Almost every leadership campaign has one. A candidate or top campaign official so full of himself or convinced of the historic importance of his sleep-deprived conversations that he agrees to be miked up by a TV network for the purposes of an insider’s-eye-view documentary, not to be shown until after the convention is over (see below for prior examples).
The sucker this time was rookie Ajax-Pickering MP Mark Holland, chair of Gerard Kennedy’s Ontario operation. Holland was the focus of a short insider piece on CBC’s Sunday Night last night (transcript not yet posted). From the beginning Holland speaks of an “arrangement” between Kennedy and Dion. Negotiations with the Dion camp and the “deal” are referred to several times throughout, by Holland and others.
Unfortunately for Holland, his star turn has made a liar of his candidate, Gerard Kennedy. In all the weekend interviews I saw, Kennedy denied that there was a deal between him and Dion. This added a hilarious subtext to one of the first clips in the CBC Sunday documentary, which shows Holland verbally massaging a Dion organizer with the claim that “We’ve got two candidates who can’t lie.” But, as Kennedy’s denials and the documentary suggest, somebody is lying:
Jane Taber: Had you made a deal with Mr. Dion?
Kennedy: No deal. I get nothing for this. We had a lot of conversations. I did with Mr. Rae and Mr. Ignatieff as well. We all have to have that contingency. And to me it’s how do we assemble the party. How do we get the new drive forward.
--Question Period, CTV, December 3 (link to video on this page)
He said he cut no deal in exchange for his support. “I get nothing for this. This was not a negotiation. This is an understanding, this is mutual respect and I know that it's tempting to see it another way.”
--“ All the right moves for Kennedy,” Toronto Star, December 3
The only defence Kennedy would have to this is that he could argue he was engaging in some Clinton-worthy semantics: while the reporters were clearly asking whether or not he had an agreement to move his support to Dion, Kennedy chose to answer a different question, i.e. whether Dion promised him anything beyond the convention. Even if that is the case, it doesn’t do much for his boy scout image.
Update: CP's Joan Bryden is no fool. She caught on too:
. . . the optics were sufficiently bad that even after Kennedy crossed the floor to Dion, the two men continued to insist there had never been any deal.
"There was no agreement. I chose to go because I felt I couldn't win at that point," Kennedy told CBC television on Sunday.
But Kennedy advisers revealed that an agreement was effectively struck late Friday. Nothing was put in writing but there was finally a meeting of the minds and a sense that each genuinely thought the other would make the second-best choice for leader.
Footnote: Longtime Martinite, former Liberal candidate and Rae organizer Richard Mahoney also agreed to be miked for the CBC’s piece, but was smart enough to stick to clichés and not say anything stupid. Watch and learn, Holland.
Previous Leadership Reality TV Stars
In 1989, Simon de Jong, a candidate for the NDP leadership, fell for it. Deciding at one point during voting day that he didn’t want his conversation with his mother to be a matter of public record, de Jong thought he could confound the CBC by speaking to her in Dutch. I guess with all the pressure de Jong didn’t think that the CBC would have the resources to find a translator, which they did by the time the doc aired. The CBC aired the translation of his tearful conversation with mummy.
The most infamous example is that of Ontario Liberal Dwight Duncan, who agreed to wear a mic for a CPAC documentary of the 1996 Ontario Liberal leadership, in which Duncan himself was a tier one candidate.
Duncan thoughtfully provided a moment of high drama for the documentary, namely his surprise decision, after being eliminated, to go to frontrunner Gerard Kennedy instead of Dalton McGuinty as was widely expected. Duncan’s mic faithfully recorded the lead-up to the decision, with Duncan opining that “Dalton’s a nice man but he can’t win seats in Toronto.” Even better, however, was the denouement of Duncan’s betrayal: he wanders across the convention floor in search of his then-wife, encountering angry delegates all along the way, including his chief riding fundraiser, who pronounces herself “disgusted” with Duncan’s decision, and his riding president, who turns his back on Duncan.