Sunday, March 02, 2008

On creative insults

For all the justified talk about Cadscam this weekend, I'm surprised one tidbit seems to have passed without notice even as Garth Turner blogged about his exchange with James Moore:
Hon. Garth Turner (l): Thank you, speaker. When I was a Conservative member of parliament, before that party threw me out, I heard the prime minister call Chuck Cadman a poor M.P. The prime minister said Mr. Cadman was more concerned with ethics and with the country than he was with political organization and power.

Mr. Speaker, I have always wondered why the prime minister was so angry at the late Chuck Cadman, but now we know a lot more. Was it simply because he could not be bribed?

The speaker: The honourable parliamentary secretary to the minister of public works.

James Moore (c): Mr. Speaker, how dare — the member from Halton never served with Chuck Cadman. He didn’t know Chuck Cadman. Chuck Cadman supported the prime minister when he was leader of the opposition, supported him in his leadership races. The prime minister wanted him to rejoin the Conservative party.

Chuck Cadman was a dear friend of mine from a neighboring riding. And we always supported Chuck Cadman. He was a fantastic human being, a great member of parliament and a dear friend. He has no proof. He has no evidence that the prime minister ever said that about Chuck Cadman. That’s outrageous.

We honour Chuck Cadman’s memory. He was a dear friend. The member from Halton should withdraw that ridiculous question and statement.
From what I can tell, Moore's response offers one of the best examples yet of Cons' crass partisan focus - and the gap between that narrow-minded view and what Canadians would actually expect from their government.

Turner's question can be broken into two premises: that Cadman was known to put ethics and principles ahead of purely partisan interests, and that as far as Harper was concerned that made Cadman a "poor M.P.". The lone statement about Cadman personally is the first one, while the latter is obviously a matter of Harper's judgment rather than a direct slight to Cadman.

But Moore's choice of responses - which of course fit with the Cons' set of talking points last week - was to the effect that Turner's question somehow represented an affront to Cadman, to the point where it would be necessary to rebut it with a positive opinion of Cadman. Which leads to the question of what in Turner's question could possibly be offensive to Cadman personally.

From what I can tell, Moore's attempt to claim outrage on Cadman's behalf only makes sense if one assumes either:
- that it's actually an insult to describe somebody as more concerned with ethics than political power; or
- that Harper personally is infallible, such that the mere fact that he had offered his disapproval must be a sign of bad character on the part of the subject without even considering whether Harper was in the wrong.

What's truly sad is that based on how the Cons have operated under Harper, it's entirely possible that one or both could be seen as true within the party. But it seems highly likely that most of the swing voters who they're now courting would disagree strongly with both - and that the more Harper's "Cons over country" philosophy gets aired in public, the less likely those voters are to provide Harper with the power he's so bent on pursuing.

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