Thursday, October 09, 2008

Tale of the Tape

Well, it seems clear that this one is going to dominate the blogosphere so, if you haven't seen the Dion clip yet, here it is.

A few random thoughts:

1. I think the clip is actually fairly benign. It was a poorly worded question that Dion wanted clarified (Cherniak actually has a pretty funny line about that). That said, it certainly won't help Dion given that it plays in to the narrative the Tories are trying to write, and the timing definitely isn't great.

2. What's said in an interview, even during a false start, is fair game. If CTV had agreed not to air it then backtracked, then that is a little underhanded but they certainly didn't have to agree to not air it. Either way, blaming CTV or Mike Duffy would be a mistake on the part of the Liberals since, to the best of my knowledge, Mike Duffy isn't running for anything this election.

3. The Tories' decision to pile onto this was

a) not surprising
b) not necessary
c) not helpful

Check out Don Martin's reaction (who thinks about as highly of Dion as Chantal Hebert does). This was going to be news regardless - why they wouldn't let Duffy be the bad guy, I don't know. James Moore played it smartly on Duffy - the oft maligned Tory war room did not.

Oh, and guess who's speaking at a Dion rally tomorrow? If there's anybody who can turn this issue around, it's Jean.


  • I disagree on point 1, and think Dion understood the question (how would you have worded it?). He was answering it, he just flubbed his answer. Then again, I think there are two kinds of people in the world, who will see this differently. I tend to ignore semantics, and get at the gist of what I am asked; others are more obsessive-compulsive about exact wording. I suppose Dion is in the latter camp (perhaps there is a left-right split on that).

    On point 2 I think it does hurt Dion. He has gained a fair bit from the debates, whereas the interview hearkens back to the Dion of the Conservative attack ads. Yeah, hardcore Liberals won't be bothered, but the people that were Conservatives 5 days ago will be.

    However, you are precisely right on point 3. The Star's headline makes the Tories the bad guys and sets Dion up for a chance for the "face ad" speech.

    "I don't speak Hanglish like many Canadian, but dis country is not one dat trive on sounding de same. Canada has many voices..."

    Now, Dion's hearing issue throws yet another wrinkle into the matter as well. I'm a bit sympathetic to him on that too - I likely have an auditory processing problem myself. IF Dion can turn this into an example of Harper's lack of empathy, instead of Dion's lack of leadership, in the face of hard times blah blah blah he could win. But this could also mean a 3-point swing against him that returns the possibility of a majority. In particular it makes it harder for strategic voters to swallow Prime Minister Dion.

    PS: if I was Lawrence Cannon or Micheal Fortier, I would NOT be happy over this situation. How is Lapresse reacting?

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 12:08 a.m.  

  • I can think of a lot better ways to ask this question to someone who learned English as a second language.

    "If you were the PM NOW, what would you have done differently today that the PM has not already done?"

    That's a linguistic nightmare of various subjective tenses for someone listening to it as a second language.

    Why not something a bit more straight-forward like, "What would you have done differently during the past month if you had been PM as this economic crisis was unfolding?"

    You are correct that all will view this from their own perspective, but to me it just reeks of cheap shot by the network. It tells me nothing about what a leader might or might not do as PM. Nothing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:21 a.m.  

  • This was definitely the Conservative Jean Chretien face ad moment. Yes, Canadians, Steven Harper really is compassionate and cares about you!!
    Let's start showing Harper's stumble in the 2006 French debate when he did not understand the questions. Oh, the implications! Can he speak to world leaders, can he function????
    I guess he is not fit to be prime minister on the basis of that shining language moment.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:27 a.m.  

  • I should add, I wasn't smarter than the Tory war room on point 3. As soon as I saw the clip I though "yes, now Harper will win for sure". Upon reflection I tend to differ - at this stage it isn't game set match for anybody, it is a fly ball that either party could catch (INCLUDING THE NDP - if Dion is incompetent and Harper is an asshole, who does that leave...).

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 12:59 a.m.  

  • Okay guys (meaning the first three commentors)'s time to return to the planet earth. Sarah Palin in her worst moment wasn't this rattled. This question, repeated three times, was about as clear as would be required for any pre-schooler. He nodded as the question was being asked. He understood it. But he had no response and tried to buy time by asking for repeated clarifications.

    This was a classic choke.

    There was no hearing issue. There was no ESL issue. This was simply the case of a man who does not actually forsee himself in the PM's office. And if he doesn't, why should voters?

    In your panic at the reality Dion's momentum is unwinding, realize that the upside is that the Liberal Party will eventually become stronger under new leadership. I am a conservative voter. But one day the pendulum will swing back and I hope to god when the Liberals get their turn again it will be with real leadership at the helm.

    By Blogger Dr. Strangelove, at 1:01 a.m.  

  • anon - you know, I think I do remember Harper asking the moderator to repeat the question at least once in the French language debate in 06.

    H2H - I think Dion heard the question alright...he just seemed confused about the mangled verb tenses. But he SHOULD have just gone into his stock answer regardless of what the question was. That's what good politicians are supposed to do in a situation like that.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:02 a.m.  

  • One other thing - would people shut the heck up with their self-righteous mumbo jumbo (or relatively unfounded arguments that this is proof Dion is dumb or can't speak English). It is pretty clear you are excited about this because it might help your guy.

    On the OMG this was so insensitive front, it isn't as if Dion is blameless (as much as people rag the Tories for being negative, the Liberals are quite negative themselves):

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 1:03 a.m.  

  • strangelove - even if Dion doesn't foresee himself becoming PM and even if he wouldn't have done anything differently in the past, he has an answer to that question. He's criticized Harper's record as PM and talked about his 30 day plan about 5,000 times over the past week.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:04 a.m.  

  • I think this was about Dion's self-confidence. An initially bad answer tanked an unusually high level of confidence for Dion, which led to the other two gaffes - it isn't really part of anything larger (though people like to spin it that way for their own partisan purposes - anyhow, Dion's answer was bad largely because his plan is to develop a plan, that's why he shouldn't be PM).

    I have seen a similar tendency with Bush - he was solid in the Texas gubernatorial debates, and beat Gore (who is a great debater) in 2000. However the constant replaying of his stumbles, and his presidential mistakes killed his confidence, and turned him into a bumbling idiot in front of the press (Bush is almost certainly not dumb, he is a bad communicator).

    One of the beauties of Canada's system of government is that godawful communicators can succeed in politics, while in the US they screw everything up. A president needs to remain popular in order to get congress to vote through its agenda - hence Bush has not been in the driver's seat since Katrina.

    In Canada, our backbenchers don't take a piss without the PM's permission, and so even unpopular folks can get things done. I mean Mulroney was at about 12% in the polls, and still passed votes. So we can get smart uncharismatic Prime Ministers like Dion and Harper. Now I think Dion lacks the political instincts to survive long, and keep his usurpers at bay, but that is a separate issue.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 1:31 a.m.  

  • Another random thought (this is one of those few times when you see something and think - this is goinge came "this is live." to change things), should interviewers give candidates second chances in the first place?

    (my favourite instance of that was an interview with Tony Blair's deputy leader John Prescott, when he flubbed his lines and then said "that was crap, can we have a do-over." The response came: "uh, we're live."

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 1:35 a.m.  

  • CG, He tried to interpret the question in a way that would enable him to give his boiler plate 30 day plan. No-one over the age of 13 who isn't shamelessly partisan would have missed this feeble attempt to avoid a direct and plainly worded question that he obviously should have had an answer for. Plus, it took him three tries. To top it off, he completely mangled his final answer.

    Just awful. I feel the pain of every hopeful Liberal. It is time to get a real leader. You have plenty of good people on that side of the spectrum. Please do not make the same mistake again during your next leadership convention. I mean that with the utmost sincereity.

    By Blogger Dr. Strangelove, at 1:50 a.m.  

  • Joseph captures what I think of this exactly. It was a terribly worded question.

    Don Martin seems to have understood it differently: What, wondered CTV’s Steve Murphy in a Thursday interview, would Dion do differently to help the economy if he was prime minister today?

    If you watch the clip, this isn't actually the question, it's instead as Joseph paraphrased it.

    I dropped Mr Martin a note about it. Of course, I'm just some internet schlub, but that is the fun of e-mail, you can try to correct anyone you want! Hopefully no one cares about this, really - the country is more important than a weirdly phrased question.

    By Anonymous Mike G, at 1:58 a.m.  

  • Since when does a competent politician actually address the question which was asked?

    No. I contend that Dion understood it full well. (And any claim to the contrary raises questions about his ability to deal with questions as they arise for Canada on an hourly basis: would you want to say that he really didn't mean to start a war, but that he didn't understand the question posed by a foreign leader?

    Is that really the best defense the Liberal Party can offer - that their leader can't do the job?)

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 2:06 a.m.  

  • Oh my gosh... I'm near speechless.

    I was at a friend's home today, the radio was on and I heard the Tory anti-Dion ads for the first time. I have to say, it just made them look bad - petty and off-topic.

    Just came by to say that, and this is the first I hear of this - I'm watching it now and I can't believe it. He's a bit obsessive-compulsive about the phrasing, but that alone can't explain this - this is George W. Bush-type calibre. By minute 3, I want to slap him. He needs a new Clarity Act or something.

    Mike Duffy: "tired, even the old Duff"??? Ugh, what an asshole.

    Liberal asshole from NS: "Let's not take time to talk about a person's disability" Fuck, have Liberals *NO* shame at all? They're the Republicans of Canada. Fuck off, Geoff Regan.

    Ugh, Moore is lucky to not be defending Dion or he'd probably be as bad as Regan.

    Comartin is boring.

    Geoff Regan is trying out for the role of "Dad" in the latest CBC shitty drama.

    I hope Comartin chokes on a Green Party sign. And I hope Elizabeth May chokes on Stephane Dion's vomit.

    It's tough -- on the one hand, anyone can flub an interview, and Dion obviously trusted them enough to let his guard down and be himself - in that sense, i think they were a bit wrong to release this. On the other hand, it's fairly newsworthy to the average person to see this. Not sure what to say -- probably was not an easy decision for them.

    Am I missing part of the story? Not sure where Harper fits in this story -- it's CTV's doing, no?

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 2:24 a.m.  

  • Wouldn't that be amazing karama if the Tories lost the election because of the juvenille attack-dog mentality of their war room?

    Jason Bo, the Tories fit in because they gleefully jumped on this and played it up as a 'dion can't speak english' issue instead of just leting the clip speak for itself.

    By Anonymous CW, at 2:38 a.m.  

  • "He's criticized Harper's record as PM and talked about his 30 day plan about 5,000 times over the past week"

    That's the problem. He's talked about Harper's record, which was a record of starting Dion's 30 day plan 14 months ago. He still hasn't said what Harper did that was wrong, and smartly so considering the positive reviews that Harper is receiving from around the world for the management of Canada's economy. Chretien can't help having facial paralysis; when it comes to mental paralysis, what's Dion's excuse?

    By Blogger Paul MacPhail, at 3:45 a.m.  

  • Ah, I missed all that - still catching up. Thanks CW.

    By Blogger Bo Green, at 3:46 a.m.  

  • The Tories most certainly did not play it as "Dion can't speak English", they played it as "Dion isn't ready to be PM, and you don't get do-overs in real life". It's the Liberals who are claiming that the Conservatives are attacking Dion's language skills and/or hearing, in order to shift the focus from "Dion botches question" to "Chretien face ad redux".

    (BTW, can someone point to where it's been said before this incident that Dion has hearing problems? I'd never heard anything about that before today...)

    As for the tape itself, pay close attention (I didn't notice it until the second or third viewing) to the beginning. Dion's very first words in response to the question are "If I'd have been Prime Minister 2 1/2 years ago" ...which is exactly what the interviewer was asking. But then he backtracks and starts talking about his 30/50 plan.

    Now, this question was extremely interesting to me, because I've been wondering for at least a week how exactly Dion thinks he would have handled the situation better than Harper. And when the question was finally put to him, he played dumb to avoid having to answer it. Because he knows perfectly well that he wouldn't have done any better.

    Dion's pivot to his standard talking points ("If I'm elected on Tuesday, I'll hold a bunch of meetings and that will solve everything") would have been entirely unremarkable, except that he overplayed it and his repeated can-we-start-over's created an atmosphere of surreal hilarity, which gave the story legs.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 4:08 a.m.  

  • BTW, can someone point to where it's been said before this incident that Dion has hearing problems?

    To answer my own question:

    "I hear everything when it is isolated, but when it is confused with other sounds it is completely confused,"

    I don't see how this would have been a problem in a one-on-one interview.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 4:50 a.m.  

  • This isn't a "gotcha" and Dion answered the wrong question.

    This wasn't Dion saying, "oh that's what you mean, OK here's my answer",

    this was a minutes long piece of torment in which Dion ended up almost arguing with the guy about exactly what day his hypothetical reign would start (today, tomorrow, which exact day???),

    it speaks for itself,

    and only a highly partisan Liberals would view it as anything other than shocking.

    By Anonymous kody, at 5:33 a.m.  

  • And saying he had a "hearing problem"

    This fish is getting bigger and bigger,

    before it was something about a bunch of people speaking at the same time and he had trouble assigning sounds (undiagnosed of course),

    now he's so deaf that he can't hear someone sitting right next to him,

    and repeating questions three times?

    That is pathetic.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:38 a.m.  

  • If this was Harper being unable to understand a French question the French media, from one spectrum to the other, would be dumping all over him.

    The question Harper had to have translated for him in the previous election's French debate had to do with some French colloquialism. Which was set up as a gotcha anyway.

    The fact that a man who doesn't understand English is only a few percentage points in the polls from being Prime Minister is shocking.

    The clip shows thre things:
    1. The man has great difficulty with English. This is fair game and should be fair game. This is not a disability. He's not retarded and he's not deaf. He's just not very good with English and he probably won't get better.

    2. He's a very tired man who tried his stock answer and a little voice in the back of his head said, "merde, c'est ne pas la response to la question. merde, je ne comprend pas anglais. merde, moi, le Prime Ministre. merde." And the little voice got in the way and his mind went blank.

    3. It was extraordinarily un-Prime Ministerial. He looked like a dweeb.

    Saying all that, I think this will hurt the Conservatives. Chretien will come out today and be all hurt about how the Conservatives make fun of cripples. And central Canada will think, "oh, those bastard Conservatives, making fun of retarded deaf cripples. Let's vote for him."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:27 a.m.  

  • I certainly didn't get the impression that Dion didn't understand the question or didn't have an answer.

    There was a lot of annoying back-and-forth while Dion pedantically clarified exactly when his hypothetical ministry would have begun. This clearly would've made for crappy TV, and I see why Dion asked for a restart.

    So far I seem to agree with 'kody' above, but I differ in thinking that that doesn't reveal anything other than that Dion's political communication skills are unpolished. This, and the fact that we'll probably now be talking about this clip till election day, may well be enough to doom him.

    While Harper's intrusion into this was stupid, I'm going to predict today that everyone will wake up, read about this and load up YouTube. The attention will all be on Dion, Harper's response will forgotten, and he will pay no political price.

    By Blogger saphorr, at 7:31 a.m.  

  • I'd gladly pay you Toosday for a Ham-bear-gear tooday - Whimpy (from Popeye)

    all politicos are subject to mockery.

    By Blogger art, at 10:25 a.m.  

  • That is a part of story.

    By Anonymous nick, at 10:32 a.m.  

  • Hate Harper, love Harper..., DOES ANYONE REALLY WANT DION TO BE THE PM!!!!!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:50 a.m.  




    Lamest attack ad ever.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:13 a.m.  

  • I grew up in NS watching Steve Murphy and he's a TERRIBLE interviewer. The question was not incomprehensible, but it wasn't straightforward, and I can certainly sympathize with Dion in this situation.

    By Anonymous jenipeep, at 11:17 a.m.  

  • Well, the bottom line for is that Regan seemed like the real idiot on Duffy.

    And as for Dion, this just further shows that he's a bad politican. He's fumbled this campaign from the start, and he's wrapping it up the same way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:48 a.m.  

  • About the Duffy "reaction" interview:

    1) The ol'Duff is an ass. Period.
    2) Regan's haughty tone was a bit over the top.
    3) Though he was probably just being careful, James Moore showed some class in not jumping on the mock-Dion bandwagon.

    By Blogger saphorr, at 12:28 p.m.  

  • CG, I have to say that after spending most of last night and today on the Maclean's boards watching Potter and O'Malley have an aneurysm in their attempt to defend Dion and slam Mike Duffy, your commentary is remarkably balanced, considering you are a Grit partisan.

    Perhaps you should be the one commenting at Macleans, and Potter and O'Malley should be the ones blogging under the pseudonyms of Liberal partisans.

    By Anonymous john g, at 3:41 p.m.  

  • "...c'est ne pas la response to la question..."

    Justin Trudeau is the little voice in Dion's head?

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 4:07 p.m.  

  • Like it or not, a lot of Canadian voters make their choice based on appearance.

    Dion gives off the appearance of someone who is really lost. And about to cry.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 4:16 p.m.  

  • Here is why I do think Dion flubbed an answer, rather than misunderstanding a question.

    He started answering the question, discussing the Liberal 30-50 plan:

    Then he started incomprehensibly talking about 30-50 (which is about percentage reductions in bad stuff) in terms of days (30 and 50 is 80) - going into his plan for 30 days of action on the economy.

    Dion answered badly, mixing up his own policies, and understandably wanted a do-over. He used his "not comprehending the question" as a cover-up - and because Liberals consider speaking French a mental disability, apparently, they piled on in damage control.

    It really amazes me how so many people now respond to youtube posts based not on their own reactions, but on what the political interest of their preferred party was (I think everybody saw Dion looking bad there, which is precisely why the Liberal blogosphere reacted with such fervour, just as the Tories reacted with glee). We truly are the lamest generation (I mean millenials) ever.

    By Blogger hosertohoosier, at 4:39 p.m.  

  • Audio expert says Cadman tape not altered

    Last Updated: Friday, October 10, 2008 |
    The Canadian Press
    A tape recording at the centre of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's $3.5-million defamation suit against the Liberal party was not altered as the prime minister has claimed, a court-ordered analysis of the tape by Harper's own audio expert has found.

    The key portion of the recorded interview of Harper by a B.C. journalist contains no splices, edits or alterations, a U.S. forensic audio expert has determined.

    The results of the analysis were filed in Ontario Superior Court on Friday by lawyers for the Liberal party, despite attempts by Harper's lawyer to keep the opinion out of the court file until at least next week.

    Harper sued the Liberals in the midst of a raging controversy earlier this year over claims in a book by B.C. author Tom Zytaruk that Conservatives offered late MP Chuck Cadman a $1-million life insurance policy in return for help defeating the minority Liberal government in 2005.

    The prime minister claims Zytaruk doctored the tape of an interview he conducted with Harper after Cadman died, and denies he told Zytaruk he was unaware of the "details" of the insurance policy offer.

    Harper insists he only confirmed the party had offered Cadman "financial considerations" in return for rejoining the Tories and voting against the Liberals in a Commons confidence vote.

    But former FBI agent Bruce Koenig, the sound expert Harper hired to prove his allegations, submitted a report dated Friday to Harper's lawyer, which also had to be sent to the Liberals' lawyer, Chris Paliare, saying the contentious portion of the interview was uninterrupted.

    Koenig said the first part of Zytaruk's interview with Harper, where the two had apparently discussed other aspects of Harper's relationship with Cadman, had been erased and over-recorded with the portion dealing with the insurance policy.

    But that segment had not been altered, Koenig found.

    He reported that it "contains neither physical nor electronic splices, edits or alterations, except for the over-recording start that erased and replaced the end of the first part of the designated interview."

    By Blogger JimTan, at 7:26 p.m.  

  • Jimtan: so if I understand what you're claiming, the tape wasn't altered except for the key sections in which it was seriously altered. Is that about it?

    By Blogger paul.obeda@, at 2:31 a.m.  

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