Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The costly Harper visit to Fox News

Here is the video from the appearance on Fox yesterday in case you hadn't gotten around to seeing it yet. Just got around to watching late Monday p.m.

This was a good overview of questions raised by Harper's appearance, which the whole weekend seemed to revolve around. Why did Harper do this interview? Billed as a precursor to Harper's attendance at the G20 summit this week and the NATO meetings that follow this coming weekend, the interview didn't do much in the way of helping make a case for much at all in advance of those meetings.

He was put on the defensive about Afghanistan, having to hew closer to the American position and pointedly affirm Secretary Gates' comments about eliminating Al Qaeda there when Harper had, in the Zakaria interview, been much more candid about the unlikely possibility of defeating the 'insurgency." So in backtracking, he's put himself in a bit of a waffling mode, moving from the skepticism of the NATO European allies back to the firm U.S. view, prior to that NATO summit. Confusion, sowed.

Secondly, by going on the show, he seems to have not foreseen that Fox would use him, as the lone Conservative North American leader now, to show up the Obama administration. Wallace tried to use him for that objective on the issues of taxes, banking regulation, government involvement in the economy and NAFTA. The bulk of the interview was devoted to trying to get Harper to be critical of Obama's plans. I take it, by Harper's enthusiastic hand shaking with Wallace just as the interview ended, that he didn't mind the attempt, just as long as he got to play important Sunday talking head guest on Fox News. Harper seemed quite pleased with himself despite it all.

So, in terms of advancing any Canadian national interest, didn't see it on the substantive front. And further, there's the whole question of the financial costs expended for this Fox sit down. Don Martin raised a few on Monday:
...you’ve got to admit Stephen Harper’s weekend wooing of American media, flying his considerable security and staff entourage to Washington D.C. (Sunday) and New York City (today) aboard an $11,000 per hour Challenger jet just to make eye contact with foreign media, is a headscratcher.

To be fair, Mr. Harper did pause to chat with our hard-nosed Canwest correspondent Sheldon Alberts, but the television technology exists in Ottawa for two-way, high-definition communication between the prime minister and media outlets anywhere in the world. Using that option would’ve spared taxpayers travel and security costs which could hit six figures while, big bonus here, giving Mr. Harper a weekend with his family.
Costly, all around.