stuff of better leadership? Are we that shallow? Because gee, maybe Canadians want authenticity. A guy who is what he is, warts and all, in the wake of Mr. Harper. I guess we'll have to see. But the free pass people have been given to mock Dion's English like this is an issue that's been bothering me for quite a while.
In terms of the optics of the debate challenge, it's a good change for Dion and the Liberals. Going on the offensive on an issue of their choosing is a welcome change from the dynamic in the House. And there's something about Dion's demeanour that suggest he's perfectly at ease with this path he's chosen, whatever happens...and that seems to be very powerful to me:
Asked whether his future as Liberal Leader would be imperilled by failing to sell such a complex plan, Mr. Dion denied the plan is complicated.Additionally, zeroing in on Harper's "screw everybody" disastrous comments from last week is a no-brainer. Harper's off the cuff remarks can be his Achilles heel. The unguarded moments that let the real character shine through. Those remarks were pure losers. Base. Every time he does it they should be all over it.
"I think Mr. Harper is underestimating the intelligence of Canadians, the big hearts of Canadians," he said.
Speaking of which, I also like the fact that as soon as Sandra Buckler responded to Dion's challenge, a Dion spokesman immediately rebutted her. The Conservatives have outdone the Liberals for ages now on the "rapid response" front. The Liberals should keep this up.
Now whether we have a big debate...nah, I don't think Harpie's going to upset his well-laid ad plans and carefully contrived summer schedule to indulge Dion. It'll have to wait 'till an election campaign.