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Monday, November 17, 2008

The mouse likes the cat (Harper happy about Obama

Sure he does!
Last week, Canada’s Prime Minister, Steven Harper, made much hullabaloo about how happy he was to see Barack Obama become president-elect of the USA.
Caution: Don’t be fooled again! Mr. Harper is about as happy to see Obama take the presidency as most of us would have been to have Sarah Palin one heartbeat from the Oval Office!
First of all, Stephen Harper is a Conservative, no, a right wing ideologue, who loves the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and is against the whole concept of government funded health care, or anything else. Barack Obama on the other hand, is a moderate Liberal, intent on creating a healthcare system with strong governmental controls. He also wants to renegotiate NAFTA!
Based on those two points alone, Mr. Harper’s assertions, that he is pleased with Obama’s election, is nothing more than polite double speak, the sort we’ve unfortunately come to expect from our leaders.
When we really shine a light on the differences between Harper and Obama, the lie shines through. First, Democrats tend to be more protectionist than their Republican counterparts. As a result, and a rule, Republican administrations tend to be more lenient and cooperative with Canada. Then there is Iraq! Obama wants out of Iraq. Harper argued vehemently in favour of joining the US in Iraq! As large as the issues of healthcare and war are, there are many other differences between how these two leaders see the world. I will not take the time to list them now, it could take weeks.
Perhaps the more important question is not whether Mr. Harper likes Mr. Obama, but what Mr. Obama thinks of Mr. Harper.
Let’s remember, Mr. Harper once called George W. Bush, and his gang of “New World Order” cronies, a “light unto the world.” It wasn’t long ago that former Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat and supporter of Obama, was accusing Mr. Harper of being aided, financially and otherwise, by right wingers and industrialists from the US! Then there is Mr. Harper’s long history of lobbying and support of right wing causes in the US and the world. These are just some of the differences of opinion and belief systems that put Mr. Harper and Mr. Obama in direct conflict with one another. The two, although not direct opposites, are about as similar to one another as dogs are to cats. While they may both have four legs, keen senses of smell, and furry coats, they are not at all alike, and the chances of them getting along, are slim to nonexistent.
And here’s the worst part of it: Mr. Obama is a man who does his homework. He’s going to have a book on Harper, and be well briefed on the Canadian PM’s positions on everything from hot dogs to missile shields. He will understand that Harper is a political adversary, one with a forked tongue and a penchant for low brow politicking. If he is worth his salt at all, then any association he has with Mr. Harper will have, at its core, a foundation of mistrust. The two will have conflicting positions on most issues. For Harper, it will be like dealing with a brighter more communicative, and far more secure in his position, Stephen Dion. For Obama, it will be like dealing with George W. Bush, minus Bush’s colloquial language style.
When it gets down to it, Mr. Obama is not going to like Mr. Harper at all, to the point where his famous ability to reach across the aisle is going to be seriously impaired. Sure Obama will reach out, and do everything he can to work with the Canadian PM, but he’s going be about as comfortable with Harper at the table as Jesus was with Judas at the Last Supper.
The relationship between these two leaders, from the outset, despite the rhetoric, is going be, at best, uncomfortable, and that’s before the issue of the current economic crisis even hits the agenda!
America is in its worst economic crisis since the days of FDR. As a result it will be inwardly protectionist on a level we’ve never witnessed before. Neither men are going to want to see homegrown industry relocating to the other’s domain, and will fight any legislation that has the portent to hurt their own industry. If it comes to a fight, Obama is going to mop up the street with Harper’s pallid pink and abundant flesh.
He is also going to recognize that Mr. Harper’s support here in Canada is at best, soft like his belly. Obama will see Harper for what he really is, a desperate politician fighting for his political life with a minority of support. Tie that in with their political differences, and it will be in Obama’s best interests to frustrate and stymie the Canadian PM at every turn. While they may remain polite in front of the cameras, and across the diplomatic table, in private the relationship is going to be about as amicable the one, nearly 50 years ago, between JFK and Deifenbaker, only worse.
When Mr. Harper said all those nice things about Mr. Obama last week, he was doing what politicians are predisposed to doing, lie through their teeth. He was also doing something else we’ve sadly come to expect from him, trying to hitch a ride on the popularity of the new President’s coat tails. He won’t get far.
In my opinion, Mr. Harper would have been better off to take a hard line. It would have been wiser for him to express his disappointment, and challenge to the new president on his assertion to renegotiate NAFTA, on protectionism, Arctic sovereignty and any number of other issues the two will disagree on. He should have taken an aggressive stand, and made the new President come to him with the olive branch. Instead, he will now be the one who is challenged to back up his rhetoric with action. It is Harper who will now have to come forward bearing the olive branch, which, in very real terms, will be like the mouse going to the cat pleading, “please don’t eat me!”
Truth is, the mouse knows it is trapped, that’s the only reason it is playing nice. The mouse is clever, it knows niceness is its only hope. Trouble is, the new cat is a lot smarter and far more agile than its predecessor.
In the end, Mr. Obama, in true cat fashion, will let the mouse play a while, maybe give it a bat once in a while when it begins to wander out of reach, but when the crunch comes, and it will, that mouse is going to be toast.

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