From Don Martin of the National Post. Hot off the press. Shame on you too Mr. Harper.
A Dion gaffe that shows Harper's mean streak
Posted: October 09, 2008, 9:34 PM
WINNIPEG - It's the new low in a snake's belly of a campaign.
Liberal leader Stephane Dion misunderstands a complicated question and the Conservatives trot out leader Stephen Harper to declare it the definitive proof this Liberal leader is unfit to serve as prime minister.
What, wondered CTV's Steve Murphy in a Thursday interview, would Dion do differently to help the economy if he was prime minister today?
Mr. Dion is clearly having as much trouble grasping the concept of him being prime minister as the rest of the country, so he sought clarification. Did that mean being elected in 2006, now, or on Oct 14?, he wondered. Two more times the question was put before Dion sputtered the pat answer about how he'd launch a 30-day economic consultation, etc.
But the reaction was almost more telling about this campaign and its characters than the incident itself.
Giddy Conservatives delayed their campaign jet's departure from Winnipeg, declared the encounter worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit without having seen it and hauled out a television so a cluster of reporters could view the puzzled expression on Mr. Dion's face as he tried to fathom the question.
Aside from the questionable ethics of CTV airing a segment when both Mr. Dion and interviewer Steve Murphy twice agreed to restart the interview to clarify the question, this is a damning insight into how desperate the Conservatives have become in their battle to belittle a Liberal leader they never dreamed could pose a threat to their government.
Before showing the unedited video that both sides had agreed not to air, CTV host Mike Duffy urged Canadians to fire up their video recorders to capture a moment he predicted would haunt the Liberal leader for the rest of the campaign.
It was an undoubtedly awkward encounter and hard not to shake your head in amazement as Mr. Murphy incredulously tried to explain himself to a baffled Dion, who finally turned in exasperation to someone off camera for clarification.
But spare some empathy for Mr. Dion. It's the end of a grueling campaign, the man has admitted to a hearing impairment and the question was open to interpretation while being phrased in Mr. Dion's second language.
The bigger question is how the Conservative response fits with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's efforts to tame his hard-nosed cold-hearted image with sweaters and baby hugs.
To use his first spontaneous media appearance of the campaign to declare Mr. Dion the most unworthy of the two candidates for prime minister based on a minute of misunderstanding is not the most flattering reaction for the prime minister.
In the end the incident they hoped to use to define Mr. Dion as a confused ditherer may actually provide more telling insight into the character of Stephen Harper.