21 August 2012

Kremlinology 41: All politics is personal #nlpoli

On Friday, the Conservatives sent Mount Pearl North MHA Steve Kent out as the designated hitter in a deliberate, orchestrated personal attack on the five lawyers who oppose Muskrat Falls.

He turned up on CBC’s On Point and repeated much of the same innuendo on Twitter.

Kent got a lot of negative feedback on Twitter and likely elsewhere about his comments.  On Monday, Kent and his colleagues had dropped the personal crap.

What’s most curious about Kent’s mission was not that it was planned or personal.  That’s an old Tory game. Danny Williams was notorious for going petty, mean and personal. The Conservatives did the same thing earlier this year. Commenting on a newspaper ad signed by a bunch of lawyers, natural minister Jerome Kennedy said that essentially all the critics of Muskrat Falls are “politically motivated”.

Nor is it curious that some of Kent’s comments were preposterous. When Ross Wiseman and Danny Williams were under intense scrutiny for their contradictory comments about a report on hospital repairs, Williams accused New Democrat leader Lorraine Michael of being a hypocrite because she had been appealing to the House of Assembly management committee for a raise. The two things had nothing to do with one another, of course, but that didn’t stop Williams from trying a distracting personal smear, no matter how silly it looked.

What’s most curious is that a few months ago Kent himself was the victim of an unwarranted personal attack on Twitter.  Given that recent background, his evident enthusiasm for mounting essentially the same kind of political attack was astounding. 

And what wasn’t astounding was just riotously funny.  Kent, an erstwhile Conservative leadership candidate in 2010,  poked fun at Brad Cabana, who was also a Tory leader hopeful in 2010.  One of Kent’s suggestions was that one of the lawyers may have a personal, financial motivation for opposing Muskrat Falls.  Danny Williams is suing Cabana for defamation over comments Cabana made about Williams’ business interests and support for Muskrat Falls.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Whatever Kent and his associates thought they’d accomplish, it seems their plan backfired.  CBC’s David Cochrane  scolded those who took part in the affair. He gave them frank advice and an honest and accurate assessment: 

The level and tone of the personal attacks on these critics is undermining merit argument for Muskrat Falls. PCs polluting debate with smear. … Honestly, can't people discuss the pros and cons of a multi-billion dollar hydro project without sinking to a junior high level?

I don't think anyone's personal attacks are okay. I thought Cashin was over the line. But was in TO and didn't see it all. … I think this whole debate has escalated to a point where nobody can win. MF will/won't go. But lots of wreckage all around.

by all means challenge remarks. But audience isn't just the critics. Its undecided NLers watching … and the nasty and mean (from both sides) isn't convincing anyone but partisans.

And as fast as the attack started it was over.

All politics is personal, but as Cochrane reminded the Conservatives, politics that includes personal attacks doesn’t work.