Harper rides to Obama's defense
Writing in an update of Harper's Team, Tom Flanagan makes some interesting points regarding Stephen Harper's actions which -- at least according to the arguments of opposition leaders -- precipitated the move to defeat his government and replace it with a Liberal-NDP-Bloc Quebecois coalition government.
In November of 2008, Harper moved to strike subsidies for political parties from the federal budget. The result was a Constitutional Crisis of potentially-monumental proportions.
“Before the fall fiasco, [Mr. Harper] wasn't exactly loved by the public, but he was widely respected by political observers as a competent manager and shrewd strategist. After his misadventure with the political subsidy issue, many are saying that his strategic sense has been overrated,” Flanagan writes. “This is a dangerous development, for if you are not to be loved you must at least be respected.”
Flanagan also notes that many of Harper's reversals of policy -- fixed election dates and Senate reform being obvious examples -- have significantly tattered Harper's image.
“This is a major loss for a political leader ... once seen as a man of conviction," he continues. "How long will voters continue to support someone who is thought to be mainly a cunning tactician, especially if a run of mistakes makes him seem not even particularly cunning?”
As it regarded his (actually sensible) move to eliminate subsidies for political parties, Harper was said to be "playing silly political games" (by Liberal Gerard Kennedy), and attempting to destroy the opposition.
While the many Canadians who question whether or not the government should prop up political parties that can't raise their own funds may reject this particular treatment, there's little question that the optics of the situation lend themselves to that.
So it's against the backdrop of a need to rehabilitate his image that Stephen Harper took a calculated political risk while appearing on FOX News.
Harper defended US President Barack Obama -- an individual that many Candians expected to treat as a cross-border political opponent -- during an interview on the FOX Business News.
Harper not only refused to condemn Obama's stimulus spending, but he defended it. "We need stimulus spending now, and I say that as a conservative," Harper said.
"When the house is on fire ... you have to bring the hoses and spray water all over it, you can't worry about the basement," he continued. "The reality is, the fiscal situation in the United States is very worrisome, but that said, President Obama came into office with a deep structural deficit position, at a time when fiscal stimulus is actually required economically."
"There are a lot of similarities between what we're doing in Canada with stimulus [and] what President Obama is doing, what many other countries are doing," he added.
"In relative terms in the G7, we are actually able to have the biggest stimulus package and we're actually in the best position to return to surplus with the recession is over."
Harper certainly is taking a risk in defending Obama on FOX News.
The treatment of many of the United States' most fervent right-wing commentators at anyone who dares flirt with any sort of defense of Obama has been well documented.
Although the Canadian version of conservatism is generally far more moderate and restrained than its American counterpart, an unfortunate number of Canadian conservatives seem to hang on the every word of individuals such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
Should individuals like these decide to attack Harper for not joining in an obligatory right-wing dog pile on Obama, the rupture within the Canadian conservative movement may not be catastrophic, but it will be noticeable.
Whether Stephen Harper's defense of Barack Obama was actually calculated as an attempt to try to reach back to moderate Canadian voters or was sincere will almost certainly be the matter of significant speculation, but in the end will ultimately be known only by Harper himself.
In the meantime, the efforts to rehabilitate Harper's image are obviously underway.