This morning I joined Arlene Bynon on “The Arlene Bynon Show” on Sirius XM’s Canada Talks 167, along with Alise Mills. We discussed the Liberals Cabinet Retreat starting today, what we might expect to see in the Throne Speech next week, how much we should expect for the Liberals to offer in that Throne Speech, the appetite of the people for a bigger agenda, a surprising new poll from Alberta showing the UCP and NDP tied and how Jason Kenney’s leadership has helped to create those results. You can listen to it all below.
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We do live in dangerous times and a lot of that comes back to some of the political rhetoric that we see out there. I say some of it because while some of the rhetoric that some politicians use may be over the top or overtly partisan, it’s not dangerous to the health and safety of the public. Other politicians and their supporters have taken things to a new, dangerous level of insanity, throwing unproved, unhinged and outright lies about entire groups of people, real or imagined. That is what I am speaking about today.
Those words matter not just because they are dangerous; they matter because they are being given credence and legitimacy by politicians who see advantage in using them themselves. That includes American President Donald Trump, who has become the worst purveyors of these lies, all in a completely transparent attempt to save his own political life. He’s made wild and completely false claims about “Antifa”, the “Far Left” and others that he says are “trying to destroy the country”. It’s all been about ratcheting up his base and if it that was where it ended, we could likely just put it aside. There have been other side effects to come with that rhetoric which are extremely dangerous, which are manifesting themselves in the ugliest ways. A prime example of that popped across the Twitter feed yesterday in a place that I least expected it:
Yes folks, this is where the words of someone like Donald Trump can lead when they are trusted above reality and fact. It’s so true that The Oregonian had to spent time reporting about and knocking down some twisted rumours about the boogeymen created by Trump trying to “destroy” Oregon through forest fires. That Twitter thread highlighted by CBC’s Tom Harrington is what drew my attention to this, as you can actually sit pictures of people simply covering this awful nature disaster actually having guns drawn on them by an armed militia who thought there were “antifa liberals”. The fact that these journalists needed to point out they weren’t white tells you how maybe these people jumped to that conclusion, especially given how Mr. Trump has described these boogeymen.
But if that’s where this story ended, with some crazy and disturbing misunderstanding, well it wouldn’t be as bad. Yet still as The Oregonian had to point out, there are actual politicians and right-wing political commentators actually spreading this rumour out there, this twisted idea that’s ugly as can be. Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Oregon Jo Rae Perkins shared a post Thursday from a popular QAnon account on Twitter that insinuates Democrats started the fires for political gain. Paul Romero, whom Perkins defeated in the March primary, wrote a series of Twitter posts pushing the false claim that six anti-fascists had been arrested for arson for the fires. Turning Point USA representative Katie Daviscourt, who has more than 55,000 Twitter followers, posted Wednesday that unnamed law enforcement sources told her fires were “allegedly linked to Antifa and the riots.”
All that misinformation being put out there isn’t just leading to journalists covering the fires to the situation we saw the other day, but it’s also slowing down the ability of authorities to respond to the situation. The local police report that they are getting run under by 911 calls about rumours around this, completely swamping them. Molalla Police Department had to put out a Facebook post to tell people to “stay calm and use common sense” when it came to these rumours. Seriously imagine having to waste one’s time on such crap when trying to deal with a natural disaster.
And that is the kind of thing that happens when you have a whole section of the population who has been primed again and again to believe the words of only one man. And that man has shown time and again that not only is he less than truthful, he does so in an attempt to help himself above anything else. When you get that, this is the kind of thing that happens and wow, is it proving to be dangerous. Instead of believing the facts about this fire and how it was likely started, which is much less crazy and doesn’t involve conspiracy theories that only exist to further support the political ambitions of others. It’s undermining the ability of governments and public safety officials to perform their basic jobs while also creating further tension, paranoia and potentially violence. When that blatant misinformation leads to a) armed militias feeling compelled and supported in patrolling highways during a natural disaster, b) those militias pulling their weapons on journalists and c) authorities being unable to respond to all of this, it’s outright dangerous.
These are bad signs of a government and country in serious decline where things are falling apart. It’s also completely because of the irresponsible rhetoric being spewed by people who are only concerned about their political benefit and to Hell with the rest. If things have gotten so bad that we’re seeing stories like these break out, it’s a bad sign of how far things have slid off the rails. It’s also scary being next door to a country that has so many people who are clearly in the thrall of such insane crap, preferring to believe it over what is real and tangible. It’s a dangerous mix and sadly we have at least two more months of an election where the Republican Presidential candidate will continue to slam his foot on the throttle of this noxious conspiracy crap. It remains to be seen if the American body politic can withstand it but if the news above is any barometer, it’s already struggling mightily to deal with it.
Wednesday I joined Rob Snow on 1310 News’ “The Rob Snow Show” along with Andrew Brander. We talked about questions about the Erin O’Toole’s Leadership of the Conservatives, what we can take from his first week in the position, how he is trying to position them, his attempts to woo union votes and will it succeed. You can listen to the audio by clicking below, starting at the 21:00 minute mark.
The past 24 hours has been stark and shocking watching what just unfolded in the United States. For the all the things we’ve heard and seen from Donald Trump in his time as President of the United States, yesterday managed to be a bombshell. The words, spoken from his own lips, say it all:
There is a lot to take in from what happened there, and you can go online and find the video to hear it all for yourself. This feels like a make or break moment, mostly because this truly feels like the biggest test of a feeling. That feeling is something that we’ve said many times over the past four years; if this doesn’t sink him, nothing will. Think how many times we’ve thought that, only to see him continue to survive and even thrive politically. Think of all the abhorrent and aberrant behaviour and words that he has uttered or done in this time that we rightfully thought would be politically suicidal, only to watch him continue on. But willfully concealing the truth about a pandemic, knowing the truth about COVID-19 in early February but hiding it to save his own political hide, costing nearly 200,000 American lives in the process? Surely this must be the truest test of this “if not now” theory, right? Well we’ll see how the next few days go, but already Trump’s biggest defenders are going after the “real” cause of the problem here:
Yep, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has found the smoking gun, and it’s coming from South Carolina. Yes, it’s all the fault of Senator Lindsay Graham, the man who opposed Trump in 2016 before then pulling a full 180 and becoming Trump’s compromised and uncompromising support. Yes, it’s all been a ruse and he really is out to get the Donald, so Tucker tells us. It couldn’t possibly be that anyone with any passing knowledge of who Bob Woodward is and his history of great work would know better than to put a big talking blowhard with a problem with telling the truth in front of him to be questioned at all, let alone for 18 hours on tape. No, no, no, that couldn’t be it. It’s all Lindsay’s fault. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this turn of events, not just because it’s so predictable but also because it’s worked before. Will it work again? Again we’ll see soon enough.
In the meantime, let’s not forget there is still a global pandemic ragging in the United States, not that you’d know it from how some elected leaders in that country are behaving. Many Republican governors have been following Trump’s denialist lead, propping him up and being blatant apologists for the kinds of crap we heard in those Woodward Tapes. We are seeing governments spending record amounts of money to fight COVID-19, or at least most are. This morning we have gotten the following story out of South Dakota, one that just speaks to the mindset of so many Republican leaders in the US right now:
I don’t have enough face palms to respond to this stupid story. It turns out that South Dakota’s Republican Governor Kristi Noem’s administration is using federal coronavirus relief funds to pay for a $5 million tourism ad campaign aimed at drawing people to the state. But as CBS News points out in their reporting, “the state currently ranks second in the country for new cases per capita over the last two weeks, with 439 new cases per 100,000 people.” Part of the states current COVID problems come from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which went ahead anyway despite the dangers. That event is now being seen as a super spreader event, including a concert by the band Smash Mouth where singer Steve Harwell said during the performance “F*ck that COVID sh*t”. Feel free to insert your own “not the sharpest tool in the shed” jokes here.
But beside that sideshow, this story is the whole American COVID-19 experience in a nutshell. You’ve got a governor who had downplayed the entire pandemic, has followed the Trump line completely and supported his inactions from start. When it came to Trump wanting to do a Fourth of July event at Mount Rushmore, Noem ignored the public health concerns and made it happen. When public health experts raised concerns about having 250,000 motorcycle enthusiasts coming into a city of less than 10,000 from all over the country for a week, Noem ignored them and embraced them with open arms.
All of that has led to the high case counts in the state, which in a sense makes it all the more fitting to see this story above about these COVID funds. Because when you’re facing a global pandemic that’s ravaging your state, it makes sense to spend millions of dollars on ads inviting people to vacation in your pandemic ravaged stated, right? Christ man, it’s not like you couldn’t use that money to actually fight the disease. No, no, no, they decide to use the money to help people spread the disease wider and further than it already has, as if people are clamoring to travel and explore during this pandemic.
Everyone, I’m not sure how else to take this other than us watching the embarrassing failure of this supposed leader of the Free World. Seriously, pity would be a natural thing to feel for these people in this moment but at what point do you move from pity to incredulity? It’s hard to continue to pity people who are so willful in their ignorance of the facts for purely political reasons. You hear the Woodward Tapes and can’t help but wonder how such ugly political instincts are given the cover needed for them to thrive. They you see the actions of the likes of supporters of Trump like Carlson and Noem and you see their enabling power. You can clearly see how things have gotten to this point, with the ugly result of nearly 200,000 Americans dead to date.
So pity is no longer the proper sentiment here because we give pity to those who can’t help their circumstances. Incredulity is the right sentiment, because we give that to those who could easily help their circumstances but refuse to do so. They actively choose to find themselves in this situation. Trump and his enablers have made conscious choices, time and again, that have brought them to this situation, from deciding to ignore and put out misinformation about the disease, right down to this newest example of using the resources to fight it to buy tourism ads instead. It’s through willfully blind acts like that which you end up with what the Americans are facing right now. The only way to stop that is for the electorate to step up, speak up, and punish them thoroughly at the ballot box. And yet amazing, even that is still in doubt. So pity is something that we can no longer feel for our American neighbours because they have lost the plot and in doing so, forces us to watch them with a wary eye, hoping that they somehow get their act together.
The New Brunswick provincial election comes to an end in less than a week on Monday, September 14th Given the nature of this first COVID campaign in Canada, every chance that a leader can get to speak directly to the public is important. Last week such an opportunity came with the first Leaders Debate put on by Rogers TV. Tonight the CBC Leaders Forum gave another chance, likely the best chance for the leaders of all parties to make their last mark.
This forum was only a five-way debate this time between Progressive Conservative Blaine Higgs, Liberal Kevin Vickers, People’s Alliance Kris Austin, Green David Coon and New Democrat Mackenzie Thomason. Unfortunately for all Canadians who took the time to watch, Keep It Simple Solutions party leader Gerald Bourque and his hat were not invited to take part. Being that this was a forum and not a debate as such, it made for a much more collegial 90-minutes without some of the harsh tones and raised voices from the first debate. But how did everyone do? Here is my take on tonight’s winners and losers:
Blaine Higgs, PC (Winner): Tonight’s debate was not one full of fireworks, fire and brimstone or really any heat of the sort. A big part of that was due to the forum format used, which I feel flowed nicer than the first debate. That being said, coming in as the incumbent Premier with a solid lead in the polls, any debate that is quiet and low temperature is one that favoured Higgs. And that’s exactly what we got. Like the first debate, while Higgs didn’t shine or soar above the rest, he didn’t need to. This debate and campaign reminds me a lot of some great advice my Dad taught me when I was a kid if I ever came across a bear; You don’t need to outrun the bear, only the other person with you. Higgs isn’t delivering a world beating campaign or performance, but he’s outrunning the others and that’s all he needs to do.
Kevin Vickers, Liberal (Loser): As I mentioned after the first debate, I personally like Mr. Vickers a lot. I hold him in high esteem for his past work, especially in Ottawa. But the problem that plagued him last time did again tonight. While the format removed the chances of intemperate outbursts like the ones he made in the last debate, Vickers didn’t look much more comfortable. He was compared to last time, but it was a minor improvement that didn’t move the needle in this race. He was at his best when he spoke about his grandchildren, as he lit up and came across much better in those moments. But while better, that wasn’t good enough. Tonight was probably Vickers last, best chance to prove that he should be the next Premier of New Brunswick. He had to stand out and grab this job tonight, and he didn’t do so. We’ll see in the coming days if any polls move in his direction after this, but I suspect they’ll show he didn’t hurt himself tonight, but he didn’t help himself either.
David Coon, Green (Winner): In the last debate David Coon was a much of a target for Liberal Kevin Vickers as Blaine Higgs was, and for good reason. The Greens went into that debate rising in the polls and looking like they were starting to eat the Liberals lunch. Tonight’s different format helped to neutralize any income fire this time, and it honestly helped Coon greatly. He didn’t find himself in odd positions, like he did in the last debate having to explain his abstention on mandatory vaccination legislation earlier this year. That alone would have made his night tonight better, but beyond that he performed better across the board. He didn’t shine, he didn’t flash but that’s not who he is. He was solid and competent, something that any third-party leader needs to show in moments like these. Also more to the point, Coon didn’t harp on the value of having a minority legislature again coming out of this election. Usually when third parties are getting squeezed out, that is the go-to language to not only keep the seats they have but keep them relevant. It was notable to me that while Coon did point to legislative initiatives that he brought forward, he did not come back to this theme. That sends a signal of strength on his part, that his party will not come out of this election with fewer seats and isn’t worried about being squeezed out of the conversation. It’s also notable that it’s a Green Party leader not leaning on that argument or not feeling the need to. This might be the first time we’ve seen a Green leader with the confidence in their position to not need to go there, which tells you a fair bit about where Mr. Coon and his team feels they are.
Kris Austin, People’s Alliance (Loser): Speaking of talking about the virtues of minority government, that brings us to Mr. Austin. While Mr. Coon barely touched that topic all night, Austin did a nervous, ill-tempered tap dance all over the subject. His entire approach tonight and all of his pitch kept coming back to that. Given that tonight was the last, best chance to speak to New Brunswickers across the board, it was clear that Austin saw tonight was very much a “make or break” moment for his party. Adding to that clear tension was the fact that despite this lower-temperature format of the night, Austin himself came across as the angriest candidate relative to the rest of the gentlemen on stage. The desperation of Mr. Austin’s situation was clear and was visible in his expressions all night. So while Mr. Coon’s approach showed confidence in his position, Mr. Austin’s lack of it showed how weak his feels his position is. In my estimation, he missed his chance to leave the voters with a final, strong impression of he and his party. In the end where this race was going, it may not have mattered but tonight surely did nothing to bend the arc of this race in his direction.
Mackenzie Thomason, NDP (Push): If there is one thing that I believe can be generally agreed on in this race, it is that Mr. Thomason has done a beyond admirable job in this race. He came into this race in a very unenviable position, with no seats and even less hope. Yet he followed up a solid first debate with another solid performance tonight. Again Thomason showed strong grasp of his policies and communicated them well, better than some others on the stage. Given the state of his party, it allowed him to say some things that none of the others on that stage would say, which really stood out in a debate where very little new was said. But with all that positive being said, Thomason also had to lean on the “we need third-party MLAs” argument that Mr. Austin did. The difference was that Thomason had to do it from a position of greater weakness. It is what it is, but I couldn’t help but notice it. Coming out of tonight, Thomason was able to prove that the first debate was not a fluke and presented a professional face to New Brunswickers. It’s not likely going to be enough to turn any seats orange next week, but I do believe that Mackenzie Thomason does have a political future ahead of him. It’s not lost on me that the only party to enter this campaign without a permanent leader and without prospects of a strong name to take on the job may have found their leader in the heat of this moment. The NDP won’t win this election, but it feels that a party that had hit rock bottom over a year ago is starting to rebuild strongly. They likely won’t win any seats this time around, but they will come out of this election in a stronger position than they went into it with. That’s a victory of its own kind and heck, everyone has to start somewhere.