Thursday, July 07, 2005

Longing For A Bastard

I just finished Will Ferguson's "Bastards and Boneheads" and, I must say, it's certainly a fun way to read up on Canadian history. The catch behind the book is that Canadian leaders can be classified into two categories: white people from Quebec or white people from Ontario. Just kidding. No, obviously enough, the two categories are "bastard" and "bonehead". Ferguson describes the groupings as such:

"Bastards succeed. They are ruthless. They are active. Their cause may be noble or it may be amoral, but the Bastard is always the active principle. Boneheads fail, often by stumbling over their own feet. They are reactive. Inept. Indignant. They are usually truly amazed by their failures."

The book was written in 1999 so it doesn't touch on the current players in Ottawa, instead looking at past PMs (so, in case you haven't deduced it, Trudeau was a bastard and Clark was a bonehead). But after reading that descriptive blurb, it's hard not to think that Ferguson had Monsieurs Harper and Martin in mind while describing boneheaded PMs. Reactive? Indignant? Amazed by their failures? Check, check, check.

It's a pity too since both had such great bastard potential. Paul Martin was ruthless as a Finance Minister and ruthless in his coup d'etat. Harper took no prisoners in his Progressive Conservative takeover. Yet, in the past year, it's been a case of trying to screw up less than the other guy. It reminds me of when Anaheim played Minnesota in the Western Conference finals a few years ago.

Bastards succeed. Jean Chretien and Ralph Klein are clearly bastards. George Bush is a bastard. John Kerry was a bonehead. What Canada needs right now is a bastard.


  • I've read that book too. Good humourous read. For another funny take on Canadian Prime Ministerial history, try Egotists and Autocrats by George Bowering.

    For my part, I think the jury is still out on Martin. He's made himself look embarrassingly amateurish many times before - early days with Power Corp. and CSL, his first budget at Finance - only to eventually get his legs under him and emerge as the real deal. Check out Lawrence Martin today in the Globe on this very point. My support for Martin wavers and comes back almost weekly. I need a vacation from Parliament to refresh, and I suspect (hope?!) that Martin and his team will make the most of the summer break and emerge fresh and focused in the fall.

    By Blogger Cerberus, at 6:43 PM  

  • I havn't read B and B, but I have read Egotists and Autocrats. I was reading it at the same time I was taking an intro to Canadian History course at University. I swear it was better than the text book for both entertainment value and price. I picked it up at Coles on the cheap table for a few dollars.

    By Blogger Manatee, at 7:21 PM  

  • My boss is a bastard. He's yours if you want him? I can deliver him in the trunk of a car if you wish.

    By Anonymous Derek Raymaker, at 8:39 PM  

  • Gimme a break. Lawrence Martin is desperately trying to suck up to Paul Martin in order to get a few exclusive interviews for a new book.

    Paul Martin is tougher than some hacks give him credit for.

    However, this does not mean his socialist policies deserve support. Paul Martin has moved the government dramatically to the left. That is the reason he does not deserve to be re-elected.

    It's the agenda and policies that are wrong - not the PM's personality nor his ability to push an agenda.

    By Anonymous Two Cents, at 11:15 PM  

  • kudos on the apt hockey analogy.

    By Blogger matt, at 11:55 PM  

  • I love Egotists and Autocrats. It's an easy and entertaining read.

    If you were ever the least bit curious about Mackenzie Bowell or John Abbott, that's the book for you. I loved Bowering's intro for the Mulroney chapter where he says something like "I asked my publisher if I could skip the chapter on Mulroney and instead write 'the less said about this, the better'?"

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:11 AM  

  • Bastards and Boneheads is a fantastic read, although in light of his slow redemption, do you think Ferguson was correct to classify Mulroney as the worst Prime Minister?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:15 PM  

  • good description on the ontario/quebec honky factor, but you forgot category 3: totally useless douchebags from british columbia who last a few months as a punching bag pm

    By Blogger angela, at 1:42 PM  

  • No no no no no. Ferguson is quite clear, Angela, they are boneheads. He's also clear that it is possible to be a bonehead and a bastard - see his remarks on Mulroney and King.

    So in Martin's case, CG, the formulation is simple:

    Paul Martin as finance minister and a ruthless pursuer of the leadership up until the point he became PM: Bastard.

    Paul Martin as PM: Bonehead.

    You could also draw the distiction between Paul-Martin-the-candidate and Paul-Martin-the-office-holder, I suspect.

    And Mr. Mulroney, stop writing in to CalgaryGrit about your "slow redemption". You'll stop being the worst PM when and if we get a worse PM, and not before.

    By Anonymous Wrye, at 4:44 PM  

  • Worse than Mulroney? As a Tory, I'll say that even if you think Mulroney did a bad job (I personally think such a position takes an overly critical view), he certainly wasn't the worst. What about Bowell, Tupper, or Bennett? They were simply useless; Mulroney, like anyone, had faults, but at least he accomplished some things we can call "positive." Something to atone for the faults. In the cases of the above, they were basically dithering buffoons. (Unlike Herbert Hoover, with whom he is incessantly compared, I do believe that Bennett did deserve a bum wrap.)

    By Blogger Jarrett, at 2:11 AM  

  • Jarrett; I keep flip-floping on Mulroney (since I do think Free Trade and the GST were good). But you could definitely make a case that he's the worst - I mean, guys like Abbott and Bowell were harmless enough because they didn't last long. Mulroney had 8 years to do damage.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 6:23 PM  

  • I agree with CG about the GST (it is so easy for people to forget, if they ever even knew, the mess of a hidden, uneven, unfair goods tax system we had before that), as well as free trade (although on free trade I see the other viewpoint a little more). These were not reasons people hated him so much: after all, he was elected with a majority with those in his platform.

    There was his arrogance and the corruption (which was worse than anything Gomery has uncovered). But we forget the top reason why all 85% of us (his popularity when he left) hated him when he left: the handling of constitutional negotiations. He really went out of his way to split the country in two and ended up splitting it in three with the creation of both the Reform and the Bloc.

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