Sunday, March 23, 2008

This Just In: Garth Turner Still Doesn't Get It

Turner continues his obsessive feud with Preston Manning's ghost

When Garth Turner was expelled from the governing Conservative caucus just over a year ago, he feigned confusion over the matter -- even outrage.

At the end of the day, however, all too many Canadians knew precisely why he had been kicked out of caucus: that he engineered his own expulsion both by disregarding caucus rules and by helping foster a state of continuing conflict between himself as his ex-Reform party/Canadian Alliance colleagues.

At stake in the latter was his known disdain for what he had labeled HAH (Hats-and-Horses) Conservatives.

Now, unable to swallow his pride and his intellectual vanity, he sits on the other side of the aisle, banished to opposition benches with little hope of ever returning to government. In all likelihood, he will serve out the remainder of his career as an opposition blowhard.

One would think that perhaps Turner would, at some point, reevaluate where that vanity has led him.

But don't count on it. In a recent post at his blog Turner has proven himself all too eager to continue his Ahab-esque battle with the Great White political whale that has already taken his hand:

"Some suggest disgruntled Libs voted Green in this week’s by-elections to protest their own party. Be more aggressive, they urge. Kick Conservative ass.

Others decry a brief comment made here two days ago, chiding many people for simply staying home. Bad voters, I said, use it or lose it. The response: there’s nobody worth voting for.

In my mailbag, this letter from a voter, Ian, in Eastern Ontario. Not atypical of a few I’m getting:

"Dear Garth:

I recently became a new member of the Liberal Party. Sometimes I wonder why. Watching their performance in The House leaves a lot to be desired – skipping votes. I have been voting for the Liberal Party for nearly 60 years. My wife and I are among the many who lost in the Trust Unit fiasco. So much for Harper promises.

The main reason for this e-mail is The Finance Minister travelling about the Country advising Ontario is not the place to invest due to high taxes in the corporate field. Harper is now singing from the same song sheet. Moreover, Harper is merely a mouthpiece for Tom Flanagan. Small govenment, lower taxes, limited Govenment surplus, is the Flanagan manifesto. The Conservative (Reform-Alliance) Party objective to divide the Country. Much of the population cannot see this and do not care.

I do not know Stephane Dion. The information, I gather, is that he is a clever academic. I do, however, fear for his ability to lead the Party to a majority/minority Government. The Liberal Party has to get a more forceful message regarding exactly what is happening with our present governing power. I do appreciate in general the media coverage are not helpful towards Mr. Dion. Coverage from CTV (Conservative Television) including Duffy, Fife, Oliver et al.

Question Period in the House is disgraceful. The Speaker appears to have no control. The failure to answer questions, lying and insults are disgusting.

Again, I fear Mr. Dion’s ability to lead to a Liberal success are about as hopeful as the “South will rise again”!!!!!!"
Dear Ian. I’m glad you wrote. I’m glad you joined the party. Now you have a voice in changing it. As you decide how, let me give you a couple of thoughts from a guy who is also a new member – just over a year now.

The Liberals formed government for thirteen years and did much good, mostly (to my mind) turning a $40 billion deficit into a $14 billion surplus, taking inflation and interest rates to new lows and paving the way for an economic boom. Even as a PC during that time, I applauded the results.

Politically, well, another story. Face it – getting Libs into power was not rocket science while the PCs disintegrated, thanks to the efforts of the wingnuts in the Reform Party, which was basically unelectable. Given that, Liberals stopped being hungry, stopped being aggressive, stopped being insanely partisan, and concentrated on governing.
Sadly, this is a fairly predictable response among many disgruntled former Progressive Conservatives. Much like Liberals can't take responsibility for their own defeats, instead blaming the NDP essentially for existing, Turner, Joe Clark and his merry band of embittered demagogues blame the Reform party for their 1993 defeat -- more or less because they existed.

But it's funny how, even 15 years after that ignominious defeat, Turner can't accept responsibility for the fact that the Progressive Conservatives, through their utterly unapologetic attempts to placate Quebec at the expense of the rest of the country, in many ways made it utterly impossible for conservative-minded Canadians in many parts of the country to continue to support them.

Somehow, in Garth Turner's mind, the plebes in Western Canada were wrong to seek out and support political candidates who shared their vision of what Canada's future should be. Instead, they should have swallowed their principles and continued to vote for a party that no longer embodied them.

"Meanwhile, Conservatives (which is what those Reformers are now called), evolved in an opposite direction. Unburdened with power, they spent every moment plotting how to get it. They organized the shorts off their membership. They learned how to communicate effectively. They got very good at spin, attack, derision, debate, character assassination, smear, media relations, innuendo, tactics, tour and messaging. They set up a killer data system. They hired a mess of political field operatives. They honed a platform. They learned retail politics. They probed the many weaknesses of the guys in office. They hired tough nuts like Doug Finley and Ian Brodie to run the back shop. They lived and ate and drank and slept and breathed and peed politics. And they won."
"Spin, attack, derision, debate, character assassination, smear, media relations, innendo, tactics, tour and messaging."

Sounds an awful lot like the lot that Turner has thrown in with.

It's ironic that Turner would complain that the Conservative party -- or in his words, Reform party 3.0 -- has become adept at character assassination considering that the party to which he currently belongs actually mastered the act.

For proof of this, one really need look no further than the mass character assassination carried out against Preston Manning and the Reform party. Repeated insinuations of racism against the party -- often carried out through proxies and in open defiance of the fact that Manning acted decisively to rid the party of racists -- made the Reform party unelectable in many parts of the country.

Which was precisely how Garth Turner liked it at the time, and he's almost certainly longing for those good ol' days.

"Today Stephen Harper is therefore not only prime minister, but in charge of a bare-knuckle brigade of streetfighters who still dream nightly of standing over the torn-asunder carcasses of Liberals, holding aloft their still-beating hearts. Or close. You get my drift, Ian?

Thus, you might imagine the work I’ve been doing for the last few months as a special advisor to Stephane Dion. Feeding him raw steak. Hormone injections. Weights. Anger training. New glasses with hidden electrodes. Bought him a Harley. The works. When the House resumes March 31st, I’ll have the guy so hepped up he’ll rip out his desk during QP and crush Stephen Harper with it like a western pine beetle. Let the Speaker look irritated and call, “Order, order!” Bug juice on the mace. Bug bits everywhere.

Oops. Sorry Ian, forgive me. I had a CPC moment there.

The poor attempts at humour aside, Turner then indulges himself in a moment of comfortable delusions:

"Truth be told, Libs suck at political viciousness. Many of my colleagues are content to wait until the great pendulum of common sense swings back into their column, at which time they will continue to govern. They feel Mr. Harper and his knuckle-draggers will expose themselves for all the world to see. In due course, they reason, natural justice will prevail."

There you go again, Garth -- making friends with your former colleagues.

All joking aside, does Turner really not consider this ad, in which the Liberal party suggested that Stephen Harper is a jack-booted fascist in the making, politically vicious?

But don't ask Turner about that one. Turner's only concerned with Conservative attack ads.

"Those who actually know Stephane Dion never stop being impressed. They see a guy driven not by a naked quest for power, but by ideas and principles and the passion to pursue them. Even when sand is being kicked in his face. Even when not a day passes when the prime minister and the entire Government of Canada is obsessed with destroying him. Even when people who have never shaken his hand, and never will, pronounce him from their armchairs, brandishing remotes, as gutless.

Dion is anything but. It amazes me a guy of his background, morality and intellect would put up with this crap. After all, he could still be in the world of academia, applauded daily by his students, courted by premiers and prime ministers for his advice, adding to our collective wisdom and having a nice life with Janine and Kyoto.

So, we’re all better off that he perseveres. He stands for environmental rescue, social justice, economic sanity and the big ideas the rest of us miss. Mostly, he represents hope.

Not hope that he’ll be as mindlessly partisan, brutally aggressive or unashamedly ambitious as Mr. Harper, but rather, Ian, that he will never.

Indeed, Turner's obsessive attempts to settle the score with his alleged Reform party protagonists has led him into a realm of sheer fantasy.

Stephane Dion stands for environmental rescue: not when he had the opportunity.

Stephane Dion stands for social justice: when he trots out a 40-year-old unkept Liberal campaign promise.

Stephane Dion stands for economic sanity: when he suggests we should handcuff our economy with a carbon tax that will do little to curb climate change.

Since receiving the boot from the government caucus, Garth Turner really does seem to have slowly lost his grip on reality. Sadly, a good deal of that stems from his own political vanity -- the same vanity shared by Joe Clark, David Orchard and Danny Williams. He's not merely a conservative, he's a progressive conservative, they add with a wink.

He, like Orchard, still hasn't come to grips with why Canada's Progressive Conservative party wound up in the predicament it did: because so-called progressive conservatives lost touch with their supporters. Because they lost the faith.

He, like Clark, still hasn't recognized that in order for conservatism to remain a viable, potent political force in Canada, people like himself need to work with conservatives who don't share all of his views, instead of insisting that they be banished to the political fringe so that he never need dirty his hands working with them.

Brian Mulroney swallowed his pride. So did Peter MacKay. The day that Garth Turner can find it in himself to do the same, maybe he'll finally start taking responsibility for his own failings. Maybe he'll even convince Stephane Dion to do likewise.

But in the meantime, Turner just doesn't get it. And he probably won't get it any time in the near future.

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