Tuesday, December 20, 2005

“I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Herle”

One of the entertaining aspects of this campaign is watching the slow-motion crack up of John Duffy. Duffy was one of my contemporaries at the University of Toronto in the early 80s. As leader of the campus Liberals in a debate prior to the Model Parliament election, he gestured to his two opponents, saying, “The NDP are the party of labour. The Conservatives are the party of business. The Liberals are the party of government.” And he was serious.

His public comments and writings, in particular this op-ed a few weeks ago, in which he argues that if they reject the Liberals, Canadians would “astound the world at so ill-judged and intemperate a discarding of national opportunity” suggest that Duffy’s “l’etat, c’est moi” view of the world is little changed.

About a week ago on one of his many TV appearances I heard Duffy refer to a negative ad that the Conservatives had just begun running. “Oh, man,” I thought, straightening up in my chair. “We’re finally running an effective commercial? Where the hell is it?!” In the days since I have watched in vain, looking for this devastatingly negative ad.

Today in Duffy’s regular campaign piece in the National Post (subscription required), he reveals that this vicious attack ad is in fact the decidedly soft-edged commercial (called “Change” at the Conservative website). Here’s the actual script:

Sure you’ll hear the usual grumbling about the election, but something feels different this time.

After years of scandals, people see a new government that will work for all of us, not just insiders.

They see a new leader who’s more like one of them. Someone who’ll take a stand and tell it like it is.

Now after all these years of corruption, it’s a bit hard to imagine a real change. But more and more people are thinking just that.

Vote Conservative. And stand up for Canada.
The visuals include two newspaper headlines: “Disgrace” over a photo of Jean Brault testifying at Gomery, and a Globe headline, “Martin Liberals took illicit cash, probe told.” The last headline appears just prior to a brief glimpse of Martin on a distant TV screen (wow, I thought I was the only person in the country who still had a TV with dials on it).

It’s actually not a negative ad, but what I think campaign professionals would call a “momentum” ad: one that is aimed at people who are confirmed supporters or leaning your way. The ad reinforces people’s reasons for voting for you and leaves them with the message that better days lay ahead. (Given the static polls, it may be a little early for the Conservatives to run a momentum ad, but I’m no expert on this stuff.)

But here’s how Duffy describes the same ad:

The images depict a low growl of discontent rolling through the sports bars and family restaurants of small-town English Canada. As decent, hardworking folks look up at the establishments' TV sets, a hell-hath-no-fury female voice-over hisses at the Liberals misdeeds. And we're not talking policy differentiation here, folks. Paul Martin's image flickers on the bar TV, just as the voice-over seethes at "corruption." Cut to an actor brandishing a newspaper headline -- from before the last election -- blaring Martin's name amid allegations (subsequently disproven) linking him with sleaze.

This advertisement is as outrageous as it is typical. Linking an innocent Prime Minister who has been exonerated by a judge following a full public inquiry to "corruption" via editing-room sleight-of-hand would be shocking if it came from another party.
Um, okay. Now let’s think back to the Liberals’ attack ad on Harper from the latter part of the 2004 campaign (a campaign in which Mr. Duffy played no small part), which many believe helped turned the tide back to the Liberals, enabling them to escape with a minority:

The 30-second ad opens with scenes of tanks and guns, contrasted with a scene in an operating room to illustrate the difference in Conservative and Liberal priorities. It then suggests Quebec separatism would be a threat again and the right of women to choose on abortion would be eroded in a Harper-led Canada. The ad closes by warning that Canadians would no longer recognize their own country.
--Toronto Star, June 10, 2004
I’m sure most people recall, as I do, the ad’s touching visuals, including a gun fired in the face of viewers, and a disintegrating Canadian flag. Yeah, unsubstantiated allegations suck. But Duffy's "policy differentiation" crack suggests that he thinks unsubstantiated allegations that are about policy are okay.

Duffy then ladles absurdity on hypocrisy with this assertion:

Somehow, it seems as if the only negative attacks anyone remembers are the Liberals'. Maybe that's because they work. But let the record show who threw the first rabbit punch of '05 -- and who has stuck to announcing policy, advertised a strong record of public service on television, and won the debates by actually "standing up for Canada," not just making that phrase a slogan in a low-road attack ad.
This is a peculiar position to take immediately prior to the anticipated January onslaught of Liberal negative attacks on Harper. But then perhaps Duffy’s indignation is not sincere, merely a clever set-up for a Liberal rationalization that “the Tories started it.” Please, voters – finish it.


Patrick said...

At the risk of introducing religion into the campaign:


Bruce Strang said...

As always when dealing with the Lieberals, we Canadians are eagerly anticipating the "other shoe to drop". Will that handgun still blast away into my face? If so, so much for the Lieberals' stance on law and order.
More of the same-old, same-old expected when Duffy and Reid push their chairs away from the table following their holiday feast of beer and popcorn. Bring it on, meatbags!

Anonymous said...

Duffy's rhetorical shortcomings are also betrayed where he dredges up how "Mr Harper's campign in 2004 accused the Prime Minister of Canada, a father of three, of supporting child pornography."
Now we all know that was nothing more than an overly-zealous and instantly retracted question-mark headline on a press release meant to bring attention to the Liberals' abject failure to deal with the Sharpe decision.
But does Duffy expect one to think that being a father of children would somehow make it impossible for a man to be a pedophile or kiddie porn fan - the facts are very much to the contrary - but facts never stopped a Liberal from lying.

Anonymous said...

Have just read your post on Mr. Duffy and your article "Take Back Our Public Services". It is refreshing to read clear thinking, well written and honest articles such as these.

I now get most of my news from blog sites such as yours and Kate McMillan's at SDA. I find the MSM liberal/Liberal biased and they equate "in depth" reporting to reading through the wire services.

Please keep up the great writing and telling it like it is. Thank you.

Alex Mills

Josef said...

FYI - Adam Daifallah recommended you today.

pooka said...

John Duffy is puffy. There is an older Liberal insider he reminds me of. Liberals are too well fed, Bob Rae remarked that Tommy Douglas ate like a bird.