Today in the Toronto Sun, Greg Weston echoed the sentiments of Don Martin of the Nation Post, who suggested that Stephen Harper needs a make-over. (Martin's column was subscriber only, so I won't bother to link.) The only difference seems to be that Martin believes there is a chance it could work, and Weston doesn't.
Both columnists in so-called 'conservative' media, they follow in the same vein as Adam Radwanski, who has written negatively of the Conservative Leader on many occasions: Has Harper's Time Come? (May 20th) and Sucking them in, Blowing them off (May18) Stephen Harper's Tipping Point (March 18)
These men are amongst a host of media pundits who insist they are reflecting the views of the public when they write their scathing commentaries on Harper. I disagree. They are creating public opinion.
When Harper assumed the leadership of the Conservative Party early in 2004, the media was quick to point out how little we knew of the man. He was described as a 'policy wonk' who was not given to chit-chat with the journalistic elite of Ottawa. Now, because Harper doesn't bow to those who shape popular opinion, they continually offer public rebuke of his perceived 'failings'. Rather than taking the view that Harper's anger is well placed, and that he is reacting with justification to ongoing abuses by the Liberals of the public trust --- these sensitive columnists are betraying their frustration with Harper not playing their game, their way.
Harper doesn't schmooze and suck up to them, so they have taken personal offense, and allowed it to colour their commentary. Of course columnists are supposed to express opinion, but nothing of what they've said substantially reflects Harper's leadership abilities. They are talking about Harper's need to change public perception, while beating the anti-Harper drum. Their writing drips with contempt as it reinforces the negative view of him that they have been pushing all along.
Don Martin says:
To put it bluntly, Stephen Harper is screwed.
What analysis. What insight. What would we do without Martin's enlightening observations? Indeed, Martin has taken on one of the characteristics of the liberal press. He speaks in our vernacular. He talks the lingo of the common man.
If the public thinks Harper's scary, and it does . . .
Says who? Says Don Martin. Says John Ivison. Says Adam Radwanski. Says Gred Weston. Says the Globe & Mail. Says the Toronto Star. Parrots Joe Canadian.
Do they really think the average Canadian is so weak-kneed and lilly livered that they are quivering over anything Harper has said? And those who recite the mantra on cue haven't thought this up themselves -- the lack of varied public response is indicative of a concerted campaign to malign Harper. When you keep asking people "Do you think Stephen Harper is scary?" eventually they are going to believe that he must be, or they wouldn't have been asked.
Don Martin opines:
Harper appears to have confused signs of firm leadership with flashes of sneering anger. The public hates angry white males, and he's become Parliament's Exhibit A.
Ottawa's reporters are, in Harper's mind, a Liberal cheerleading squad. Yes, those elements exist. But it's not monolithic . . .
Martin censures Harper throughout the column, then suggests the 'Liberal cheerleading' amongst commentators is not uniform. While he is soundly thrashing Harper, the Liberal cheerleaders are nodding from the sidelines -- Don Martin may not be cheering for the Liberals, but while he persists in creating animosity for, and perpetuating myths about the Conservative leader, he is certainly giving the Libs comfort and supplying them with ammunition.
Greg Weston gives us more of the same:
On the evening of Paul Martin's televised grovel to the nation last month, Stephen Harper stepped up to the microphone, scowled into the camera, and proceeded to scare the living hell out of voters from sea to sea.
Media judgment of the Conservative leader's performance was swift and brutal, depicting Harper more as a candidate for anger management than a prospect for prime minister.
Weston says it right there -- 'media judgement . . . was swift and brutal'. Not public opinion, but media opinion--- passed on to the public as 'news'.
John Ivison of the Post said of Harper the day following the big speeches that Harper: "just reinforced the view of many voters that he's not a man they'd want in their living room in the flesh."
The Globe & Mail editoral after the speeches said: "Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, by contrast, was shrill and excessive. His thirst to harness the anger over sponsorship to bring down Mr. Martin is understandable. . . but to call Mr. Martin's speech a "sad spectacle" performed by a man "begging" for another chance was a bit much."
Those assessments became popular opinion, they did not reflect it.
Greg Weston closes today with:
But most of the wisdom coming at Harper is cosmetic and unrealistic, an expectation that somehow a grumpy not-so-old man can be miraculously transformed into a warm and fuzzy metrosexual who loves politics, journalists and Belinda Stronach.
The NP announced yesterday that political scientists say that people would prefer to have Peter McKay to dinner than Stephen Harper. BIG DEAL! This isn't Canadian Idol, it's politics. I want a leader who is strong and assertive. I want leader who doesn't mince words. I want a leader who sees injustice and gets angry. I want a leader who is a little uncomfortable in the spotlight, because it suggests to me that he's not courting the media --- he's the real deal.
Arrogant media-types know that they have the power to sway public opinion. This is another example of a non-news story taking on a life because the media wants it to. With each line of condemnation they are not just telling us not to like Stephen Harper, they are telling Stephen Harper -- 'you better be nice to us, or else you can expect more of the same.'