Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Harper's American media "offensive"

So the latest from the Harper brain trust is a two-part strategy involving hitching themselves to Obama, Obama, Obama...and did I mention, Obama? And secondly, the "... biggest-ever U.S. media blitz launched by a Canadian prime minister" according to Teneycke.

Harper's appearance on Lawrence Kudlow's CNBC show is here. Making a soundbite appearance, once again, Mr. Harper and his new talking point about his government's "first" and "second" stimulus packages. To be retroactively labelling prior acts as his "first stimulus" package is disingenuous, of course. Linking it to this latest budget that is late, the product of Conservative delay due to Mr. Harper's choice of election and prorogation, as if it were all a concerted two stimulus package plan, shameless. By the way, how simpatico were Kudlow and Harper? Kudlow obviously had a lot of time for Mr. Harper. Fox, Kudlow, WSJ editorial board, they chose Harper's forums well. All right wing sympathetic media for Mr. Harper. But no Canadian.

Are the Harper Conservatives confusing communications strategy with governing? They don't actually do much in the way of governing. We hear more from Teneycke than any minister in the Harper cabinet. Chantal Hebert wrote an influential column on their photo-op preoccupation a few weeks ago, criticizing the PM for his construction and hockey rink photo ops that were lacking in substance and failed to talk up to the Canadian public on economic issues. She also noted how he was ignoring the Canadian media. They now seem to be on to the next phase of the ever-shifting communications plan, starting with Obama's visit and all events since.

Not surprisingly, some of us are wondering about the new strategy, particularly in light of yesterday's trip. Yes Canadians are supportive of Obama, but he's not our leader. And the Obama halo doesn't mean Canadians can't see through a sudden p.r. offensive from a sycophantic government desperate to put a new face on a partisan, tired operation. Harper's meeting at the U.N. was good, yes, and he did plug the merits of the highly regulated Canadian banking system which he has thankfully been unable to mess up. But that latter fact of our banking sector being in good regulatory shape was widely known in advance of his trip. (The banking angle seems to be the takeaway based on the AP reporting.) Harper spent the rest of the day note-taking at the meeting he had with business leaders and schmoozing with right wing media, spewing dubious claims all the while, unchallenged. If this is what Teneycke had in mind when he said, "There's an appreciation that communicating to the American public right now, and more broadly to an international realm, is good...," then the question that comes to mind, having watched the little whirl wind trip, is: good for whom?