Can Andrew Scheer be serious?
Does the Conservative leader really think that the way to energize his base is to attack and demonize the media?
Does he think “Andrew Trump” will sell in Canada?
Last week, the Toronto Star reported that Conservatives are set to go “for the jugular” in the 2019 election. Nothing wrong with going for the jugular in politics.
But the jugular ought to belong to the government of the day, not the press. It is the government that comes up with policies and passes laws. It is the media that reports and opines on them. Accusing the media of siding with the Trudeau Liberals is nonsense.
Sounding like a spoiled brat rather than a political strategist, Scheer whined that everyone is in the prime minister’s pocket — media, pundits, academics.
Apparently he doesn’t read the National Post, the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s, or peruse the reports of the Fraser Institute. There is fawning aplenty for the Conservative cause in this country.
And there have also been many pieces in the media lambasting Trudeau for some foolish decisions and a string of broken promises.
I know, I wrote a number of them.
A lengthy piece I published in iPolitics featured Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, calling the PM, tattoos and all, a “liar.” In the same piece, David Suzuki levelled the identical charge.
Sound sucky and onside to you?
The Trudeau government broke its promise on electoral reform, reneged on access to information commitments, came up short on human rights, and deeply disappointed on the environment. In various places, and under multiple bylines, the Liberals have been called out on all of this.
Check out the headlines.
“Why Trudeau’s critics should keep it up,” by Susan Delacourt in the Star.
“Trudeau sweeps away criticism with ‘vile personal insults’: Scheer,” by Althia Raj in Huffington Post.
“Stop swooning over Justin Trudeau. The man is a disaster for the planet,” by Bill McKibben in the Guardian.
And, “Polls give Justin Trudeau’s Liberals little to celebrate this Canada Day,” by Eric Grenier for the CBC.
On the merits, Scheer’s promise to “stand up” to the media is absurd — and nothing more than a shabby fundraising ploy.
But his timing is a political abomination. Choosing to mimic Donald Trump’s war with the U.S. media in Canada, and to do it in the immediate wake of what CNN described as 72 hours of “American hate,” shows why Scheer should never be prime minister.
In three short days, murder and mayhem took centre stage in America. Citizens there are less than two weeks away from voting in critical midterm elections that could bring profound change to Washington.
But it is these emotional depth charges, these bloody events, not policy or congressional performance, that may drive the result. The U.S. is a democracy and a society in crisis because fear might win out over facts. Given his comments on the media, Scheer would try to take Canada in the same direction.
And what a direction.
In Kentucky, Gregory Bush gunned down two African-Americans in a grocery store. Floridian Cesar Sayoc sent 14 pipe bombs to critics of Trump — including two sent to CNN. And Robert Bowers slaughtered 11 people in a synagogue in Pittsburgh and wounded several others.
Consider the alleged perpetrators.
Gregory Bush had mental illness and guns. Robert Bowers hated Jews and wanted them to die. And Cesar Sayoc was a proud white supremacist — and an avid Donald Trump supporter.
In Sayoc’s case, his van was a mobile advertisement for his heroes and his hatreds. Next to glowing images of Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence were images of CNN host Van Jones and filmmaker Michael Moore. They had red targets or crosshairs over their images, like the one some lunatic put up on Twitter with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s face inside the crosshairs of a rifle scope.
The point is not that the president of the United States caused the atrocities of those 72 hours of American hate. The point is that Trump’s violent rhetoric excites and emboldens people like Sayoc, Bowers and Bush. His rallies are like watching the two minutes of hate out of Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, 1984.
Trump simply brings out the worst in the worst.
This crass and contemptible president now denounces violence and calls for civility in public affairs. What fraudulence. His constant, consistent and relentless message from the bully pulpit of the White House has been the opposite. Trump has encouraged his base to focus their hatred and distrust on American institutions and his political opponents.
When caught out in lies, he responds by saying there is no proof of anything.
There is, of course, ample proof that Trump is unfit for the highest office in the United States.
This is the guy who told Americans that Mexico was sending its murderers, rapists and drug dealers across the country’s southern border.
Now he claims that the caravan of impoverished refugees walking to America through Mexico includes members of the notorious gang MS-13, and “unknown Middle Easterners.”
No proof, but proof enough to get a vigilante army of Trumpians to make for the border to save the republic.
This is the guy who said on the eve of the Nevada caucuses in 2016 that he missed the old days when a protester like one at his rally could be beaten up. Just so people got the point, Trump added that he himself would like to punch the protester in the face.
And to show that he hasn’t changed since those days, Trump recently praised Montana congressman Greg Gianforte for body-slamming a journalist trying to interview him. “That’s my kind of guy,” Trump told a laughing rally — an especially ignorant remark, given it came on the heels of the horrific death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
This is the guy who routinely incited his followers to chant “Lock her up!” in reference to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Almost two years after he was elected president, Trump still finds time at his rallies to get the “crooked Hillary” and “lock her up” thing going again. He is a master salesman of hate.
This is the guy who called former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman “a dog,” who described opponents of the Supreme Court appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as “evil,” and the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller into the Trump campaign as “an illegal, rigged witch-hunt.”
And, of course, it is Trump who never misses a chance to describe the media as the “enemy of the American people.”
Free speech and a free press are essential for democracy — and very bad for demagogues.
It’s time Scheer got it.