Friday, October 10, 2008

This is sad

I spent the late afternoon/early evening hours of this chilly Thursday on the Left Coast burma-shaving with a hearty group of Liberal volunteers and Dana Miller, our Liberal candidate in Delta-South Richmond. We got more cheers than jeers from the afternoon commuters, so it was a good outing.

When I got back to my computer, I was greeted by a deluge of blog posts and stories on Stephane Dion's interview on ATV, the Mike Duffy program, and the Conservative press conference. I'm sure you've read all about it too, so I won't rehash it.

I'll just say this: this is a personal issue for me. If you've met me offline, you know that I have a stutter at times. Sometimes, when I'm nervous, or tired, or I just get talking too fast, it will cause me trouble. I've had the problem since I was a kid, and I can't seem to shake it. It's not something I can easily control. Sometimes it's embarrassing. Sometimes its maddening. But I don't let it hold me back.

Most people are very understanding, and patient. Sometimes, though, people think its funny. Sometimes they'll laugh. That hurts, but I don't let it bother me. Because frankly, I think their reaction says a lot more about them than it says about me.

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The Rat said...

I sympathize with your impediment, Jeff, but trying to hide Dion's gaffe behind politically correct crapola is beneath you. Dion was asked a simple question:

What would you have done differently?

Liberals have said it was a hearing problem, an English problem, a badly worded question, an unfair attack on Dion a la Chretien's face, but not one has addressed the core possibility: He didn't have an answer.

Again, Jeff, it's not about a disability and it's a little disconcerting you'd try to use that as an excuse for an unprepared leader.

Gayle said...

The problem is it was not a simple question in the way it was presented.

It confused tenses, in Dion's second language.

Dion asked if the reporter meant what he would have done if he had been elected in 2006, and the reporter said no. In fact, that was what he meant so he should have allowed Dion to go with that.

In any event, I think this episode helps Dion more than it hurts him.

And Duffy is an asshole.

Joseph said...

Actually, rat, he answered the question.

In fact, despite attempts to exploit this there were two answers given (one for each interpretation of the sloppy tense-tangled question):

1) If he had been PM since 2006 he would have had a completely different agenda from day one.

2) And, if he were elected PM now, he would implement the 30-day plan to consult with Provincial Ministers, Financial Ministers, and Economic experts to determine a wise course of action. (This I might add is the same action Harper called panicky a week ago tonight but is now scrambling on himself)

But that's not your point really . . . I can clearly understand that.

Tony said...


There are few people that can compare with your adeptness with the written word.

Your point tonight was emotional and personal to read.

I admire your courage in putting this out there. I know a lot of people who speak English as a second language who will have their own personal feeling about this attack.

For me though, your post really says it all.

Gayle said...

Well said Tony.

Gauntlet said...

Hey, Jeff:

Not to minimize, or anything, but you're a hilarious guy, and in your presence I've always thought that waiting for the punchline makes it that much better. :)

burlivespipe said...

i don't think the question was simple at all, and i'm completely astounded that ctv national news doesn't play the question to give the possible context. There were two tenses used, now and then, and it was flipped again. For a unilingual like myself who also happens to be a journalist, I found the question mildly confusing. My wife, who speaks excellent english but it is a language she didn't pick up until her early 20s, the question made no sense. We'll side-step the journalistic ethics of allowing a 'restart' which has traditionally meant 'from the beginning, forgetting the original take -- will this now permit questionees to have the fumbled first question by the interviewer be broadcasted for laugh sakes? -- but the other element that strikes me is that the interview did not reframe his question after the 2nd or 3rd time. That's what happens in the business, sometimes the question just does not resonate, from one mouth to another's ear, and I've occasionally asked the question in a different manner.
murphy chose to just repeat his question, same back-and-forth tense, overlapping points. It has the smell of a 'gotcha' moment, which can make or break a career. So many times in our newsroom the quotes have been cleaned up or even discarded, whether we like the subject or not, because there is the understanding that its not a 'clean take'. CTV has decided to use it, whether you believe there's political motivation we can't say for sure.
Watching it, I winced, and wished that Dion had just, even if not completely comprehending the question, just given a political pat answer. But then again, you hear Murphy not even pleased with the answer that Dion supplied on the 3rd take.
No one is surprised that Harper and team are making hay, gleefully rubbing their hands with this. Another reason to despise them more. Is it better to stumble cloddishly, exhaustedly, over a clumsy question, or to brush off public concerns for pensions and jobs by wistfully noting that someone can make a killing in the market? I guess the Canadian public will decide that in the coming days.

penlan said...

I got up to all this hatred, by Harper, Duffy, et al, this morning. I had no idea this had happened.

Frankly it broke my heart. I'm sick to death of the Con way - mean, evil bastards. I've had it. This country deserves so much better. We are being torn apart by the narcissistic dictator named Harper & he MUST be turfed. And so should Duffy. The man is a disgrace to his profession.

Mark Francis said...

This hurts Harper, and we really need to do something about CTV.

I stuttered quite badly as a child myself, Jeff.

Finally, your BC home is in Dana's riding! She's out of the Green party, you know, (big controversy, has had dealings with Crookes...) and has friends here in T.O. I met her earlier this year when she was in T.O. Drank beer, had a chat. I like her.

Olaf said...


At one point, didn't Dion repeat the question back to Murphy? It wasn't about his hearing, I'm quite sure. The problem was the question wasn't very clear.

grady said...

I as well sympathize with your impediment but Dion's poor performance in the interview on ATV had nothing to do with any impediment. The interviewer was sitting right across from him and the studio was not noisy as has been reported to formulate an excuse. If you listen to the full thing, I didnt hear any noise.
And Liberals are trying to turn it around and saying Harper is ridiculing his poor English. That is a horrible excuse as well.
He fumbled very badly and the liberals knew it because they asked ATV not to air the embarrassing footage.
He had no answer, he was confused and that has to be acknowledged.
This may be a defining moment or maybe not.
Anyway Ihope you like Toronto.
Being a Liberal you are living in the right place. LOL
Take Care.
S Mississauga

Gayle said...

I do not understand this argument that Dion had no answer.

For a week now Dion has been saying he would have a 30 day plan. Is it not obvious THAT is his answer?

Unless the interviewer meant what would Dion have done if he had been PM as of January 2006, but he could not have meant that because when Dion asked him if that was what he meant he said no.

DaveInCalgary said...

Even what's left of my grade school french reminds me of the confusion that tenses would cause in this case.
One can only hope this hugely backfires amongst francophones. I'd love to see the Con's continue to self destruct there.

The Rat said...

1) If he had been PM since 2006 he would have had a completely different agenda from day one.

Completely different, I'm sure, care to elaborate? 'Cause Dion couldn't. Hell, this morning on CBC he looked pretty bad and when given the same question in a much more straight-forward way he still mumbled on about 30/50. He has no answer.

Wilson said...

As Tony and others have said, this incident has absolutely affected the opinions of voters.

Here is one example.

sillygwailo said...

I just watched the video of the Dion interview and I agree that the verb tenses threw Dion off. Having memories of Bob Skelly in 1986 (though I can't seem to call up video of that speech).

Jeff, you and I knew each other in high school, and I recall your stutter. A few years into university, I developed a pronounced stutter and sought therapy for it. It cost a heck of a lot, but it was worth it. It still comes up in stressful situations, sometimes not being able to start sentences. My heart goes out to those who are mocked for it, since it can be debilitating socially.