30 September 2008

Separated at birth: the international Connie speechifying version

Stephen Harper's 2003 speech on Iraq was lifted from a speech by Australian Prime Minister John Howard delivered two days before Harper's oration.

In classic Connie fashion, the gaffe has been blamed on a staffer.  In classic Harper fashion -  and in the interests of direct personal accountability - Harper stuck his spokesperson out front to toss a few  lines at the media.

The guy who wrote the speech is a fellow at the Fraser Institute and used to write speeches for Bill Vander Zalm and Kim Campbell.  Vander Zalm was premier of British Columbia.  Campbell was the short-lived prime minister who succeeded Brian Mulroney until the spectacular political disaster in the 1993 general election when her party was reduced to two seats.

Thank God Harper wasn't the Prime Minister at the time.

The video is distressing enough.  Compare the ;texts of the two speeches to see that this wasn't something one can attribute to an overworked staffer.

The story is now international.

At the Globe and Mail, the apologia factory is chugging along. Ditto  the Conservatives' alternate war room, doing business as the National Post.

People have been known to borrow quotes from famous speeches.  It's a well-known device.  Lifting whole sections of text is just stupid and lazy.

Then there's taking a well known phrase and making it into your own. Danny Williams and his speechwriter love John Kennedy.  They used to regularly include a Kennedy quote, sometimes with curious results, as in the 2006 throne speech.

Williams' best effort was his acceptance speech in 2001, when he took the Provincial Conservative leadership. He took a classic piece of oratory on the virtues of public service and turned it into a whiny revanchist anthem:
John F. Kennedy said: "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."   
I say to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians: "Ask not what we can do for our country, because we have done enough. Let's ask our country what they can do for us."