Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stephane Dion and the High Road

Doesn't usually include jokes about the assassination of a political opponent

Yesterday, as the story of a joke distributed by the president of the St Catharine's Liberal riding association about the assassination of Prime Minister Stephen Harper made its rounds, Liberal leader Stephane Dion, speaking in St Catharine's, had a unique opportunity to seize the political high road.

Instead, he did the precise opposite while insisting that he had done precisely that.

"It was in bad taste," Dion admitted, but instead of taking some time to reflect on the matter itself, instead tried to spin it into an attack on the Conservative party. "I’m very disappointed by the attitude of the Conservatives with their attack ads, low-blow politics, and we should not be one of them at all. We should keep the high road. It’s what Canadians deserve. It’s what they want and it’s what they will have with us."

Yet one wonders how precisely Dion defines the high road, when a joke alleging that Canadian troops -- or those of our allies -- has been offered up under the guise of legitimate political discourse and all the party leader has to say about it is "it was in bad taste."

Meanwhile, it's also impossible to overlook the fact that there's a difference between the attack ads directed at Dion by the Conservatives, which question his abilities as a leader, and highlight some of the lowlights of Dion's record (both of which are politically legitimate and fair, however much his various partisan hacks and lackeys would like to insist otherwise) and a joke about the assassination of the Prime Minister.

Dion also questioned why St Catharines Conservative MP Rick Dykstra didn't complain in April, when the joke was published. "Why is he waiting for weeks if it’s not crass politics?"

"Mr. Dykstra did that only to smear because I have a great function today and a big town hall meeting, which he doesn’t have," insisted Liberal candidate (and former MP) Walt Lastewka.

Jane Cornelius, who distributed the joke in the first place, even suggested that Dykstra had some sort of responsibility to oontact her directly before criticizing her publicly.

“Did I get a call from him? The answer is absolutely not,” Cornelius complained. “I would have expected more from the MP."

But Dykstra, who as a Conservative MP isn't exactly a subscriber of Peaking Liberally, hadn't even been made aware of the comments until this week.

Oddly enough, Dykstra's own comments were very much in the spirit of Dion's.

"This is obviously not at all in good humour," Dykstra announced. "If you refer to what people are saying about it now, there’s pretty overwhelming agreement that they are comments that should be withdrawn, apologized for and at least acknowledged that they were certainly incorrect and should not have happened."

"I certainly think good humour and good-spirited debate is something that has a place in our federal politics," he added. "This certainly doesn’t, and I don’t find it humorous."

Dion insisted that "Jane apologized and she did the right thing."

"In no way did I mean to offend anyone, and I apologize if I did," Cornelius had written in an earlier statement. "It was meant as a joke and to have a smile and a chuckle."

But apologizing for the offense is not the same as apologizing for the act. And when one makes such an eggregiously unacceptable remark in the course of a letter suggesting that politicians find the very "high road" that she and Dion allude to, it reeks of sheer, unadulterated hypocrisy.

It's well known that Stephane Dion "chewed out" Garth Turner over his remarks about Quebecois and Albertan separatists. Why would he not choose to chew out Cornelius for musing about the assassination of a political opponent?

For someone presuming to lecture Rick Dykstra about "crass politics", it's odd that Dion would excuse Jane Cornelius for engaging in politics that are beyond Crass and, quite frankly, make a lot of Canadians wonder what Jane Cornelius and Stephane Dion "smile" and "chuckle" about.

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