Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mulroney Laid Bare

The September 19th issue of Maclean's contains an entertaining excerpt of Brian Mulroney's words from Peter C. Newman's book The Secret Mulroney Tapes. Newman had said that those who liked Mulroney will like him more, and those who hated him will hate him more, after reading his book. I must be the exception.

During the Mulroney years, I often wished my history teacher was still alive as he loved to skewer the Prime Minister of the day in our classes. Pierre Trudeau was the "megalomaniac" and Joe Clark "Joe Who?" My teacher and Mulroney had them down right. Paul Wells notices the bile and self-satisfaction of Mulroney oozing from the pages. I notice how Mulroney is a good judge of character, but not such a good judge of how well the media could massage the truth. I notice how truthful Mulroney was in stark contrast to the people we've had running our country for the last 12 years. Maybe Canadians like to live in pretend land rather than seeing their leaders for who they are (the media certainly do). Yet both Mike Harris and Mulroney won back-to-back majorities and both were straight with the populace. What you saw was what you got. Mulroney, like Harris, understood the mood of the country, and if he wasn't good at understanding people and didn't like people, he would not have held his party together and won his huge majorities. Ever since his time, the Conservative party has gone from internal knifing to internal knifing -- and they're still at it! Don't these people learn?! But I digress. The final paragraph in Maclean's may sound smug, and in the end, Mulroney's growing self-satisfaction over the years in power may've led to his downfall, but it is fundamentally true.

On another side note, every Prime Minister we've had has been full of himself. It must come with the territory. So to vilify Mulroney on this is insane. But then the media are extremely hypocritical. They rant about women's rights, then do the biggest smear campaign against Kim Campbell I've ever seen in federal politics. They talk about corruption and expose every piece of dirt during the Mulroney tenure, yet let Jean Chretien get away with the biggest pieces we've seen in recent times. The Gomery inquiry is about Chretien's corruption and Paul Martin's ineffectiveness and lack of courage. If this was about Conservative corruption, it would still be all over the papers, and there would no question that they'd be tossed out of power.

Mulroney ran an election on Free Trade then did what he said he would do. Jean Chretien spoke out of the side of his mouth, promised to abolish the GST and Free Trade, and not only didn't abolish it, but also slashed and burned our health care system and research capabilities and expanded Free Trade to NAFTA. Worse he put poorly paid soldiers' lives at risk by recklessly cancelling the helicopter contract. His legacy is for us to watch ancient copters fall out of the sky. Chretien was a mean ruthless power-seeking politician who had only one worthwhile idea the entire time he was Prime Minister: to get rid of the deficit. Mulroney had him pegged. "Chretien...hasn't had a new idea since [1963]....He's a mean dirty bastard." The media for some reason bought all of Chretien's BS and massaged it to appeal to the population. I never understood how he got away with the idea of being the little guy and how the media never called him on it. Martin, meanwhile -- like Chretien before him -- spent several years plotting for the Prime Minister's job, finally got it and has dithered it away. Contrast his treatment by the media with how they flogged Mulroney for angling for the Prime Ministership, accused him of Clark's downfall -- excuse me, but Clark needed no help on that score, he's singularly inept as a leader -- but at least he had ideas and worked hard to implement them. I didn't agree with many of them, but our country was dynamic and growing under his leadership. I repeat leadership. We've had no leadership and lie after lie after lie since 1993, and it shows. It's time we had truth back in our Prime Minister's office.

Mulroney is laid bare in this excerpt. He wanted people to read about his warts and failings and now regrets it. But I think Canadians have been blessed with his courage to speak truthfully. We should be so lucky with our other living Prime Ministers (not including Campbell who has already written an autobiography). Whether we like him or not, whether we agree with him or not, it's good for us as citizens to understand the people behind the Prime Minister's office.

Update: Both Newman and Mulroney accuse each other of betrayal. Newman felt betrayed because Mulroney didn't provide him with promised documents after he left office. And Mulroney because he didn't know the book was coming or that he had been recorded. I think Newman would've treated Mulroney better if he had been given the documents; so Mulroney showed poor judgement there. Also, Mulroney has a remarkable naivete towards journalists. Newman may've been a friend, but he would very much have been operating on his writer's instincts when talking to Mulroney, especially once they talked about a book. Newman though comes out the worst. You should never shock anyone in this way when they're as ill as Mulroney is. It's just wrong. And justifying it by trying to beat Mulroney's own book is no excuse.

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2 comments:

Looney Canuck said...

Mulroney truthful? He may be candid in private, but even people who liked him have called him a habitual liar. For one thing, Mulroney ran against free trade in the 1984 election, and also famously crucified John Turner on patronage appointments, while within weeks, he was planning some patronage appointments of his own.

It may require a fair amount of narcissism for a person to run a country, but he is terribly deluded as to what he accomplished, or tried to accomplish. The Meech Lake/Charlottetown accords failed (thankfully), and the free trade agreement, whcih is not working out so well at the moment.

Not that I'm an apologist for Chretien, I think that he was at least twice as bad a Mulroney, but there will be plenty of time to roast him. Newman's book is basically the truth in Mulroney's own words, which he never wanted published anyway. I was beginning to like him recently, but he just seems to have a rotten attitude about people in general, and has trouble hiding it.

talk talk talk said...

"Mulroney truthful?"

You're right. I had a memory freeze, and I was comparing him to Chretien in my mind. But I do remember him running on Free Trade in the 1988 election and becoming almost apoplectic in the cause. I think everyone was stunned when he won that election handily.

Patronage is to be expected. The thing that riled me is how much the Liberals have gotten away with it, yet he was crucified.

I'm finding as time goes by that I'm not as certain in my dismissal of his record as I used to be. (And I too am thankful Meech/Charlottetown failed.) What's that adage about history versus newspapers?

"Chretien...will be plenty of time to roast him."

I'd have thought the Gomery inquiry would've been the perfect venue. It was Chretien who was behind it, golf balls notwithstanding. And the media are once again letting him off. Unbelievable.