Monday, June 08, 2009

Reflections on Raitt-gate

When all was said and done, the tapes really didn't carry the KA-BOOM punch that we political opponents lusted for--did they? Let's climb down a few rungs and admit it. Sum total: a Minister said some unkind but possibly true things about another Minister. And she used the word "sexy" to describe a situation that she confidently expected to fix and to reap mucho limelight and credit for so doing.

Answer me this: in the privacy of your office, or even in the theatre of your own thoughts, have you ever said something unflattering about a colleague, or cackled with joyous expectation when the prospect of capitalizing on an unexpected situation has presented itself? Or, put more positively, have all your private words and thoughts been articulated in a form that would pass public inspection? If so, by all means throw your stone---although it obviously won't be the first.

Our main concern shouldn't be this frankly trivial stuff. (Spare me the torrents of false outrage: I know something about cancer, as some regulars here are aware, and I can't find anything in the Minister's remarks that makes light of it.) We're missing the boat, people. Schadenfreude is all very well--I'm an addict, actually--but let's aim that emotion at the right target.

The issue here isn't what a light and lively Minister said to a subordinate. Rather, it's the obscene and crazy lengths that the Harper regime went to in order to cover up this paltry instance of vanity and gracelessness. (Anyone still believing that this was an heroically unselfish act on the part of an ex-staffer, acting alone to save the tattered reputation of the high-living flibbertigibbet who had just finished underbussing her, is--to put it charitably--a gull.)

An injunction was sought, of unprecedented sweep, not only to squelch a news story, but even the identity of the person who was acting as point person for the squelchers. It was just the latest example of the thuggishness, and the ruthless assumption of unassailable sovereignty, that have become hallmarks of this government. In fact, the very contentlessness of the revelations demonstrate just how far things have gone.

Let's keep our eye on the ball. The issue is not a vainglorious Minister with a taste for fame, perks and expensive lunches. It's not even, in this instance, her cover-up of the full magnitude of the Chalk River fiasco. The issue is a government that proceeds under the confident assumption that it should be able to do whatever it wants.

It's a government that goes to court to argue that a Canadian citizen can be exiled by ministerial fiat. It's a government that insists that it has no obligation to any Canadian citizen outside our borders. It's a government that, from on high, revokes a training grant because a Minister has been called a name. It's a government that has allowed Border Security to screen the political opinions to which we might be exposed. And now it's a government that has just tried to drop the hammer on freedom of the press to spare itself--what? A little embarrassment?

Of course, this has backfired badly. Now the whole matter has become amplified a thousandfold, like a certain sexual act performed upon a former President of the United States. Of no moment in itself, it has become supercharged by the measures taken to suppress the public knowledge of it.

But surely, as noted, it is the very willingness to resort to those measures in the first place that truly merits our attention and our censure. Minister Raitt and her hapless underling are by now merely collateral damage inflicted by the government upon itself. Let's finish the job, and not allow ourselves to be diverted.


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