08 October 2009

A political object lesson

Not-yet-sworn-in city councillor Sheilagh O’Leary got off to a very rocky start to her political career on Wednesday as she called Open Line Show host Randy Simms to give him an on-air lecture for comments he supposedly made yesterday.

Right off the bat, O’Leary displayed some questionable judgment since she effectively embarrassed Simms on the air.  Had he done something, she could have taken the route of calling him off air.  Simms would have then had the chance to offer a mea culpa on his own, thereby saving a huge amount of face.

As it is, O’Leary put Simms in a corner and he responded according.  The exchange was heated with Simms at one point referring to O’Leary’s comments as bullshit.  O’Leary evidently wasn’t prepared for any push-back and as the thing went on her voice got evidently more tight.  In places she came across as condescending and, contrary to her denials, as an advocate for political correctness of the worst possible sort. 

It’s not where she’d want to be at all politically, as many of the comments on the Telegram story would attest.  Outside of a very small and very narrow group in this town, O’Leary’s attack on Simms will seem to many to be off base and poorly handled.  Most of those those who voted for her may wind up wondering what they got for their efforts if this is the way she goes off right at the start.

And they’d be right.

Those of us who heard Simms’ comments initially could not have taken offense at them.  Anyone who has listened to Simms would understand his sense of humour.

But you don’t have to take the word of your humble e-scribbler.  The Telegram was good enough to give the entire exchange:

“There are two men and five women. Oh, my son you have my sympathy (laughter). You and Gary are not going to get your way on anything, you know that don’t you (laughter). It’s just going to be like being at home, buddy (laughter). We’re being nasty to your lady councillors aren’t we (laughter). No, you’re going to have a good crew out there.”

The problem for O’Leary comes from the fact she got her version not from the horse’s mouth but from a local blog.  They didn’t link it but here’s the post from Signal:

“Five women and two men on your town council? My sympathies go out to you, buddy. You’ll never get anything done; it’ll be just like home”

Big difference when you make the edits, isn’t it?

Sheilagh didn’t take the minute to double check the information or to call Randy and give him the chance to back down on his own.

She launched into him live, on the air and without warning.

Bad move.

It’s a political object lesson for the newbie councillor in how to handle issues and political relationships.  This is especially the case, as here, where the thing involves someone who is potentially a very influential and supportive ally in provincial politics. 

You see, the couple of people who gave O’Leary this story may have been heartened by her call but in the long run this sort of thing can damage the chances of achieving their goals.  An experienced politician might have handled it differently. 

An experienced politician would have recognised that it is far more effective and far more desirable to have Randy Simms promoting – for example  - getting more women involved in the elected side of politics.  There may be other issues on gender or access where Simms’ support would carry a lot of way. 

It isn’t a question of compromising principles but rather of sacrificing a first blush and admittedly amateurish impulse in order to achieve a larger goal.

O’Leary  - understandably – made the noob mistake.

The sensible thing for her to do would be to call Randy publicly and sort the thing out quickly.

And the next time think before picking up the phone to a call in show.

Oh yes, and here’s a big one.

Find someone she trusts who has more experience in politics who she can rely on for advice.  She’s at the start of what could be a long and promising political career.  If she settles in, that will be the case.

O’Leary’s voters were looking for a Shannie. If she does more of what her voters heard on Wednesday, they might wonder if they instead got a politician more along the lines of …shall we say… the opposite of Shannie.  And Heaven knows St. John’s had enough of that kind of politics before it got a better paying job.



Nancy Crozier said...

That kind of mistake is not restricted to newbies. Sandra Bussin, a 12-year veteran of Toronto city council, recently called John Tory's radio show anonymously, to defend David Miller's record as mayor and call Tory "a three-time loser".

Of course all she did was make a fool of herself and garner sympathy for Tory (who, in my opinion, is no better a radio host than he is a politician).

babe in boyland said...

i was disappointed with sheilagh on wednesday. she verbally mugged a man who is a long-term advocate for having more women in politics and who has shown nothing but respect for women (if at times his respect is a bit old fashioned). i heard randy's comment, and it did not seem at all disrespectful or demeaning. it was a good humoured acknowledgement, very much within the newfoundland culture construct, that women are determined, will not be swayed from their objectives when they have a task to get done and will not bow to male pressure. The fact that he ended with "you're going to have a good crew out there." says it all - he sees this council of 5 women and 2 men as being effective, chiefly because of the number of women.

OK, it's a bit stereotypical, but it's a GOOD stereotype, featuring STRONG, EFFECTIVE women! we stereotype men also - we get them to take out the garbage and gas up the car because they are "stronger" and "don't mind getting dirty"; we say they are too proud to ask for directions and they're big babies when they're sick and they can't tolerate pain. all stereotypes, both the positive and the negative.

we women have to stop hearing insults where there are none, and stop fighting battles that have already been won - every time you fight a battle, you risk losing, so why fight a battle that's been won?

Edward G. Hollett said...

Yeah, I took it that Randy was telling the boys that they wouldn't be able to get away with nonsense any more.

If anything it was a positive comment toward women and a dig at the men.

Sheilagh evidently got the wrong end of the stick and it would appear she got the wrong end of it handed to her by a combo of the Signal's misrepresentation and whoever took it to her.

As I write this, I am listening to the replay of the exchanges on CBC and Sheilagh. She comes off very badly to my mind and Randy quite rightly didn't give the crap any truck or trade.

Anonymous said...

Is this on youtube yet?

Edward G. Hollett said...

Not that i know but if I get it, I'll put it there ASAp

Kerri said...

I fucked up and got the quote wrong. It's as simple as that.

I didn't hear it myself and heard it from a third party I trusted. I had never done that before, even for a blog, and I definitely learned my lesson.

Anyway, the transcription is up on Signal now, with a little apology.

Anonymous said...

"On Tuesday’s show, during a conversation with Long Harbour Deputy Mayor Ed Bruce Simms said, “There are two men and five women. Oh, my son you have my sympathy (laughter). You and Gary are not going to get your way on anything, you know that don’t you (laughter). It’s just going to be like being at home, buddy (laughter). We’re being nasty to your lady councillors aren’t we (laughter). No, you’re going to have a good crew out there.”

Why was it necessary for Mr. Simms to say anything in a negative fashion at all? He tried to dampen the negativity with his last remark but it was what it was. If this is Mr. Simms' sense of humour toward women, that it is necessary to get the female dig in, it is time he was called on it. I wonder how men would take those kinds of comments about them? It seems women in a public capacity in Newfoundland still have to put up with male ego slurs in this day and age. He, he, he...see she might be good but she is still a woman. Take a good, good look at it. Besides, it's only men with dried raisins who have to put women down.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Kerri you get the giant congrats for owning up to the whole thing and adding that you took it from someone else.

That makes the whole thign even more suspect.

Well done.

By contrast we have the anonymouse at 1620 pushing the very narrow agenda of a very narrow group who are probably thrilled at misrepresenting Simms for some purpose only they know of and understand.

If Sheilagh continues to take direction from them she may well put her political future up on the rocks.

Anonymous said...

It's early days of this council to start jibbering about "political futures", unless of course you've got an agenda to shop round.

Anonymous said...

Simon Lono is behind it.

Simon said...

Yeah. . and I killed Santa Claus too - give your head a shake.

Edward G. Hollett said...

When the anonyturds start with that sort of commentary, Simon, you know you are hitting on something someone is very sensitive about.

And 2007, since O'Leary hasn't even been sworn in yet all she has is a political future.

Unless she pulls an Ellsworth, that is.

Anonymous said...

"give your head a shake" last week you were out kissing their asses to vote for you.
i think Sheilagh has some grounds just on the manner and approach to randy's bull session. the language and the manner i think she questions.. something like being called a newfie...
women agreesively maintain their status every day while most men just expect it.
Randy think twice and say nothing, Sheliagh stand on guard for me!

Edward G. Hollett said...

But who are you anonymous to come forward and make such bold claims and then hide your identity?

Are you male, female, young, old or what?

Do you know what Simms actually said or like Sheilagh are you starting from an editted version of things?

What specifically about what Simms actually said do you find so offensive?

Without an identity, your indignation and righteous is just so much puffery. If you earnestly believe in something stand behind it.

Otherwise, you are just full of crap.

Anonymous said...

Well delete my comment I never attacked you because you were a man! I spoke my honest mind. Does it matter if I am a woman or a man black or white. I pose a supportive comment in favour of Sheilagh and I am attacked! God I’m glad I never left my name. Maybe you would burn a cross on my lawn.
I feel very upset, such a aggressive chauvinistic attack!

Ward Pike said...

Why does anonymous think the only identifiable differentiators in identity can be male or female, black or white?

What a limited view. What about those of (like myself and Labradore's Wally J McLean) who are of aboriginal descent?

Anonymous is accusing you and SImon of being chauvinistic, when in reality she is being discriminatory towards those of us who are clearly not black or white. She doesn't state the issue is black or white, no she uses it in a racial profiling manner. She further enflames the conversation with another horrible example of racism: Cross-lighting. This is not the thin edge of the wedge, this is a very slippery slope.

This kind of implied racism is indicative of someone who is intolerant towards others... and in this case, very intolerant towards males.

You should realize (and I'm sure you do) that this goes WAY the heck beyond any minor political squabbles we (you, me, Simon, Peter, Wally etc) go through periodically. This is the express train to crazyland. And they don't sell return tickets.

Best regards, keep your chin up,


Ward Pike said...

P.S. continuing to make anonymous comments is a sure sign of having something to hide.

Edward G. Hollett said...

No, 2218 and that sort of misrepresentation is exactly what started the attack on Simms in the first place.

I am taking issue with the fact you refuse to identify yourself. it has nothing to do with what you are saying; it has to do with the fact you say all sorts of things but do not identify yourself.

As such no one knows if you are anything other than someone running about trying to make it look like there are plenty of comments attacking Simms.

That's what's make it full of crap; the needless anonymity. if you feel so strongly, there is absolutely no legitimate reason why you could not identify yourself.

Anonymous said...

For starters...I will talk about the second annon...that would be me. I am part native so what would you call me? I am female and like the annon who also wishes to remain annon, I wouldn't want someone burning stakes on my lawn either by revealing who I am. The mentality is one of revenge it seems for disagreeing and not being able to see the merit in an annon comment or even...no merit. Knowing how Newfoundlanders operate, it wouldn't be a far fetch to think that you Mr. Ed would like to put me in a religous bracket as well if you could, a political one. It's like the lady who wanted to know what kind of surname is that?...It's unusal for Newfoundland isn't it, I replied. Paying no notice, she asked, "what religion is that?" She was looking for a place to put me and I wasn't having it. I was amazed that crap is still going on in Newfoundland. If you don't like annon, delete the method.

Anonymous said...

Oh I forgot to mention...even though I am part native...I have very fair skin and red hair.

Edward G. Hollett said...

So aside from the assumptions, and that marvelously inventive story, 1928, why should we believe that you are who you claim you are as opposed to the usual anonymouse that refers to me as Mr. Ed?

I think we have yet another anony-fraud here and that's all there is to it.

Anonymous said...

There have been other people who have called you Mr. Ed. Mr. Ward for one.

Edward G. Hollett said...

And how does anyone know that you are the same anonymous as that or even the one who has written once or twice before on this thread?

Or that Ward is the one? (although he likely isn't).

The notion about cross burning is preposterous. it is purely an excuse.

Anonymous comments - especially in this sort of discussion - are nothing but laughable.

CY said...

i just came upon this blog and i have to tell you that you are disgusting.

it's not suprising to see all the men sit back and pat ol randy on the back for standing up the feminist.

do you have any daughters? do you want them to grow up feeling like if they enter some kind of public arena that they may be criticized simply because they are female?

sexist remarks clothed in humour are still sexism. the comments randy simms made were in no way flattering to women. he painted all women with the same brush, implying that they are all controlling and man hating.

and if you think politics should be about aiming to be polished and refined then i really do feel sorry for you. sheliagh o'leary got emotional, she stood up for what she believed in and showed us all that she is not afraid to fight with a stubborn opponent. and that to me if what politics should be about.

Ward Pike said...

Ed, you've really got to stop letting the trolls and crazy people in. Yes they're funny, but my sides are beginning to hurt from laughing so hard and eyes are beginning to hurt for rolling so far.

BTW, I never post anonymously. Second, I was raised by a die-hard feminist, third, my daughter is just fine. And fourth, I am proud to call Sheila O'Leary a friend for the past 25+ years.

Edward G. Hollett said...

First of all, while you are evidently feeling arrogant and self-righteous, I would suggest you go back and read the post again.

Clearly you did not understand anything I wrote.

Clearly you did not understand what Simms said, nor do you understand that he is not, as you characterised him, "a stubborn opponent."

He quite rightly rejected a direct and unwarranted personal attack on him prompted by either a misunderstanding or someone's deliberate misrepresentation.

Second of all I suggest you take a moment and reflect not on anything other than your own your arrogance, self-righteousness and cowardice.

You arrogantly assume you are right.

You arrogantly assume that you are always right.

You arrogantly assume others are wrong merely because they do not agree with you.

You arrogantly assume that because they disagree with you and a tiny handful on the intepretation of a few remarks that they are oppoents generally.

You self-righteously express that arrogance in these ccomments.

And you express them cowardly, hurling personal abuse at me while chosing to remain am=nonymous.

Before you presume to lecture others on anything, you need to clean up your own act first.

As for my family, you would do well to know that both my son AND my daughter (you seemed only concerned with the one) will enter whatever they do confident in their own ability, irrespective of how others may wish to treat them.

They do not define their self-worth based on how others treat them.

And let me assume you that they go out into the world with consierably more compassion, humility and an ability reach out to others than you have displayed.

As such, I believe they will not only be more successfully personally, but I believe that they will be able to bring people together in a respectful and positive fashion.

Clearly that is lesson you need to learn and, as I suggested perhaps more politely before, it is one that Sheilagh needs to elarn if she acted as you represented her actions.

During her campaign she spoke of empowerment and engagement. What she displayed with Simms was division and alienation.

That's my point. The episode was an object lesson for her and if she and her narrow base on this issue fail to appreciate that, they will continue to toil in isolation, albeit comforted by arrogance and self-righteousness.

She will have a very short political career.

Edward G. Hollett said...


If I let you in I have to let them in too. ;-)

Just kidding of course. They serve a purpose. Sometimes, rarely, they add to a converstaion.

Sometimes as with the one just now, I get the opportunity to make my point again more forecefully than before:

Sheilagh had a chance to act based on the values she espoused in her campaign. Rather than bring people together she has particiapted in an exercise which will only cause division and isolation.

She screwed up. It's that simple. If she learns the lesson, she can do well. if she keeps this up, she wil, have a very tough four years that may well end with the ignominy of an Ellsworth.

Ward Pike said...

I don't understand the fixation with Ellsworth's temporary setback. The man was an exemplary counselor and darned good Deputy Mayor, and would have made a great mayor IMHO.

I think you should leave him be for now, instead of continuing to promote him vis-à-vis his mayoral defeat.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Well aside from being caught in a bald-faced lie and a couple of other gigantic hown goals, of course he was exemplary.

The guy had huge potential when he started and then proceeded through a series of events to implode culminating in the ignomy of getting his ass handed to him by Doc O'Keefe.

He went from being shooting star to a spectacular supernova of failure in four short years.

That's an awesome record.

As for Sheilagh she has started with amazing political support. However, I think this first foray - bedfore she is even sworn in - doesn't bode well.

At least she has time to recover.

Anonymous said...

Ed is a pig. What a shock!

Ward Pike said...

Don't worry Ed, ham is not in season but since it's thanksgiving, turkeys and chickens should be worried! LOL