Monday, July 13, 2009

Somebody protests too much

Tom Flanagan, Conservative strategist, gives us an homage to negative ads in today's Globe: "Have the Liberals gone soft? Why are they upset over attack ads?" Where to start on this about with his recent book update in which he seemed to display some kind of conscience and concern about his former protege's negativity. So why he would now be penning op-eds in support of his former protege's negativity, rather inconsistent. A reminder of the big splashy update from Flanagan's recent book where he tsk tsked all over said protege:
"Before the fall fiasco he wasn't exactly loved by the public, but he was widely respected by political observers as a competent manager and a shrewd strategist," Mr. Flanagan concludes. "But after his misadventure with the political subsidy issue, many are saying that his strategic sense has been over rated. This is a dangerous development for if you are not to be loved, you must at least be respected."
"Taken together, along with other less publicized reversals, they have created a widespread impression that Harper stands for nothing in particular except winning and keeping power. This is a major loss for a political leader who was once seen as a man of conviction."
All is not lost, Mr. Flanagan sighs. If Mr. Harper gets back to his base with moderate conservative policies, ending the partisan trickery and reaching out to opponents, he could still rewrite the premature obituaries. (emphasis added)
Well, to be fair, that book release was a whole month ago. So I take it the advice that Harper should end "the partisan trickery" and reach out to opponents is no longer operative. Hard to keep up.

The important point missing from today's Flanagan piece is that the constancy of the attack ads run by Harper now and repeatedly throughout his tenure is unprecedented. We haven't seen, in Canada before Harper, such an ongoing massive attack ad campaign against one's political opposition well outside of the election period. None of the instances of Liberal ads that Flanagan cites are comparable in the least to the millions and millions spent by the Harper Conservatives outside the writ period. Conservatives have additionally corrupted the ten percenter MP constituent flyers, essentially running their tv negative ads in print form. The taxpayer should not be paying for that. (They spelled "Canada" wrong on the one I received. Never seen it with two "d's.") There's no precedent for attack ads virtually year round and it's not good for the health of our politics.

The tone of Flanagan's piece is somewhat repulsive too, what with his unseemly taunting of Liberals as being "whiny schoolgirls" (the University of Calgary must be so proud) and "soft" for speaking out against the Conservative attack ads, as Ignatieff recently did about the current Conservative campaign suggesting that the Bloc MPs are sympathetic to pedophiles. The macho posturing is silly.

Perhaps the element of Flanagan's column that most undermines his entire piece is his lament that John McCain did not provide the "public service" to the American public of running ads linking Obama and Jeremiah Wright in the presidential election. Imagine what kind of inflammatory campaign that would have been and that Flanagan is totally on board with. He does backhandedly acknowledge that the Democrats read the electorate correctly in decrying Republican tactics, but it doesn't seem to stop his enthusiastic advocacy for the negativity.

Coming on the heels of Mr. Harper's ridiculous swipe at Michael Ignatieff at the G8 summit, seems like not the best timing for a Conservative paean to attack ads.