Monday, June 08, 2009

Well, at least she didn't crack any Wayne Easter jokes...

I can’t. I’d love to, but I can’t. That’ll be a career-limiting move, as we would say."
-Lisa Raitt, on tape

Speaking of career-limiting moves, the Rait tape is now public.

There's a good lesson for all you political staffers out there, in that you should never accidentally audio tape private conversations with your boss. And, if you do accidentally audio tape private conversations with your boss, you shouldn't leave the tape recorder in a House of Commons washroom. And, if you do accidentally audio tape private conversations with your boss and leave the tape recorder in a House of Commons washroom, you should get the tape back before, well, this happens.

Reading the transcripts, the rumours about Raitt's feud with the Minister of Health seem overblown. She calls Aglukkaq a "capable woman", then muses that she might be having some trouble adjusting to cut throat Ottawa politics. I've heard Cabinet Ministers say far far worse things than that about their colleagues, so there really isn't a story here, other than the fact that Leona Aglukkaq is apparently the Minister of Health.

No, the damning audio clip in this is certainly Raitt calling the isotope shortage a "sexy" issue. Again, I'd wager 90% of MPs have said far worse in private at some point in their careers but, on the heels of Gerry Ritz' listeriosis comedy routine, it certainly doesn't make the Harper government seem overly compassionate.

But Ritz survived, and his transgression showed a much larger lack of judgement since it happened on a conference call, on ministerial business, rather than during a casual chat with an aide. So it seems likely that Harper will stand by Raitt on this one.

But regardless of whether or not Raitt keeps her Cabinet post, a rising star in the Conservative Cabinet has been seriously bruised by this week-long fiasco. Which has got to suck for the Tories, given how thin on talent their front benches are looking these days.



  • What I want to know is whether MacDonnell is so utterly incompetent that she has raised the bar to an almost unsurpassable level of incompetence, or she's really a saboteur.

    By Blogger Raphael Alexander, at 11:01 p.m.  

  • The quote from the tape you lead off with in this post is Raitt referring to going to Hy's Steakhouse.

    Guess where Raitt and her aide were when their Blackberries started going off about the CTV binder fiasco?

    Yup, Hy's!

    By Blogger Darren McEwen, at 11:20 p.m.  

  • I too noticed the "capable woman" part... doesn't sound like much bad-mouthing to me. But then, I also noticed the "sexy" part, and you're right about that, too...

    By Anonymous Jason bo green, at 11:23 p.m.  

  • It's hard not to be the National Inquirer when politicians and their aides are like this.

    By Anonymous Saskboy, at 12:35 a.m.  

  • Tomorrow it will no doubt be reported that Ms MacDonell sought the injunction on her own, without encouragement or assistance from the Conservatives.

    I have a lot of sympathy for Ms MacDonell (there but for the grace of God go all of us), but no doubt when she heard that Steve Maher was going to do a story on her losing her recorder, coming shortly after all the stories about her losing the Minister's briefing binder, she no doubt panicked. Not that one can blame her, of course - losing documents and recordings with sensitive or embarrassing information is no doubt a fatal weakness in a DComm.

    If you read Maher's affidavit, you'll see that Ms MacDonell's first tack was to attempt to convince Maher not to report how he obtained the recording. Note she wasn't trying to convince him not to publish; she was trying to convince him to leave her out of it. This is not the approach that would be taken by someone acting at the behest of the PMO.

    As well, by starting legal action, she's made what would have been a forgettable Friday edition story in a regional paper into a national story that caught the attention of every political reporter, columnist and blogger. The Harperite communications people may not be perfect, but they're savvy enough to know (at least by now) that picking a fight with the press is not the best way to kill a story.

    The truly sad part is that now that she's blown this into a bigger story and then lost her case, the Harperites have no reason to show mercy. Watch for them to do their best to destroy her reputation, a process that's already started in the blogs (see above) and that will echo in the mainstream media in the days ahead.

    A cautionary tale, if I ever heard one.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:40 a.m.  

  • But anon, seriously...

    You're asking people to believe a level of carelessness that belongs in a MadTV sketch.

    How does one sympathize with such a person?

    By Blogger Raphael Alexander, at 12:50 a.m.  

  • I sympathize with her because we are all at times careless. I have a tough time believing that you have never lost something that you would rather no one else ever see.

    The difference between us and Ms MacDonell is that our mistakes will (hopefully) never make the papers. She was careless, yes, but no one could have predicted this outcome. Let's not forget that she lost a recorder that she used to record interviews with her Minister, hardly top secret stuff. She had no way of knowing that the recorder has somehow captured 5-1/2 hours of private conversations with her Minister. If she'd known about that before Maher told her what he'd found, I have no doubt she'd have been at his desk in record time to recover her recorder.

    I read your posts, Raphael Alexander, and I see someone completely devoid of compassion and understanding for the painful situation of a fellow human being. I see someone who can only find fault and cast blame. In other words, I see a typical Conservative.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:13 a.m.  

  • I don't mind if you tend to believe her story. That's your prerogative.

    But I think you meant to say "I read your post" [singular]. I am not "devoid of compassion", and that's rather something I don't think is true of anyone.

    By Blogger Raphael Alexander, at 1:17 a.m.  

  • You posted twice, at 11:01 pm and 12:50 am. Both posts [plural] were harsh in their condemnation of Ms MacDonell.

    I do not know what her story is. I have not read her affidavit. I have read Mr Maher's, and from that, I glean that she left her recorder behind in a washroom, assumed anything on it was harmless, and kept putting off the task of getting it back.

    That's perfectly understandable. I doubt many busy Hill staffers would have gone straight to Maher's office to recover a $25 digital recorder.

    To your last point, as you say, what I believe is my prerogative, and I believe you and other Conservatives currently trashing her reputation are behaving like right asses.

    I'd point out that at this stage Ms MacDonell has little left to lose, so if the Conservative reputation death squads get too OTT, I would not blame her if she started revealing where the bodies are really buried at MNR.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:32 a.m.  

  • I look forward to full disclosure in that event. I don't believe her story right now, but unlike David McGuinty, I'm not going to pretend I know all the answers.

    By Blogger Raphael Alexander, at 1:43 a.m.  

  • Who hired this staffer? Is this the best a minister can get for staff?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:05 a.m.  

  • Off with their heads, the whole lot of them.

    By Blogger CS, at 8:12 a.m.  

  • Her phrase about 'rolling the dice on this one' is the most offensive. So many cancer patients will 'roll the dice' in seeking nuclear medicine tests when isotopes are scarce because this government has not worked hard enough since the December 2007 crisis. They had the support of all parties to keep Chalk River open, but surely they were expected to begin to create alternative sources.
    She also talks about the solution being to throw money at it. So, now isotopes rise exorbitantly in price and scarcity; Canadians suffer. A cui bono?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:22 a.m.  

  • So all you guys can feel is compassion for the poor poor staffer? She made $120,000/year practically right out of university, and TWICE left sensitive materials behind - not on a park bench somewhere, but at news stations.

    I feel more sympathy for Raitt. She left a very good job and had a promising future in the party (as a much-needed moderate female leadership contender). Her career is going down the tubes because of an incompetent staffer.

    That said, she is holding her own in the present firestorm. That they have moved from the loss of documents to "the tape!" shows that the first line of attack wasn't going so well. Her supposedly inflammatory comments don't strike me as that problematic - though perhaps a lot of people are naive, and think nobody in Ottawa ever considers the political implications of handling a portfolio well.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 10:23 a.m.  

  • I'm with H2H. No sympathy for this aide at all. We are all human and all make mistakes, but she is plainly not deserving of a $120 000 a year salary.

    And I have a lot of sympathy for Raitt - she's bearing the brunt for her idiot assistant's mess. Apparently she's a capable Minister herself, and it would be too bad to lose one of those.

    And Raphael Alexander without compassion? That's just silly.

    By Anonymous Jason bo green, at 10:32 a.m.  

  • Yes, there's really nothing Raitt herself did wrong. EVERYONE says comments like that in private. I don't think it showed a lack of compasion or competence.

    Her assistant messed up. That's the short of it.

    By Anonymous Deb, at 1:44 p.m.  

  • "Who hired this staffer? Is this the best a minister can get for staff?"

    I'm not sure, but I don't think political staffers generally are subject to the provisions of the Public Service Commission.

    It's more likely that they're hired because of their work for a candidate, or their party work. There isn't really an open competition for these positions.

    Just another way in which the party system in Canada leads to bad decision making.

    By Blogger Party of One, at 3:51 p.m.  

  • I don't see this as a private conversation at all - it took place in a cab / limo where they chatted with the driver. Never heard of cabbie-client privilege before.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:08 p.m.  

  • Guess what?

    I don't care. It's an overblown distraction that does nothing to remedy anything at all.

    Oh, and please let's do get the list of screw-ups by other parties while we're taking score...I mean fair is fair after all.

    I've just about had all I can take of Craig Oliver, he was bad today.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:10 p.m.  

  • I'm gonna agree with the Anon above. This is a story that will have no staying power, not even in the 48 spin cycle. If anything it will remind average Canadians, now disengaged from partisan politics in droves, why they are disengaged. It's like watching really bad reality television.

    By Blogger johnny maudlin, at 5:55 p.m.  

  • The last election, the message sent was kill our privacy until the intrusion makes the job unpalatable. Or do those faggot Conservatives think the left will never fight back using asymptotic warfare to neutralize Asper and CTV brainwashing??

    By Anonymous Phillip Huggan, at 12:00 p.m.  

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