I have purposely skirted around most of the Schreiber-Mulroney circus. Most of what's said is being reported in the media and for a good grab on each appearance of each witness before the Commons Ethics Committee, Impolitical and Hope & Onions are staying right on top of things. There's no point duplicating their great efforts and you get some different scenery to back up a good read.
I will, however, comment on Mulroney's testimony today. You see, somebody is lying. I don't know who and it doesn't really matter, but it does underscore the need for a public inquiry into the whole affair. And Mulroney has another problem; one of his own making. He has no credibility with the Canadian public.
When Canadians generally choose to believe a smarmy little arms dealer over the person who once held the reins of government in Canada by a margin of three to one, there isn't much chance that, even if Mulroney is telling the truth, he'll receive anything close to public exoneration outside the precincts of a Commons committee room.
Mulroney's testimony today was an exercise in optics. Ever the self-admiring egotist, Mulroney demonstrated less interest in providing a clear accounting of his actions then he did in putting on a show.
An indignant Brian Mulroney insisted Thursday that he never received kickbacks from Karlheinz Schreiber or anyone else, but admitted that accepting $225,000 in cash from the German-Canadian arms dealer was "a serious error."Indignation. The method of defence used by those who don't want anyone to take a closer look. "Geez. He's really angry. Maybe we're pulling the wrong chain," effect. Optically important for the cameras and the reporters; inconsequential in terms of examination and cross-examination.
The former Conservative prime minister told the Commons ethics committee that his biggest mistake in life was ever agreeing to be introduced to Schreiber.
Mulroney flatly denied Schreiber's allegation that the pair agreed in July 1993 - while he was still prime minister - to a business relationship.
"Not a word was breathed at Harrington Lake about concluding any future business dealings with him," Mulroney insisted.
Mulroney said his agreement with Schreiber occurred in August 1993 when he accepted $75,000 in cash as a retainer, followed by two more payments of equal amounts.Let's work back through that. To whom is he apologizing? The committee? They don't give a red-rat's ass. If he wants to apologize to the Canadian public for the appearance of impropriety he's going to have to go a lot farther than that and demonstrate a lot more remorse. To apologize to anybody from the shelter of indignant outrage is less than genuine.
He said he was concerned about taking cash, but Schreiber said that was how he operated.
"When I look back on it today, I made a serious error in judgment ... even though it was decidedly not illegal to do so. I apologize and I accept full responsibility for it."
His concern about taking cash is a "tell" everyone has been ignoring. What it demonstrates is that he and Schreiber were pretty good buddies. Nobody takes that amount of cash from anybody unless they have already developed a relationship of trust with each other. Try walking into a car dealership and pay for a brand new vehicle with an envelope full of cash. Watch the suspicion levels rise. And there is the little issue of how Mulroney safeguarded all those bills - in safety deposit boxes rather than an interest bearing bank account - to avoid a written record. That isn't the behaviour of somebody engaged in legitimate transactions.
Mulroney's stated amount differs from that of Schreiber's and the dates vary. So, somebody is not telling the truth.
Mulroney entered a date and place in the record which just seems odd. When Mulroney handed over the job of prime minister to Kim Campbell on 25 June 1993, he did not move out of 24 Sussex Drive, the official residence of the Prime Minister. Campbell had to take up residence at Harrington Lake, the official summer retreat of the Prime Minister. By the time of the federal election on 25 October 1993, Mulroney had occupied 24 Sussex Drive so far beyond his retirement date that Campbell never ever did move into the official residence.
Mulroney is asserting that he met Schreiber at Harrington Lake two days before he left office in a residence which the new prime minister was having to move into because he wasn't departing the Ottawa residence.
Maybe that was the case. But it seems strange that he would still be using both residences when he knew Kim Campbell would require the one at which he supposedly met Schreiber less than 48 hours before Campbell had to move in.
The rest of the report on Mulroney's testimony is pure theatre.
The former prime minister called the Airbus affair "the biggest calamity of my life" and "a near-death experience."Oh please! What a goddamned drama queen.
He said he thought the Airbus affair was put behind him in 1997 when the Liberal government paid him $2.1 million in an out of court libel settlement.Well since Mulroney did it by the numbers during his testimony, let's just do two:
"But here we are again, my family and I, 10 years later," he lamented.
One - The level of satisfaction achieved over the $2.1 million payout was not mutually satisfying. Most Canadians felt Mulroney was dirty at the time and "got away with it". Clearly most still do because, here he is - ten years later.
Two - "My family and I"? OK. He has the right to expect support, no matter what he may have done, from his family. By extension they will endure all this too. But in that committee room the only interest is in Mulroney's activities. His family is a part of the audience. Nice try though.
As Mulroney spoke, wife Mila and his four children sat stone-faced, dressed in black.Dressed in black. Maybe they had a funeral to attend later in the day. More theatre.
Mulroney emerged from a black limousine at the front entrance of Parliament and was greeted by Tory MPs and other well-wishers who shook his hand and embraced him.Good feelings all round! The "do not communicate with" command issued by Harper must have slipped. Apparently they're as thick as they always were.
Maybe they can all gather on the steps of the parliament buildings and give us a chorus of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling".
Someone is lying.