Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The hider in chief

Contrary to the strong leader archetype that Mr. Harper likes to play at, there's a crucial aspect to leadership that's missing from the picture. Strong leaders don't hide from interaction with the public. Look at what's going on in Ontario as Harper travels through. It's clear that his operation's modus operandi is secrecy and stifling of dissent, and they're trying to use the RCMP to enforce it:

Protesters were expected to dog Mr. Harper for a second straight day during campaign stops in Ontario.

The RCMP security detail that travels with the prime minister held a special meeting Tuesday night after a handful of protesters from the Canadian Auto Workers used bullhorns and sirens to disrupt Mr. Harper's housing tax credit announcement in Kitchener, Ont. Though the prime minister's safety was never in question, his campaign staff were pressing the RCMP to silence or move the protesters so that Mr. Harper's announcement could proceed as planned.

The Conservatives and the RCMP security detail were expecting many more Wednesday morning in Welland, Ont., a community which just learned before the election was called that a major employer, Deere & Co., would be shutting down its plant and moving 800 jobs south of the border.

The prime minister's staff, worried about tipping protesters off about Mr. Harper's whereabouts, would not even tell travelling reporters where a photo opportunity was to be staged before the event in Welland. A small crew of photographers would learn the location as they were travelling to it. (emphasis added)

Running for Prime Minister, as Prime Minister, yet he's hiding all the way. This is what we've seen from the Conservative government for the past two years, slowing access to information, muzzled cabinet ministers, media shunned and this campaign sees more of the same. More from Greg Weston on the use of the RCMP in all this:

As usual with Harper's travelling film clip, nothing is left to chance, especially not a photo-op for the night news.

Incredibly, it is the Mounties who help make sure it's all picture perfect.

Charged with ensuring the prime minister's safety, the RCMP security service has instead been forced to become the Conservative party's armed public relations agency for the election campaign.

Last week, the Mounties were used to corral a television crew doing their job. Yesterday morning, it was about a dozen angry autoworkers losing their jobs who threatened Harper's sound bite of the day, and wound up on the wrong end of the Horsemen.

One of them began yelling protest slogans on a bullhorn while the Conservative leader was giving his speech on a vacant lot across the street, out of sight and all but safely out of earshot.

Suddenly, the bullhorn guy was nose-to-nose with a giant bald cop with a wire in his ear and a gun on his hip, a member of the prime minister's formidable RCMP bodyguards.

On this day, one of the nation's finest was pressed into service as a political PR operative, trying to silence pesky protesters.

Is this particular to the Conservatives? Why, yes:
All of the federal leaders have RCMP bodyguards for the election, but none we have ever seen has been forced to do political dirty work like the squad assigned to Harper.

The best bodyguards in the business -- and always nice to me -- they are now being forced to use their authority to protect Conservative photo ops.
Police enforced photo-ops. This is something that deserves more attention from the public.

And speaking of hiding, look at one aspect of the Cadman litigation Harper brought against the Liberals to stifle their free speech that he is now seeking to put off until after the election:
In the affidavit, the Liberal party argues that Zytaruk's "reputation has been significantly tarnished" by Harper's accusation that the biographer doctored the tape. Zytaruk, who has denied the accusation, was to testify Sept. 22-23 and wants the matter to proceed as originally scheduled so that he can give his side of the story.
After months of Conservatives publicly claiming that Mr. Zytaruk's audiotape is doctored, and with all the defamatory insinuations hurled Mr. Zytaruk's way with that allegation, Mr. Harper is seeking to put off Zytaruk's ability to defend his own reputation. Not to mention the very obvious ploy to hide any talk of the Cadman case and put it off until after the election.

Mr. Harper's character as a leader is certainly shining through during this campaign.

(h/t FarNWide on the Cadman article)