Wednesday, December 14, 2005

On Human Nature and the Bush Administration

David Biette in Washington, the director of The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars is on the CBC speaking with Don Murray.

The focus of their discussion is the peculiarity of having the United States enmeshed in the ongoing federal election. Biette explained that it makes no sense to him. He concedes that softwood lumber is an issue, even a big issue, but wonders repeatedly why the Canadians can't just grow up and deal intelligently with the U.S. on all the issues.

I'll leave aside the obvious point that, as an NDP strategist points out, "Just Win, Baby!"

Regarding dealing with the elephant, I don't really know what's going in the collective mind of the U.S. administration. My feeling however is that they are being petty — perhaps that just because pettiness is their GO TO position on every disagreement. I don't really remember Carter or Ford or Nixon — I remember them but not any meaningful activity as concerns cross-border behaviour. For the most part, Reagan, Bush the Elder and Clinton all dealt well with our governments, both Liberal and Conservative. Bush the Younger however, doesn't get along with anybody except his poodle, Tony Blair. As an aside, I don't ever remember the leader of a government being called a poodle before. Especially the leader of a nation with troops in the field. While the noise that trickles out of Britain these days doesn't look promising for Blair, he has done quite a job in maintaining power given the opinions of some. Of course, his opposition is in total disarray. They have abandoned the Premier League leaving Labour to fence with itself. The situation is much the same here where the Tories abandoned the game, leaving the Liberals unchallenged for over a decade. With such an opposition, almost any leader can look strong. Voters really didn't believe there was a point in voting or even paying much attention.

A CBC reporter who is riding the Liberal campaign bus informs us that the party consultants' question is whether the Ambassador's election statement qualifies as, "Mana from heaven or chocolate-covered mana from heaven."

Anyways, the Ambassador is backing down from his remarks. Personally, I feel that he should have kept his mouth shut in the first place. The points he made should be made behind closed doors. It didn't help that both the NDP and the Tories stated that he should mind his own business. This is an improvement from the last election when Steven Harper was almost slavish to White House opinion. Well, actually to the prospect of an opinion.

To my original point though, more so than most nations, the U.S. talks big. Often they walk big but regardless of that, they always talk big. The biggest thorn in our national relations right now is softwood lumber. This sore has been there for decades and since the Bush government took power, it has become an infected and oozing sore. The tariffs charged on the wood crossing the border are so huge that they block out any light that may be coming from another source. Until the U.S. deals with this, they have little credibility on any other issue.

I don't think that they have any credibility on this issue but worse, I don't hear anybody saying that they do. David Biette's point that we should take care of all our business can't be heard until the softwood issue goes away.

Last point on Bush. In years past, Canadians who spoke on the matter, particularly those of a conservative bent, directed much of their criticism regarding the relations between the two governments at our own Liberal government. Steven Harper, the Leader of the Opposition, beat that horse to death in the previous election. Loudly crowing, "Ready, Aye, Ready!" to any who would hear him, Harper even made a special trip down to the U.S. to bend his knee to any who would notice him. This week, he told the U.S. administration, politely, to go fly a kite.

Yes he bent his words to blame the Liberals but the attitude he used to hold is gone. People are beginning to believe, even to talk and write about it, that national relations will be poor until Bush leaves office. A change in government might improved the situation to one you could call mediocre but I feel that there is now something of a consensus that Bush can't get along with anybody who possesses a shred of self-respect. Again, only the poodle is golden in Washington.

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