Friday, August 15, 2008

Tom Sawyer North -- The Tactics of Tykes

Guest post from reader Noni Mausa:


Noni Mausa

I must confess, I watch CPAC for fun.

Oh, on the surface I will agree that it looks as boring as watching paint dry. But no, no, no! It's not true. I'm here to tell you that if you're willing to listen to the words and watch the sneaky little expressions on people's faces, CPAC can be as funny as a schoolyard argument between a 10-year-old boy and his patient but exasperated mother.

Case in point. Today, I was watching some of the hearings dealing with whether the Conservative Party did or did not indulge in a shell game to access $1.3 million more than they were allowed by Elections Canada for their national advertising campaign. As is often the case, I was in stitches listening to some of the soi-disant arguments put forward in defense of what the Conservatives may or may not have done.

It is not an accident that I mentioned 10-year-old boys in the paragraph above. There is no mother who would not recognize most of these arguments, even though they were being put forward by men four or five times that age. Here is just a partial list of some of the favorite arguments that I spot over and over again in Conservative appearances before committees and in inquiries. I heard all of these arguments being made this morning. Grab the popcorn and see if you can spot them in the reruns, or pin this list near the TV for the next time a Conservative MP is defending himself or his party.

1. "You hate me, that's why you're being so mean." With little boys, this argument usually shows up at the end of a long day when he is overtired and his mom wants him to take a bath and go to bed. Since the Conservative apologists did not look sleepy, hungry or ready for a bath, I am not sure why they think Elections Canada hates them. Does the party of "do the crime, do the time" believe that mom's willow switch is only for other kids, not them?

One aspect of this "you hate me" argument is that if the child is nasty enough, he can accuse his "mean" mother or father of child abuse. The lawsuit the Conservatives have lodged against Elections Canada looks rather like this. However, I am not sure whether this tactic will work in a grown-up courthouse against an agency of the federal government.

2. "Dick, Jane and Sally are all doing it too." Even when this is true, it's no defense. Just try it in traffic court sometime. However, it can be a helpful tactic if you are 10 years old in turning attention away from your misdeeds and making your mom either defend her motives or simply tire her out. It hardly ever induces mothers to turn away from their little Tom Sawyer to investigate their other children -- generally mothers already know what all their children are up to.

3. He can mumble, repeat himself, "misunderstand", argue something completely different, bring up grievances from the olden days when he was only 9, complain that he is hungry or tired or has a tummy-ache. Run out the clock. If the kid is motivated enough he can outlast any but the most stubborn mommies.

4. "It's not fair, you never told me I couldn't do that." They sprung that one this morning, trying to prevail upon Elections Canada to give training classes and seminars for election finance functionaries within the parties. I was slapping my knee over this one. You see, I have some experience with Elections Canada. A more sober, helpful, noncommittal bunch of people I have seldom ever met. When I got involved, our committee received from them a massive book full of stipulations and procedures, and when we didn't understand something all we had to do was telephone and we had an answer certainly within the day, and generally during that phone call itself.

But no, it gets better! Remember what political party we're talking about! These are the Conservatives, the party of fiscal responsibility! They claim they didn't know. But running elections, moving money around, and buying advertising is a job that the Conservative Party, and the Reform Party before it, and the Progressive Conservative Party before it has been doing for decades! This is exactly like your 10-year-old telling you that you never taught him properly how to tie his shoes, so it's all your fault.

5. The next strategy is one which does not involve an argument. That is the 10-year-olds strategy of not coming home at suppertime. No excuse, no guilt, and with 10-year-old children usually no supper. As adults, I am certain that none of the Conservatives will be going without supper.

6. Finally, even when the 10-year-old knows he is at fault, even when he is actually found with the Tootsie Roll in his pocket at the convenience store, he takes comfort in knowing that he is just a little boy and probably won't suffer any punishment more than losing his bike for a week.

As far as I can tell from watching the hearings, the Conservatives believe the same thing. They will lose their bike for a few days, they won't get their allowance money back, and I hate to say it but that will probably be the end of it. What a small price to pay for having had $1.3 million extra in their campaign war chest, and getting to be called the ruling party of Canada for a while.

Make some popcorn and have a fellow mommy over for coffee, and turn your dial to CPAC. We need more mommies watching television while fingering the benevolent (taxable) $100 cheques from Harper, the monthly cheques that will buy them a couple of days of day care. Have a few laughs, gals! Take notes! And then go vote.

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