Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Old Joke, New Outrage

Jane Cornelius steps in it, tracks it into the house

Make no mistake about it: Jane Cornelius, the president of the St Catharine's Liberal riding association, is watching her political career go down in flames today, struck by the heatseaking missile that is her own hubris.

In a controversy quickly tearing its way through the blogosphere, Cornelius printed what has turned out to be an extremely ill-advised "joke" in Peaking Liberally, the St Catharines Liberal newsletter:

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper was visiting a primary school and he visited one of the classes.

They were in the middle of a discussion related to words and their meanings. The teacher asked the PM if he would like to lead the discussion on the word “tragedy”. So the illustrious leader asked the class for an example of a “tragedy”.

One little boy stood up and offered: “If my best friend, who lives on a farm, is playing in the field and a tractor runs over him and kills him, that would be a tragedy.

“No,” said Harper, “that would be an accident.”

A little girl raised her hand: “If a school bus carrying 50 children drove over a cliff, killing everyone inside, that would be a tragedy.”

“I’m afraid not,” explained Harper. “That’s what we would call great loss."

The room went silent. No other children volunteered. Harper searched the room. “Isn’t there someone here who can give me an example of a tragedy?”

Finally at the back of the room, Little Johnny raised his hand... In a quiet voice he said: “If the plane carrying you and Mrs. Harper was struck by a “friendly fire” missile and blown to smithereens that would be a tragedy.”

“Fantastic!” exclaimed Harper. “That’s right. And can you tell me why that would be tragedy?” “Well,” says the boy,

“It has to be a tragedy, because it certainly wouldn’t be a great loss ...and it probably wouldn’t be an accident either”.
Ironically, this was printed in an article accusing the Conservative government of poisoning Canada's political discourse, and suggesting that Liberals need to "wash their hands" of that.

If Cornelius is at all surprised by the outrage the printing of this joke has generated, she needs to have her head examined. (She may need it examined regardless.)

For a political party to print a joke about the assassination of a competing political leader is one thing. To suggest that Canadian troops, or the troops of one of our allies could be responsible for it, is entirely another. It's purely outrageous.

But some of the outrage may be overblown.

For example, Warren Kinsella has suggested the RCMP should be alerted.

While the spirit of the joke is outrageously disgusting, to take it quite this seriously is another matter. This is actually a very old joke, and has been told time and time again about any number of politicians.

All the "Little Johnny" jokes are. And let's not forget that Little Johnny is a bit of a little jerk.

Of course, never before has it been offered up under the guise of legitimate political discourse. And while numerous individuals have taken certain delight in poisoning Canada's political discourse, for the representative of one of our two major parties to do so quite like this is simply beyond the pale.

At least politics -- at least on any formal level -- isn't something that Jane Cornelius will have to worry about for much longer. If Stephane Dion doesn't act quickly to remove her from the presidency of the St Catherine's riding association (and maybe even expel her from the party) he needs to have his head examined, too.


  1. How about pulling the nomination from the candidate. To show his outrage perhaps Dion could offer not to run a liberal in the riding for the next election.

  2. That would be bad politics.

    Rick Dykstra won that riding by a very narrow margin. A Liberal could win that riding and let's face it: in any minority parliament situation (which is precisely what we're looking at next election), every single seat counts.

    Not that removing Cornelius as the riding president and expelling her from the party wouldn't be damaging, but it would at least give the Liberals a chance to win the riding, which is what Dion has a responsibility to look at first.

  3. Anonymous8:15 AM

    Warren K once posted a spam e-mail he received and thought it was a personal threat. The man is such a noob that he gives other noobs a bad name.


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