In politics, like comedy, timing is everything. In timing, like comedy, politics is everything. That said, welcome to the strange, recent displays of young Justin Trudeau, Leader of the federal Liberal Party, aspiring Prime Minister of Canada.
What persuades him to characterize the Government of Canada’s decision to commit planes and troops against the latest incarnation of Middle East violence as a genitally influenced decision is anyone’s guess.
But to say, as he did last week, that his Tory nemeses “whip” out the nation’s aging fleet of fighter jets to illustrate just how well they still work in the ugly business of killing people and decimating far-flung enemy states is the apex of juvenility. It is, as one commentator correctly adjudged, the sign of “an unserious mind.”
Of course, it can be argued that Canadians have endured far too many serious minds since the world went to hell In 2008.
On the Liberal side, there have been those of Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff, each spewing their self-referential brand of national purpose and pomp.
On the NDP side, there have been those of Jack Layton and Thomas Mulcair, each scolding, in their own tiresome ways, Canada for its disengaged, anti-progressive tendencies.
Then, there’s been the true pater familia of all political dads – none other than Prime Minister Stephan Harper, himself – who has done his reformist best to convince the country that he’s a benign, hands-off father-figure who won’t interfere in the business of his constituents if, and only if, his constituents utterly subjugate themselves to his politically crafted ideology.
Into this absurd company marched Justin Trudeau, the son of legends, promising a more sensible and respectful form of leadership. In him, scores of citizens saw a new hope, a new mandate, and a “back-to-the-future” apparatus for a fully engaged, skilled, educated, and largely independent public bureaucracy.
Certainly, it was his candour that caught the devoted attention of the mainstream media. He was the first, major federal political figure to support decriminalizing marihuana. He was among the first to publicly support a woman’s right to choose abortion, despite stiff opposition within his own caucus. And he was out front, first and centre, with a pledge to introduce universally accessible early childhood education.
On the latter issue, he has squandered his mojo in the face of Mr. Mulcair’s announcement last week of a comprehensive daycare plan. On soft drugs, he seems to have ceded some of his leadership to, of all people, Justice Minister Peter MacKay, who now says he’s willing to consider parts of what is, in effect, Mr. Trudeau’s original proposal.
And now, young Justin has this to say about foreign policy:
“Why aren’t we talking more about the humanitarian aide that Canada can and must be engaged in?,” he freelanced to journalist Don Newman at a conference last week.
So far, so good; but then there was this: “Rather than. . .trying to whip out our CF18s and show them (the Islamic State) how big they are” why don’t we. . .well, do the other thing?
To which, government attack dogs replied in predictable fashion.
“Mr. Trudeau’s comments are disrespectful of the Canadian Armed Forces and make light of a serious issue,” PMO spokesperson Jason MacDonald told CTV News. “Our involvement in the fight against (the Islamic State) has been motivated by a desire to do our part in fighting a group that has made direct terrorist threats against Canada and Canadians, in addition to carrying out atrocities against children, women, and men in the region. As the Prime Minister has said: ‘we take that seriously and will do our part.’”
Game, set and match.
Is Mr. Trudeau in danger of screwing up his free lunch with Canadians? Major polling agencies have confirmed that the young politico is still running well ahead of his arch-rival Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Still, that could change in a heartbeat. It’s a long way to the ballot box next fall, and in politics, like comedy, timing is everything.