I decided I’d take the time to re-read Susan Delacourt’s Juggernaut to bring back all the great memories of “vendu” chants, restricted membership forms, and bloodthirsty backbenchers at the Regal Constellation. Given that the book was written by a reporter who, while being fairly balanced, did think highly of Paul, at a time when 200 seat predictions were the norm, I was curious if the book had any hints of what was to come. In addition to that beautiful nugget above, here are some other highlights I noticed:
p.55: At an April 1989 gathering of the old Grindstone group at Montebello, Quebec, where criticism of Meech was the primary topic of conversation, Martin delivered a vague, shaky performance in groups discussions, with no one sure what he was trying to say. Globe & Mail columnist Hugh Windsor described Martin as “dithering” before the microphones.
For fun, I kept a “dither counter” going of times Martin is described as being unsure, undecided or a waffler. The dither counter hit 28. From Meech, to the Clarity Bill, to his decision to quit…no, get fired…well, maybe not quit after all…
p.66: As soon as the results were known, Jean Lapierre announced to the media that he was leaving the Liberal Party. Fifteen years later Paul Martin was left wishing that Lapierre had stayed away.
OK, that second line was made up for fun.
p.78: “We, the Liberals, are not ashamed of our previous leadership and our record.” Chretien told the current and future MPs hamming the huge ballroom in the West Block of Parliament Hill [during the ’93 election]. While the Tories will spend the next election ducking their past, Liberals would present themselves as the proud heirs to the legacy of Pearson, Trudeau, and Turner. Yes, even Turner. Chretien could afford to be magnanimous in his new position as Turner’s successor.
And that strategy didn’t work too shabbily, did it? Of course, after the glorious Turner years, how could Chretien run away from such a successful record?
p.98: On every other issue, Martin came across as smooth, sophisticated, and savvy. When he opened his mouth on Quebec, he seemed accident-prone. He became even more reticent on the subject.
The more things change…
p.98: In candid moments with confidants, the Prime Minister would accuse Martin of being soft on separatists and too eager to grant concessions to the provinces.
If nothing else, Jean Chretien always had good political sense.
p.306-7: Martin placed a great emphasis on words, in the power of language to make a lasting impression. It was why he fretted so much over speeches and why it took him so long to come up with even the simplest responses to reporters’ questions. For his part, Chrétien believed in deeds. His decisions weren’t always explained, but they were carried out, sometimes too hastily.
I think this may have been one of the finest paragraphs of the book. It’s a pretty fair assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the two Prime Ministers.
p.320: Jokes began to circulate that [Martin] was hiding in a cave somewhere, releasing the odd video or audio tape, like Osama Bin Laden.
There's no real relevance to this quote - I just thought I'd include it to make poor old Jeff Norquay feel better.
p.341: Only Sheila Copps remained as a rival, possibly to test Martin’s ability to treat a second place finisher as he had been treated after 1990.
Safe to say Sheila is likely regretting putting Paul to the test on that one…
In all, it's almost surreal to read about this stuff again, given all that's happened since Martin took over.