Saturday, January 26, 2008

And the plot thickens

Apparently the Conservatives are gathered in the bunker to work out their strategy. Well, not really. The best they can do now is run a quick tactic and hope no one really notices what a bunch of rank amateurs they really are.

Too late.
A Conservative MP said it's up to the prime minister to decide whether to fire his chief spokeswoman for making false statements about Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

The government sent out two designated speakers Saturday - one English, one French - who defended Prime Minister Stephen Harper's communications director Sandra Buckler.

Other Conservatives grumbled privately that her misleading remarks are the latest example of how a potential good-news story about the Afghan mission has been plunged into the bowels of public-relations hell.

Alberta MP Art Hanger was not one of the officially designated spokespeople Saturday.

He offered a curt and unenthusiastic reply when asked whether the prime minister should fire his communications director.

"You ask the prime minister that question," Hanger replied outside a Conservative caucus meeting.

"I'm not about to answer it."

This is in place of the official line provided by Peter Van Loan as he met reporters and suggested that everybody in the Conservative Party "misspeaks".

The truth is, the Conservatives are finding themselves in a bucket of shit of their own making. They work so hard at trying to present perfect optics that they can't see where they're going. If they had put as much effort into actually governing they might have turned into a fairly competent government. (That's not to suggest we would have liked much of it.)

In any case, there is a lot of pressure on Harper at the moment and the source of one demand for Buckler's head is not backing away.

But one telephone receiver was shaking with the sound of screaming as a livid Department of National Defence official vented his fury at the Prime Minister's Office.

The military official said his colleagues are incensed by the insinuation that they would be incompetent enough to withhold key details on a politically charged file from their civilian bosses.

He said the Canadian Forces should be receiving plaudits for having signed a detainee-transfer deal when Foreign Affairs failed to do so in 2005, and for having then immediately halted transfers when proof of torture was uncovered in November.

"Instead we've been wearing this," the military official said, shouting loudly enough to shake the phone receiver. He described the mood at DND as "outraged and frustrated."

And they're not going to let it drop. The word on the jetty is that unless Buckler receives the appropriate discipline (fired), there will be information made public which will show that the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan did not make the immediate decision to stop prisoner transfers in isolation. They will demonstrate that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the government department actually responsible for administering the prisoner transfer agreement with the government of Afghanistan, made the initial decision on November 5th, 2007 and advised the CF to stop handing over prisoners to the Afghan government.

Added thought: I don't believe for a minute Buckler will be fired, but if she is you can expect a soft-landing. If I were the ambassador to any developed country in the Canadian diplomatic chain, I'd be checking to see where I could get some packing boxes.

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