A meditation on the parlous state of the prime ministerial belfry: is he batty, or what?

Posted on July 27, 2014, 12:41 am
8 mins

Psychological-political portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper by Edmonton artist William Prettie. (Used with permission.) Below: The young Vladimir Putin; the young Stephen Harper.

When I ponder our prime minister’s mental state nowadays, my mind spontaneously offers up a rude phrase about the things bats leave behind in belfries.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has got a national election looming; he’s none too popular in certain essential parts of the country and not quite popular enough just now in others; Disgraced Canadian Senator Mike Duffy is facing a criminal trial and apparently wants the PM on the witness stand; it’s attracting public notice that his government uses tax policy as an ideological bludgeon; and the economy is easing toward the crapper everywhere except out here in Alberta, where our disproportionate economic success depends on laying waste to the environment.

So it should be easy for everyone to understand why he might call up the Globe and Mail and ask for space for a little heart-to-heart with the nation.

And what does he want to talk about? Vladimir Putin?

I’m not making this up, people! Click here and read it for yourself. The world’s problems? They’re all caused by Mr. Putin! Who knew?

I don’t know about you, but I always took a certain comfort in the notion Mr. Harper was a cynical master of manipulation, a politician for whom no wedge was too harmful or divisive to be shunned. This is bad, of course, and both immoral and dangerous, but it contains the comforting kernel of thought that no one as bright as Mr. Harper is could actually fail to see the glaring contradictions in the stuff he says. This always offered the faint hope he didn’t actually believe everything he was saying, and therefore might be philosophical if voters indicated they disagreed.

Naturally one hoped his petulant and furious reaction to the complicated situation unfolding in Ukraine reflected only the availability of another potential wedge issue here in Canada. That is, a chance to capture the Ukrainian-Canadian vote. Perhaps, one hoped, it didn’t reveal his actual thoughts on the unstable and dangerous crisis in which there are plenty of nasty players and victims on all sides.

However, after reading Mr. Harper’s little magnum opus about how Mr. Putin is all bad, and the current Ukrainian government – neo-Nazi enforcers, foreign fascist mercenaries, the illegal coup that brought it to power and everything else – is nothing but good, I’m not so sure.

His diatribe doesn’t seem to bear a precise relationship to the facts on the ground in the borderlands of Russia, let us say, but it did sound like something the man actually believes, and may well have written himself!

The most astonishing part, though, is what Sherlock Holmes might have called the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. That is, the glaring omission in Mr. Harper’s 866-word diatribe of any mention of what’s happening in the other great conflict playing out on our planet at this moment. To wit: Israel’s assault on Gaza.

About the first, he has everything to say. About the second, nothing. That is the curious incident – and a remarkable inconsistency given the seeming similarities of the two tragedies, and the fact many innocents are suffering and dying because of both.

According to Mr. Harper’s fulminations, by looking out for its undeniable national interest and making noises about protecting the large Russian community in Eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin’s government is aggressively and recklessly “threatening the peace and security of eastern and central Europe.” He must be punished, he must be punished now, and Canada is resolved to punish him!

Surely, Israel too views its massive air and artillery bombardment of Gaza in response to missiles fired from that tiny enclave as being in its undeniable national interest and protecting its people everywhere, and not necessarily just passport holders. Moreover, all political parties in the Canadian government apparently agree that, as Mr. Harper’s PMO put it a week ago, “Canada remains steadfastly in support of Israel’s right to defend itself as long as the terrorist attacks by Hamas continue.”

The ferocity of Israel’s response, however, apparently leaves Mr. Harper utterly unmoved.

Mr. Harper’s sermon on Ukraine showed him to be particularly furious that the Russian government, “remains in violation of international law for its illegal occupation of Crimea.”

Again, it’s hard here not to see the parallel to the situation in the Middle East. Whatever you may think of international law and the United Nations – apparently not much, if you’re Mr. Harper’s foreign affairs minister – it is undeniable that Israel has for many years defied both. By contrast, this in no way troubles the current Canadian government.

So why is an illegal occupation of Russian speaking Crimea by Eastern Europe’s greatest military power an outrage, while an illegal and much more violent occupation by the Middle East’s predominant military power so perfectly reasonable in the eyes of the PM that it doesn’t even require his or our notice?

Look, I understand that there are persuasive arguments to be made that the situations are quite different. What’s bizarre is that in the face of such a seeming inconsistency the PM feels no need to make them – or, indeed, that he chose this topic at all for his little fireside chat with the Globe’s reliably Conservative readership.

Mr. Harper is focused on one thing, and one thing only: “Mr. Putin’s Russia increasingly autocratic at home and dangerously aggressive abroad.” Rather like Mr. Harper’s Canada, one is tempted to note, in that regard.

OK, when you’re assailed politically on the home front, it makes a sort of irresponsible sense to try to unite the country around a foreign enemy. But who believes now that Mr. Harper hasn’t started to believe everything he says?

Truly, one has to wonder if the cognitive dissonance of it all is going to make the man spontaneously combust! Or, if there’s no danger of that, then if there really is something other than bells in that belfry of his.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

12 Comments to: A meditation on the parlous state of the prime ministerial belfry: is he batty, or what?

  1. Todd Reashore

    July 27th, 2014

    I suspect Dave, that Harper’s approach on both domestic & foreign affairs, is predicated on his evangelical fear mongering, and denial of anything in the scientific realm that does not fully support his moralizing preparations to prepare Canada , for the coming rapture. And is course Israel figures right into that hallucination. So does, the denial that Israel has systematically stolen the land of Palestine , for 70+ years.

    • Filostrato

      July 27th, 2014

      Reminds me of some of those “Rapture” bumper stickers that popped up in the U.S.

      “After the Rapture, all the fun people will be left behind.”

      “After the Rapture, can I have your car?”

  2. Stephanie

    July 27th, 2014

    I’d like to know why neither the PM, Trudeau or Mulcair seem to be willing to articulate Canada’s ACTUAL POLICIES when it comes to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Well, I know why harper won’t do it, being an evangelical and undoubtedly a believer in The Rapture and all, but what about those other two? Why are they so scared to remind Canadians of our long standing policy on the Occupied Territories?

    Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
    “Canada recognizes the Palestinian right to self-determination and supports the creation of a sovereign, independent, viable, democratic and territorially contiguous Palestinian state, as part of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace settlement……

    ……As referred to in UN Security Council Resolutions 446 and 465, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The settlements also constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.

    Canada believes that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law which is key to ensuring the protection of civilians, and can contribute to the creation of a climate conducive to achieving a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement.”


    We need leadership on this issue in Canada now, not talking points and political spin.

  3. July 27th, 2014

    .. Stephen Harper’s incredible failures begin at home.. Why Canadians should accept he and Baird et al spouting his personal view as our foreign policy or collective view is shocking. The bizarre entrenchment of evangelical lobbyists within Parliament via Harper Party MP’s is well beyond alarming.. its about Canada’s government subverted not just for corporatism, but for religion, mythology and shrill partisan entitlement. Its a dog’s breakfast of schemes, agendas and twisted gaming.. for a multitude of cabals under the Harper flag.. and some seem related to the Rapture myth. The Harper Fraud is rotting at the seams.. some, who like cockroaches may survive the next election will be seen in a scary new light while seated as heckling Opposition members.

  4. Filostrato

    July 27th, 2014

    Both Bruce Carson recently and Garth Turner a few years ago have mentioned Harper’s tendency to either to dissolve into inchoate rage peppered with obscenities – but not in public – when he doesn’t like what’s going on or to disappear for days, completely incommunicado, at the first sniff of a crisis. I don’t find either strategy very comforting.

    The prime minister of Ukraine, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, resigned, or will as soon as he is able, when the coalition fell apart last week. Videos of physical skirmishes in the Ukraine parliament in recent days show a country in a mess. The Tatars, who have been harassed, persecuted, imprisoned and numerous other things over the years as political sentiments changed around them, started to move into Ukraine after the Crimean vote to join Russia. Now they’re moving back because Ukraine is a mess. Crimea was “given” to Ukraine by the certifiably nuts Khrushchev because his wife was Ukrainian. “Here, guys, have a whole region. You’re welcome! They’re sure to love you as much as I do.”

    Meanwhile, NATO is putting it’s coalition soldiers as near as possible to Russian borders and wonders why Putin is getting a little upset. (Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard the stories about military exercises.)

    And not a word about the slaughter destruction in Gaza from Glorious Leader except that it’s all their own fault. Uh….no.

    • Filostrato

      July 27th, 2014

      Make that “Meanwhile, NATO is putting its coalition soldiers…”.

  5. A P

    July 27th, 2014

    In an otherwise fine article, the mistake that Crimea was “illegally occupied” by Russia is incorrect.

    Crimea was considered part of the USSR/Russia from the 1700’s until 1954, when it was transferred to the UkraineSSR. In 1991 it became the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as part of the Ukraine federation.

    The citizens of Crimea constitutionally voted 96.77% in favour of leaving Ukraine. The Crimean gov’t voted constitutionally to join Russia.

    The only “debate” on this is in the minds of the illegitimate Kiev gov’t and its US handlers.

    That said, Harper should be impeached immediately for his treasonous activities internationally and domestically.

  6. adanac

    July 27th, 2014

    So strange? Harper rips into Russia annexing the Crimea. However, Harper says nothing what-so-ever of Communist China doing the exact same damned thing. Harper is a champion of all the hypocrites, on the entire planet.

    China is menacing other countries around the globe. China has sunk other countries boats and uses water cannons on them. There is menace towards the Philippines and Vietnam. China is really crowding the South China Sea, taking everything they can get their hands on.

    Japan has had to escort China out of their territories more than once. Japan had to scramble their fighter jets, China had invaded Japans airspace. China keeps provoking and causing trouble.

    China’s behavior in Africa is despicable. Read of. Mugabe, the Communist China Army and China’s blood diamonds. China does not honor other countries mining claims in Africa. China just takes them. China pays some African miners, $100 per month, meanwhile China takes billions out of Africa.

    China even mowed down, their own peaceful Chinese students protest, with machine gun fire. China’s wretched human rights? Harper ignores.

    • clyde

      July 27th, 2014

      That drivel about the Chinese mowing down students is nothing but infantile propaganda. It is in fact, very similar to the story in Ukrain, where the neo-Nazis set Ukrainian riot police on fire. The Chinese protesters burned Chinese soldiers alive in their APCs with molotov cocktails, and no machine-gun massacre of any kind took place.

  7. Bruce A

    July 27th, 2014

    “But who believes now that Mr. Harper hasn’t started to believe everything he says”?

    I think Mr. Harper has believed all sorts of nonsense for quite some time, mostly having to do with his own ‘genius’. It is funny to hear Harper and Foghorn Baird natter on about their ‘principles’ and then have the increasingly lame mainstream Canadian pundits praise them for for their ‘leadership’! Which only goes to show that terms such as this should be used loosely. We don’t have leaders but managers and pundits are ‘colour-commentators’ and play-by-play announcers . It’s all become ‘sport’ and we’re the spectators at the Roman Coliseum.

  8. Athabascan

    July 28th, 2014

    I have no doubt that many people believe Harper is an evangelical Christian. He might even have said it himself. But what if he he isn’t and only claims to be in order to appeal to his so-called base?

    How many votes would he lose if he was, or claimed to be, an atheist? Certainly, I could imagine him engaging in a cost-benefit analysis of doing so. What if his base, or indeed the majority of Canadians were in fact atheists, would he still claim to be an evangelical Christian? Personally, I rather doubt it.

  9. Ginger Goodwin

    July 28th, 2014

    Harper and the Conservatives have thrived on wedge issues for years. They know their base and unless the NDP and Liberals merge, then Haper is gambling on the split of the ROE (Rest Of the Electorate) between at least these two political parties. According to Salutin’s latest Toronto Star column the Jewish community in Canada is not reevaluating their political position on Israel, as the US Jewish community is. Hence Harper is silent on Israel and intent on dividing up the Eastern European community vote. In the US voting studies have proven that negative electoral campaigns tend to bring out the base party support and the swing voters tend to stay away – repulsed by the nastiness. Low voter turnout tends to favour Republicans right now. In Canada this kind of campaigning will be the Harper’s legacy. Longer term, given that there is little difference currently between the parties Liberal and NDP, core voters are more likely to swing to Liberals from NDP. Harper is hoping that his strategy of focusing on Trudeau will create a wider divide between Libs and NDP. Tempting as it is to vote none of the above, the real irony, is that Canadians will have a choice of leader that are or were Liberals: Harper and Mulcair are former Liberals.


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