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l ian macdonald

L. Ian MacDonald thinks that Harper’s position on the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon is one born out of conviction, not out of politics:

As Harper said: “There is a crisis because of the actions of Hamas and the actions of Hezbollah.” Exactly. Who kidnapped Israeli soldiers? Who fired rockets into Israeli neighbourhoods?

This is an interesting point of departure – the prime minister dares to speak truth, not to power, but to terror.

You can be certain that Harper’s unambiguous language was not written at Foreign Affairs. They don’t do plain speaking over there. They also like to be on both sides of this issue.

But the prime minister is making foreign policy himself, and he is realigning it significantly in the Middle East, as well as with the United States, to reflect first principles.

He can’t be doing it for the votes. The Jewish community in Canada votes overwhelmingly Liberal. Israel never had a better friend in Canada, until now, than Brian Mulroney, and it never got him anywhere with Jewish voters. There are also twice as many Muslim as Jewish voters in this country, and they’re not happy with Harper choosing sides. This is not even to mention the anguish in Canada’s Lebanese community, largely based in Montreal and Ottawa. As many as 50,000 Canadians, holidayers and dual citizens alike, found themselves stranded in the middle of a war zone last week.

If there’s no political gain in it for Harper, the only reason for him to be taking such a clear stand in favour of Israel is that he’s acting out of conviction.

MacDonald, who, it must be said, is a very intelligent man even on issues on which I disagree with him, is not giving Israel carte blanche. Far from it. He believes that Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s provocation is “disproportionate”. Okay, he’s entitled; a fair number of Israelis believe the exact same thing. But he’s applauding Harper for taking the stance that, proportionate or not, Israel’s reaction is one of defence against a terrorist organization, and that no moral equivalence can be drawn between the two.

Politicians who speak their minds are a bit of an anomaly in this country. Canadians aren’t used to them, and many aren’t quite sure what to make of Harper. I’ve never been a fan of Harper, but I do have to give him credit on this one. Trouble is, his “moral stance” is unleashing such a backlash that it threatens to cancel out the original intent. Would a waffling Liberal government have made itself such an easy target for criticism? Sure, that’s a backwards analysis. But think about it: If hatred of Israel gets stirred up into an even bigger frenzy because Harper is a convenient target as a right-winger who backs Israel, then who benefits in the long run?

In an early episode of The West Wing, Joey Lucas (played brilliantly by Marlee Matlin) bursts into Josh’s office demanding to know why the DNC is choking off funding for her candidate, who is trying to unseat a far-right Republican. The answer? Josh explains that “Every time he comes out with one of his declarations about brown people crossing the border, the DNC slaps it into a direct mail campaign and he’s good for two or three million dollars.” In other words, the Democrats get more mileage out of having a convenient poster boy for the far right to attack than they would get out of winning the seat.

Well, politics often work that way, unfortunately. In Quebec, for instance, support for sovereignty goes up during the years when the Liberals are in power, and down during the years when the PQ is in power. Why? Because it’s easier to attack from the opposition than to govern from the majority.

Is Harper, by signalling his clear intention to stand behind Israel in this conflict, doing more harm than good in a realistic sense, even though he’s theoretically doing the right thing? I wonder.

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Snubbed again


In the Gazette, columnist L. Ian MacDonald claims Canada’s biggest problem in the softwood lumber dispute is getting the U.S.’s attention:

“I will be speaking to the president when the timing is appropriate,” Martin said in Regina. “It’s very important as far as I’m concerned that that phone call take place when it is right for Canada to have it take place, and that will be quite soon.”

Translation: the White House hasn’t returned the call from the Prime Minister’s Office.

In any event, it’s not the kind of problem that can be resolved with a phone call. It takes a relationship, and Martin has gone out of his way not to establish one with Bush.

The problem is, Martin wants it both ways. He wants to be seen as anti-American when it’s convenient, but when he wants the U.S. to respect Canada, he is unwilling to reap the consequences.

Like the CBC’s labour dispute, the biggest risk in Canada playing trade harball with the U.S. is that they’ll realize how easy it is to ignore us. Carolyn Parrish can go on stomping on Bush dolls if she wants; it’s pretty obvious that the real Bush doesn’t really care much.


Say what?


I don’t always agree with L. Ian Macdonald, but I generally think he’s fairly intelligent. So that’s why I was so surprised to read, in the midst of an article expressing wonder that Kerry isn’t leading Bush in the polls, a nonsensical statement like this: There weren’t terrorists in Iraq under Saddam, but there are […]

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Two weeks till the election


Next up, we have the two debates – French tonight, and English tomorrow night. L. Ian MacDonald has high expectations for Stephen Harper: For Stephen Harper, the French debate represents a significant opportunity. If the Conservatives have really moved into the mid-teens in Quebec, as reported by the CPAC-SES Research poll last week, then the […]

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Attack ads: No thanks!


In today’s Gazette, L. Ian Macdonald previews the Liberal attack ads on Stephen Harper and runs down why he thinks they’re not only a bad idea, but poorly researched: In suggesting Harper is proposing “U.S.-style health care,” the Liberals are resorting to U.S.-style attack ads. For the Liberals, the great danger is that Harper might […]

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Why Bush is losing the PR game


In today’s Gazette, L. Ian Macdonald gives his view on why Bush is losing the PR game on Iraq: The problem with U.S. foreign policy under the Bush administration is that it is unilateralist much of the time and multilateralist only some of the time. And the problem with U.S. war policy on Iraq is […]

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Quotable quotes


L. Ian MacDonald was on CHOM this morning talking politics with Terry DiMonte, like most Monday mornings. They were discussing Iraq, and how if we lined up George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein and asked Canadians to choose, about half of them right now would choose Saddam – the guy who (and I’m paraphrasing from […]

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