Where does the buck stop? In The Harper Government(TM), apparently on the desk of the nearest convenient hapless staffer.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched a blistering attack here Friday against Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, though moments later his office withdrew the allegation and apologized to the Liberal leader.Harper slings the mud, then sends the staffer to apolgize?
Harper, here attending the G8 summit of major industrialized countries, slammed Ignatieff for allegedly saying that a new group of industrialized countries might be formed that won't include Canada.
Harper, whose party has questioned his rival's commitment to Canada because the Liberal leader lived three decades overseas, said Ignatieff should withdraw any suggestion that Canada could be excluded from a new body to replace the G8.
"I think it's an irresponsible suggestion, and Mr. Ignatieff is supposed to be a Canadian."
But his spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, quickly met with reporters to say he had misinformed the prime minister on the matter. Soudas said the remark attributed to Ignatieff was actually made by an academic, and apologized for the error.
So, Soudas gave Harper bad information, and let a hapless zeal for partisan mudslinging get ahead of the facts. Its bad staffing, and while mistakes happen, they seem to be happening a lot lately in the PMO comms department. But that's an employee matter for the PMO. But if I were them, I'd be looking for better talent.
Bad info or not, the fact remains it is Harper that chose to act on it, and Harper that slung the mud in public and on the record by leveling outrageous falsehoods against the honour and reputation of the leader of the opposition. And, even if the attacks had been accurate, it is still Stephen Harper that decided to use what may have been his only full media availablity at the G8, at an international summit in another country, to wage an attack against a political rival. Very Prime Ministerial.
There seems to be a clear pattern in this government of ministers and the prime minister hiding feebly behind their staffers. Frankly, it's pathethic. Its Harper that made the public comments, and its Harper that needs to offer a sincere and public apology.
You make a mistake, you aplogize. That's how my mother raised me. She didn't say anything about staffers.
UPDATE: The story is now updated with an apology from Harper himself, so credit to him for that:
"During my press conference, I attacked Mr. Ignatieff for some things he had allegedly said about Canada and the G8," Harper said.
"I learned shortly after the press conference this was not a quotation of Mr. Ignatieff. I regret the error and I apologize to Mr. Ignatieff for this error."
Now maybe he can apologize for using an international summit to attack a political rival in the first place, for running ads that question his patriotism and commtiment to Canada, for...