Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More pre-summit stage setting

The BBC has Harper's number. An interesting analysis piece contrasting Obama with Harper on the issues, how they'll likely shake out during the "extended lunch" but the good stuff too, the differences between them personally and in their political stature and how they manifest themselves in this visit. Presented in that special, understated British way:
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a Conservative who leads a minority government, and it would be fair to say that he has avoided the temptations of charisma in doing so.

The contrast with the new American president could hardly be greater.

Mr Obama's election in November last year was an international sensation making him one of the most easily recognisable faces on earth.

He is using his easy mastery of live television to explain to Americans how he believes his interventionist style of government will ease, and then end the recession.

Mr Harper's own modest electoral success a month earlier - when he increased his minority government's share of seats in Ottawa - went more or less unnoticed.

He does not like giving news conferences, and Canadian reporters say he likes to control what questions they are allowed to ask.
...
You might find, by the way, that you do not get much of a chance to judge any of this for yourself since when the two leaders meet the press reporters have been told they are confined to a total of four questions shared between the two leaders (two in English and two in French).

That suggests that the media management is in the hands of the reticent Mr Harper, rather than his more glamorous counterpart.

And if that seems a little unhelpful to journalists, consider the plight of the Canadian public.

So tight is security that anyone who considers braving the snow and Arctic air to attempt to get a glimpse of the American leader is likely to be disappointed.

Mr Obama will be ferried from point-to-point in his new armoured limousine and it is possible he will not actually be seen in public at all. (emphasis added)
Yes, so good of them to consider out plight...:) Arctic air? It is Ottawa, but come on! In other publications...the Washington Post and NY Times by contrast focussing soberly tonight on trade as the priority with the Times in particular setting out Obama's tough balancing act as a Democratic president with his labour constituency and how his campaign rhetoric hangs over the trip. Clearly, these reporters have something to learn from the BBC...:)

One more late note on the whole "Ignatieff-to-the-hangar" issue...Don Martin has the "scoop" from the PMO:
The Prime Minister’s Office insists it's not to blame for the banishment of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff to the Ottawa airport for his 15-minute chat with U.S. President Barack Obama moments before the Fly-by Summit ends on Thursday afternoon.

That was a White House decision, they insist. Fair enough, even though it seems strange to divert the presidential chat to the airport given Mr. Ignatieff’s office is one floor above Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s meeting room in the Centre Block.

But the rest of the itinerary has the choreographed look of Mr. Harper hogging the halo-illuminating Obama spotlight in what clearly would be a major image booster given the global mania this president seems to inspire wherever he goes.
No, of course the PMO had nothing to do with it...that all makes perfect sense.

We're hoping for a goodbye stroll to Air Force One between Ignatieff and Obama or something in that vein....just to provide some uncontrolled pictures and, you know, tick the PMO off...