Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tom Flanagan says PM's repute 'tattered''

This is from the Calgary Herald.

Hopefully Michael Ignatieff reads this article and comes to the conclusion that he should pull the plug on Harper before Harper can call in a political plumber to fix things up so that he doesn't keep leaking support.
Flanagan shows considerable insight and independence but he may be causing considerable damage to his philosophical soul mate.

PM's former mentor says repute 'tattered'

By Don Martin, Calgary HeraldJune 13, 2009 7:29 AM

It's too harsh to qualify as constructive criticism, even if the author was still Prime Minister Stephen Harper's mentor and academic adviser.
The words are too deadly to be considered friendly fire, even if the writer was still running the Conservative's election war room.
And, if Tom Flanagan was still serving as Harper's chief of staff, his new assessment of the PM's postelection debacle would probably hand him the pink slip from a boss who takes bad news badly.
The University of Calgary political scientist served in all of these roles to this prime minister, yet he's come to the startling conclusion his star student and political protege is battered, tattered and almost beyond repair as a going-forward force in federal politics.
If this glum assessment was written by any columnist in the land, it would be vilified by party faithful as the predictable rantings of a Liberal-loving mainstream media.
But it's penned by an insightful Calgarian once described by former Reform party insider Rick Anderson as an "intellectual, philosophical soulmate" to a Stephen Harper he had nursed back onto the federal stage and nurtured along as the great right-wing hope to Canadian conservatives.
As such, his words deliver a painful punch. Flanagan's appraisal is part of an updated conclusion to his two-year-old Harper's Team insider's account of the Conservative leader's rise to power, a friendly account reportedly vetted by the PMO prior to its original publication.
The way Flanagan sees it now, Harper is adrift in a vacuum of policy and principle, conniving to retain power while hemorrhaging respect as a flawed political strategist. Harper's greatest gaffe was inserting the elimination of public financing for political parties into last fall's economic update-- "his single worst mistake, not just as prime minister but in his career as a party leader," Flanagan writes.
He had perfected the art of keeping political opponents squabbling among themselves, but that move united all three parties under a common survival strategy that gave the Conservatives a near-death experience at the hands of the short-lived coalition.
It dealt a mortal blow to Harper's vaulted reputation as a brilliant tactician.
"Before the fall fiasco he wasn't exactly loved by the public, but he was widely respected by political observers as a competent manager and a shrewd strategist. But after his misadventure with the political subsidy issue, many are saying that his strategic sense has been overrated. This is a dangerous development for if you are not to be loved, you must at least be respected."
What's worse, Flanagan lists the reasons the once-principled leader has "tattered" his credibility by embracing corporate subsidies, violating his own fixed election date law, diving into deficit and breaking election promises on income trust taxation and equalization calculations.
"Taken together, along with other less publicized reversals, they have created a widespread impression that Harper stands for nothing in particular except winning and keeping power. This is a major loss for a political leader who was once seen as a man of conviction."
Well, ouch. But all is not lost, Flanagan sighs. If Harper gets back to his base with moderate Conservative policies, ending the partisan trickery and reaching out to opponents, he could still rewrite the premature obituaries.
Of course, the fundamental flaw in Flanagan's salvage strategy is that his old protege surrounds himself with yes-prime-minister types who tell the boss only what he wants to hear. He's certain to turn a deaf ear to Flanagan, believing that the solution to having friends like these is to find new friends.
But Harper's survival demands a colossal shakeup of his government's senior staff, bringing fearless professionalism and fresh perspectives to a productive minority reign riding out tough economic times. If they can deliver that, getting the government re-elected will take care of itself.
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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