Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When putting lipstick on a pig, get the shade right

When Stephen Taylor's (founder of the Blogging Tories, Conservative Party deep-throat and unrepentant Steve Harper cheerleader) post describing Harper and his family as "ordinary" first came to my attention at TBBYL, I read it whilst shaking my head. There was so much wrong with it that I honestly did not know where to begin.

This morning, while re-reading the thing I was distracted by the howls of laughter emanating from the spousal unit, (who retains her family surname), as she too began to shake her head. Being less aware of Taylor's anointed presence in the world she broke through her own mirth to utter, "What a fool!"

Maybe he is; Maybe he isn't. I don't know the guy.

I had initially dismissed Taylor's post as unworthy of further reading as he wrote:
The Harpers are the First Family of Canada
No. They're not. That is an Americanism which is has no place in the Canadian political lexicon.

If such a distinction existed in this country, based on its use in the United States, it would fall on the occupants of 1 Sussex Drive; not the transient residents of 24 Sussex Drive. Harper is not the Head of State; Michaelle Jean is.

As I tried to prod the equal partner across the room into a feminist outburst the laughter grew stronger and she focused on one line of Taylor's post:
Mrs. Harper used to be Laureen Teskey before she famously stated "call me Mrs. Harper" after moving into 24 Sussex.
I don't know Teskey either. But the person with whom I always consult on matters feminist couldn't find a positive aspect to Teskey's abrupt change of surname.

Was the change voluntary, or was it precipitated on the belief that the conservative voting base was so socially conservative that they could not accept such a display of independence? That would indicate spousal subjugation which no amount of Harley horsepower will diminish.

Or, is Teskey a greater opportunist than just someone participating in an act of political paint? If she really believed that Harper was the appropriate surname for her, why did she wait for 13 years? Did she need proof of Harper's ability to gain high office before she would openly commit to the optics of a traditional conservative, nuclear family?

We don't know, but Taylor's praise of the event, which took place immediately after taking up occupancy in the official residence of the Prime Minister, demonstrates his adherence to a patriarchy which a solid number of ordinary Canadian women revile.

At the time there were other mutterings, not the least of which ended with the words, straw-feminist. Teskey's announced name change did gain her a label: hypocrite.

What makes it even more hysterical is that Taylor admits to knowing the timing of the name change and cannot see the hypocrisy of the act.

Taylor's focus on Janine Krieber's accomplishments and her position in the Dion-Krieber marriage attracted a snort of derision from at least one female I know. The fact that Dion would apparently consult with his well-educated, well-respected spouse on matters in which she is considered an expert is something Taylor quite unsuccessfully attempts to portray as a weakness.

Despite the fact that prime ministerial spouses have no active role in government, one could expect that there would be occasions when both spouses discuss work, ideas, politics, social issues and the like over a common, private table. That's typical in a majority of households. It's ordinary. Krieber brings to that common table an insight into international peace and security, defence, counter-terrorism and political sociology. She has an affiliation with the Canadian Forces which most prime ministers, including Harper, cannot claim. But Taylor's suggestion should cause the occasional eyebrow to lift.

Is he suggesting a strong leader doesn't listen to opinions and suggestions? Even from his wife? It indicates Taylor has a poor grasp of leadership but it goes further than that. His portrayal or, more correctly, his visualization, is that Dion accepts information from his spouse on weighty matters for which she is able to provide an educated point of view; Harper does not.

Real leaders seek out differing opinions and ideas from as many sources as possible; poor leaders make up their mind without consultation and then pay lip-service to advisers.

Taylor ended his post with:
Can the Liberals make Dion an ordinary guy? Or is "ordinary" an inherent trait possessed by people like the Harpers (and a large number of Canadians).
Ahhh... right out of the notebook of Karl Rove. That was the selling of George W Bush to the American voter. An ordinary guy. Someone you could sit down and have a beer with. Likes to watch sports on TV on a Sunday afternoon. Family man with a dutiful wife, two kids and a couple of dogs. Academically mediocre thus making the "C" average a mark of distinction.

A definition of ordinary is:
Not exceptional in any way especially in quality or ability or size or degree.
That accurately describes Bush at his best and look at the mess he allowed to be created. Taylor is suggesting that Harper and his handlers are emulating that portrayal as the best means to garner votes from average Canadians. As though Harper is just this "plug away at the job without attracting attention" type of guy, with a dutiful wife engaged in socially acceptable volunteer work, two kids and a room full of cats. A hockey fan who likes soldiers, cops, firemen and dog-catchers.

Camouflage for the fact that Harper is, in truth, an opinionated, nasty, self-serving, narcissistic, opportunistic, squalus. And that's OK, but why try to hide it?

Taylor's post should have ended there, but then he posted an update. That got the laughter going on the other side of the room again. In an attempt to distance himself from his own comments he only made matters worse.

The best part was the bell-curve graph, origins of which and data sources not credited, in an attempt to qualify and quantify his position. Except that the graph doesn't do anything except provide a visual of his opinion. The "lots and lots of votes" metric at the bottom is either a play to the lowest common denominator of his audience or a demonstration of the lack of sophistication in elementary graph making. (I would have used something like "primary voting block", but that's just me.)

Benjamin Disraeli would probably curl up in hysterics and then famously pronounce, There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

But since we're tossing around statistics centered on "ordinary" and "average" it should be recognized that statistically virtually every Canadian has one testicle and one mammary gland.

Most of us however, quite thankfully, are extraordinary in that sense.


For more on this, head on over to Cerberus where Ted has a great post and is doing an extraordinary job of keeping up on the many others who have addressed this subject.

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