Friday, December 22, 2006

Pragmatism vs. Le Flip-flop

When following politics it can be so hard sometimes to know when something is pragmatism, and when it is a flip-flip. Particularly when you insist on filtering everything through a partisan filter like our Blogging Tory friends.

Actually, does throwing-out common sense to tow the party line actually make it easier, not harder to be a shill? Maybe. But anyway, for future reference, here is how it apparently shakes out:

  • Stephane Dion saying he doesn’t want to/think he should have to give up his dual citizenship, but that he will if people are genuinely concerned? BTs call that a flip-flop.
  • Stephen Harper campaigning to protect income trusts, then reversing himself once he’s in power? BTs call that pragmatism.
  • Stephen Harper attacking floor crossing while in opposition, and then accepting one into his caucus, and cabinet? BTs call that pragmatism.
  • Stephen Harper promising not to appoint Senators, and saying you need to be elected to be in his cabinet, and then appointing a Senator and putting the unelected Senator into his cabinet? BTs call that pragmatism.
And those are just a few examples. So, why aren’t they all flip-flops, or all pragmatism?

If you answered that it has to do with the addition of the A and the placement of the E and the N after Steph, then full marks for you. Thanks for playing.

As Red points out this morning, the smears that the Conservatives and their blogging army have been trotting-out this far against Dion have been, frankly, rather pathetic. And laced with lots of the usual snide anti-French comments which are sure to help Harper regain ground in Quebec. If this is the best they can do…

This kind of nonsense may play to their base. Swing voters? You’ll need more that beret jokes I think.

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wilson said...

Dion on citizenship, and Harper on Income Trusts were flip flops, for what ever reason.
PMSH defends the MPs right to floor cross. Always has. Somehow that fact got smothered in the Emerson blow-up.
Only way under current system is to appoint a Senator. PMSH never said he would not appoint unelected Ministers, he said it was his preference to have them elected. I may be wrong, but wasn't Dion appointed before he was elected?

Anonymous said...

never say the PM never said because he's flip flopped so many times it's hard to keep track. One just has to go back to his days in opposition.

If floor crossing didn't bother him, he sure as hell gave Stronach a hard time didn't he?

Anonymous said...

Only way under current system is to appoint a Senator.

A person does not have to be an MP or a Senator to sit in cabinet. Stéphane Dion himself was appointed to cabinet before he became an MP. Chrétien did not appoint him to the Senate. Why did Harper need to appoint Fortier to the Senate?

Jason Hickman said...

... when you insist on filtering everything through a partisan filter like our Blogging Tory friends...

Hello, pot. Meet kettle!

Ed, a long-standing convention (i.e., even before Dief, let alone Trudeau) is that a minister w/o being an MP or senator, but that minister has to either get elected to the House or appointed to the Senate ASAP.

Having a Senator in the cabinet (other than Govt-leader-in-the-Senate, of course) is debateable enough, but I don't think any PM could get away with a minister not even being in the Senate for very long.

ottlib said...

Which is why, Jason, Mr. or I should say Senator Fortier should have run in a by-election at the very first opportunity.

He did not. So the Conservatives have no defence on this one.

It is unprecedented in Canadian politics for a Senator or any other unelected person to hold down a cabinet position for a department that dispences billions of dollars. Such a situation goes against the letter and the spirit of the resonsible government principle because he cannot be held to account by Parliament.

Jeff said...

PMSH defends the MPs right to floor cross. Always has.

I didn't know that Wilson. Perhaps his defence of Belinda got muffled by all the insults hurled at her from his caucus.

PMSH never said he would not appoint unelected Ministers, he said it was his preference to have them elected.

Actually he did, during the campaign, in an interview with Radio Canada. Here's the quote: " you need to be elected to the Parliament of Canada to become a minister."

Wilson, and others, I don't deny the right of the PM to appoint unelected people to cabinet, as long as they seek election immediately, as was the case with Dion. I don't deny the right of PMs to put Senators in cabinet, PET put a number of western Senators into cabinet to shore up regional rep when he got no MPs elected out there, IIRC. And I don't deny the right of PMs to appoint Senators.

I just get annoyed at politicians campaigning against these things with great moral vigor, and then doing the opposite in the name of political pragmatism, all while their supporters insist it's not a flip-flop. I can't but it any more simply then that.

Hello, pot. Meet kettle!

Hey Kettle, wassup?

But seriously Jason, I'd like to think of myself as a 6.5 on the koolade scale (out of 10). I'll call a spade a spade.

On the Dion citizenship thing I do wish he had been consistent from the start on it. We had to know this issue was coming, he should have had a ready answer. It seemed he was caught off guard with the initial question. His reaction seemed natural: why should I need to? A few days later, when he said if it's an issue I'll drop it, could have been handled better. As a communications strategy, I wouldn't have said of it will stop be from winning the election I'll drop it. Poor choice of words. I would have said if this is a legitimate issue of concern for Canadians then I will listen to them, because I respect them. That's really what's at the core of this anyway, at least in my view. We should respect the concerns of Canadians.

So, people can spin that as a flip-flop if they want. I don't think it will work though.

lance said...

PMSH has always been consistent regarding floor-crossing.

He's never said he liked it, but after the NDP tabled the idea of banning it, Harper said it didn't solve the issues and put more power in the hands of the PMO and whip.

He didn't like any of the other options except for more free votes so that MP's don't have to resort to crossing.


Jason Hickman said...

But seriously Jason, I'd like to think of myself as a 6.5 on the koolade scale (out of 10). I'll call a spade a spade.

Hmm. Maybe a 7 - only b/c I don't think you're entitled to a lower score than me!

We should respect the concerns of Canadians. (re: the citizenship issue)

I agree, which is a point I made at your place and others back when Dion's citizenship first came up. But at the end of the day, I really don't think it'll make a big diff with most voters, now that Dion has said, however inelegantly, that he'll deal with the issue if(!) he's ever elected PM.

As for your general point - yeah, there's partisan snot-baggery on some, maybe even a lot of BT websites. Taken a look at some of the Liblogs lately? Cripes, at least your "On the [blank] day of Christmas" thing was original.

And yeah, some Tory MPs, to say nothing of supporters, take the partisanship, the self-righteousness, the etc., too far too often - but they're matched in that, at least, by the troops on the other side. Surprise, surprise: There aint too many virgins in this particular brothel, and there never have been.

And with that cheerful bit of cynicism out of the way: Merry Christmas to you & yours.

Anonymous said...

There's plenty of things to accuse all parties on flip-flopping, but when ONE party projects all these things as the act of outrage and preaches how they will clean up parliament, but does exactly the same, is the meat of this complaint.
As to Dion's citizenship, having never done anything to engage that dual citizenship, other than BE, he is on fairly high ground. Notice the cricket-song of questions about members in Harpor's own caucus -- even his minister of Health has been able to stay in the shadows on such a query. Alright, he's not ever going to be PM, but there is still the usual Tory-hypocracy coming from the echo chamber. I'm more concerned with Harpor's lack of balance when someone can walk in from a lobbying job and be handed that ministry. Or can hold one cabinet post and be a shareholder in a business involved in that ministry. Or the blurring of lines that the Cons created in a rush to beat their own 'account-hillbilly act', a joke in itself. Lance said the following:

"He's never said he liked it, but after the NDP tabled the idea of banning it, Harper said it didn't solve the issues and put more power in the hands of the PMO and whip."

Big belly laff! No, nothing like keeping the power out of the PMO office Harpor-style, right MR and Mrs Minister? Just nod, but do not remove the gag!

Scotian said...

One additional point regarding Fortier, he was Harper's Quebec bag man and leadership coordinator. Now, when the Libs put a friend and bagman of PM Chrétien in Public Works there was this great outcry from the Reform/CA/CPC members throughout his tenure about how improper it was to put a bagman in charge of this department. So why is it a good thing for Harper to place a bagman in charge of the Ministry of Pork and Patronage but when the Liberals did it it was a recipe for corruption and scandal according to among others Harper himself?

There is also the question as to why Fortier had to be made a Senator first and then put in Public Works. As has been noted before it is not a necessity to be either an MP or a Senator to be in the Cabinet, it does mean though that you are supposed to run in the first available by-election which Fortier refused to do and Harper seemed to feel was entirely acceptable.

It is as others here have already said, Harper and the CPC ran a morals campaign, that they would be the party of new clean cut ethics and would do government differently than the corrupt old ways, yet literally from the first day sworn into Office Harper has relied on old corrupt practices (as Fortier demonstrated along with the buyout of David Emerson with a Cabinet seat) and cited Liberal precedents for his actions to say there is nothing wrong with them. It is the brazen hypocrisy of Harper and the CPC on such matters that really offends many of us (although some of us expected this to be the case as soon as Harper got anywhere near power) especially given how many CPC supporters love to go on about how great and pure and wonderful the Harper CPC government is when it is more secretive less accountable and at least as corrupt in terms of abuse of power as its predecessors. In other words the CPC is no better than any prior governing party and arguably may be even worse when it comes to falling into the corruption that power all too often triggers.

Jeff said...

A 7, Jason? Ouch. How did you score?

I agree partisan snotbaggery crosses party lines. I think we're probably more attuned to the snotbaggery that comes from those we disagree with. That said, I can't read BTs without my blood pressure rising, so I keep my forays over as infrequent as possible. I'll live longer that way I think.

Besides, I get enough Conservatives over here reminding me how I'm a bad, bad person that's killing Canada. :)

And a Merry Christmas to you as well.

Scotian, exactly, it's the hypocrisy that gets me, and I can't ever seen to get many Cons to understand that. Or perhaps they chose not too. Libs did it to, is what they always fall back on. Well yes, but the Libs didn't campaign on NOT doing it and us being evil for doing it, YOU did. It's the hypocrisy, stupid, as Carville would say.

Olaf said...

Am I the only one here who likes flip flops? It smacks of pragmatism, modesty, and the good sense to re-evaluate a situation as conditions shift. I flip flop on a daily basis, that's just how I role.

I suppose that certain "flip flops" are a bad thing in that it allows for promises to be subsequently broken, however if it's done thoughtfully and for a good reason (eg. Income Trusts), I'm cool with it. I'll never know how the term "flip flop" ever became such a potent political punchline.

Jeff said...

Waiting for Olaf to flip-flop on his love of flip-flops in a day or two...


Anonymous said...

Don't forget the promise Harper made to Canadians when they were unsure of electing him - he had the senate to keep him in line - the checks and balances.

Oh, how soon the conservatives forget, conveniently it seems.