Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On rookie mistakes

It would seem obvious that one of the more important principles in politics is that some topics are best avoided. But as demonstrated by even some Lib supporters' reaction so far, Stephane Dion doesn't seem to have caught on:
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is facing questions about whether he supports welcoming back in to the party one of the key figures from the sponsorship scandal.

Dion told Quebec newspaper Le Soleil in remarks published Wednesday that he has no objections to Marc-Yvan Cote being allowed to resume his Liberal membership.

Cote, a former party organizer in Quebec, was one of 10 members banned for life from the party by former prime minister Paul Martin in the wake of the sponsorship scandal.

Dion added that Cote's punishment was "exaggerated," and that he'd recognized his error and shouldn't be penalized for life.

Asked about his comments by reporters in Quebec City Wednesday following a meeting of the Liberal caucus, Dion insisted that no decision has been made on the matter and that it's up to the party president to decide.

"I have no recommendation to make on that at all," he said. "There's a procedure to be followed by the party, and we'll follow the party procedure."

Dion noted that he thought that Cote "recognized his mistakes."...

During the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal, Cote testified that he received $120,000 in $100 bills from the executive director of the party's Quebec wing. He distributed that money to 12 Liberal candidates in the 1997 federal election.
If anything, the problem for the Libs may be even greater than suggested by the blog posts so far. And that's despite the fact that the spectre of the sponsorship scandal, which obviously looms large in any discussion about the scandal's central figures, is probably about the second-last thing the party wants to have to deal with.

If there's anything the Libs want to talk about less than the scandal, however, it's the Chretien/Martin divide in the party over the better part of the past two decades. And Dion's interview (which, as noted by the CP, also included a defence of Jean Pelletier) can only be seen as a direct criticism of the way in which Martin himself dealt with those implicated. However the suggestion now plays out, at least one side or the other is likely to see itself as aggrieved by the outcome - whereas a simple refusal to speculate initially could easily have allowed the issue to die off.

Instead, not only has Dion handed the Cons plenty of ammo for the battle between the parties, he's also ensured that Libs on either side of their historic internal war will once again be too busy fighting among themselves to fully defend against PMS. And it's hard to see what benefit from readmitting a few disgraced former members can justify that outcome.

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