From the Obama visit to Parliament Hill yesterday, the CBC’s Susan Bonner assesses what made an impression upon her and her media colleagues,
“The impression seemed to be that Stephen Harper had a message that he wanted to deliver directly to Americans about the border and about security and about trade and he was pushing those media messages directly to talk to an American audience. So those were the money comments from my point of my and from my colleagues in the room’s point of view, from the Prime Minister of Canada. From the President, the stand-out for all of us in the room was “I love this country”, President Obama saying that. Remember back to a couple of election campaigns [ago], one of the first questions asked of Stephen Harper was if he loved Canada because he seems to be, at the time it was seen that he was awkward with this kind of language and yet you saw the President of the United States volunteering this and saying it quite casually and warmly so that was the buzz among the media as we waited, penned up, to be released to get out here and talk to our various outlets.” — Susan Bonner, CBC
A couple of noteworthy items here. What made an impression upon the media was the Prime Minister’s talk about bilateral policy issues. What made an impression about the President was his emotion — “I love this country”. While the PM made an impression about public policy, the press was swooned by Obama’s love.
Also, you’ll remember, the Prime Minister was asked “Do you love your country” and he was asked this in 2005! This was two election campaigns ago! So, when the pack mentality of the Parliamentary Press Gallery got buzzing amongst themselves yesterday they remember Obama’s toss away line most clearly and also the finer details of a partisan attack from 2005.
Get over it guys. Focusing on the unsubstantial, equating Harper’s public policy positions with Obama’s “love” as the take two take-home messages, snapping pictures with your cheap digital camerasduring a bilateral meeting with the President of the United States so you can tag it on Facebook and email it to your friends reflects upon your professionalism. I’m surprised I didn’t see a flack standing behind Obama talking on his cellphone waving at his buddies watching on television. The guild has strict policy against using “media tools” for “non-journalistic purposes” (this is a subjective and institutional definition) in the Parliametary precinct. For instance, you might see Press Gallery officials chide tourists for taking pictures of a scrum as they pass by on their tour. For this press conference, it was predetermined that there were to be four questions asked from four reporters but yet there were 40 members of the media present. I watched the news conference on the pool feed. I suppose this freed me to watch like everyone else instead of playing political tourist on Obama day.
But the biggest impression of reporters at the press conference? That Obama states that loves Canada “casually and warmly” and Harper, well that guy shakes hands with his kids, right?
“Under executive orders issued by Obama recently, the CIA still has authority to carry out what are known as renditions, secret abductions and transfers of prisoners to countries that cooperate with the United States.” — LA Times
Arar is a case of rendition: the Torture Convention –Canada is a signator — forbids the rendition of anyone to confinement in a country where there is a reasonable chance that the person will be tortured. Arar claims he was tortured in Syria. But that’s not the only violation: the Americans can turn back a Canadian citizen to Canada, but surely have no right to deport him to a third country.
What I would like to see is obviously the United States government come clean with its version of events [Arar rendition], to acknowledge … the deficiencies and inappropriate conduct that occurred in this case, particularly vis-a-vis its relationship with the Canadian government [Canada wants to hear that] these kinds of incidents will not be repeated in the future.”
Stephen Harper on same-sex marriage:
“I have no difficulty with the recognition of civil unions for non-traditional relationships but I believe in law we should protect the traditional definition of marriage.” — Stephen Harper interviewed by the CBC
For Liberals gay marriage is an equality issue. The [Liberal] government’s position gets the balance right. We will not compel religious communities to perform ceremonies that go against their beliefs, but we will not deny marriage rights to Canadians on grounds of sexual orientation.
“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. For me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union. God’s in the mix. … I am not somebody that promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions.
“As Posner and others have tartly pointed outif torture and coercion are both as useless as critics pretend, why are they used so much? While some abuse and outright torture can be attributed to individual sadism, poor supervision and so on, it must be the case that other acts of torture occur because interrogators believe, in good faith, that torture is the only way to extract information in a timely fashion. It must also be the case that if experienced interrogators come to this conclusion, they do so on the basis of experience. The argument that torture and coercion do not work is contradicted by the dire frequency with which both practices occur. I submit that we would not be “waterboarding” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — immersing him in water until he experiences the torment of nearly drowning — if our intelligence operatives did not believe it was necessary to crack open the al Qaeda network that he commanded. . Indeed, Mark Bowden points to a Time report in March 2003 that Sheikh Mohammed had “given US interrogators the names and descriptions of about a dozen key al Qaeda operatives believed to be plotting terrorist attacks.” We must at least entertain the possibility that the operatives working on Sheikh Mohammed in our name are engaging not in gratuitous sadism but in the genuine belief that this form of torture—and it does qualify as such—makes all the difference.”
“The Harper government knew prison conditions were appalling long before The Globe and Mail published a series of stories last April detailing the abuse and torture of prisoners turned over by Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan’s notorious secret police, documents released this week show.” — The Globe and Mail
“Canada has to support the right of a democratic country to defend itself … Hamas is to blame for organizing and instigating these rocket attacks and then for sheltering among civilian populations.” — Michael Ignatieff on the Israel-Hamas conflict
“My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction”
Stephen Harper on Israel:
[The] source of Israel’s strength and success, in my view, is its commitment to the universal values of all civilized peoples: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. …
… Our government believes that those who threaten Israel also threaten Canada, because, as the last world war showed, hate-fuelled bigotry against some is ultimately a threat to us all, and must be resisted wherever it may lurk.
In this ongoing battle, Canada stands side-by-side with the State of Israel, our friend and ally in the democratic family of nations. We have stood with Israel even when it has not been popular to do so, and we will continue to stand with Israel, just as I have always said we would.
I know that we all hope and pray that someday freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law will be a reality for all the peoples of the Middle East.
Stephen Harper on abortion:
“I will tell you that, as prime minister, I will not bring forth legislation on the issue of abortion” — Speech at 2005 CPC Policy Convention
Strong majorities of Canadians believe that while abortion should be rare, it should be a protected right for all women. … I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.”
Barack Obama on abortion:
“I trust women to make these decisions in conjunction with their doctors, and their families and their clergy… When you describe a specific procedure [partial-birth abortion] that accounts for less than one percent of abortions that take place then naturally people get concerned, and I think legitimately so.” — Barack Obama
On Iraq, while I support the removal of Saddam Hussein and applaud the efforts to establish democracy and freedom in Iraq, I would not commit Canadian troops to that country. I must admit great disappointment at the failure to substantiate pre-war intelligence information regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction.
The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president … But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion.
That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.
Now let me be clear — I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.
He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.
But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.
I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars. — Barack Obama, October 2nd, 2002
Citing the “wrong signal” it would send to Canadians to plead for mercy for convicted killers, the Conservatives said they would no longer attempt to convince the United States or other democratic countries to commute death sentences meted out to Canadians.
The government later said it would review such situations on a “case-by-case basis.” — Montreal Gazette
Canadians do not support capital punishment… I am in politics to defend and develop this progressive achievement.
Barack Obama on capital punishment:
“While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes — mass murder, the rape and murder of a child — so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment” — Barack Obama from The Audacity of Hope
There were only about 1000 people on Parliament Hill today to greet President Obama as much of downtown was locked down. There were barricades and security officials on the MacKenzie King bridge and checkpoints a plenty as the Parliamentary precinct was secured for Obama’s seven hour visit. Barricades also line Wellington street past Sussex through Rideau and also cover the street to the US embassy.
Staying away from the fray, I’m tracking the Obama visit passively via status updates on Facebook. Here’s a sample.
F – if this was Bush, they’d be calling it a police state.
J is irritated that Air Force One delayed flights at Ottawa International today, and that all of Ottawa is going crazy b/c of President Obama…
S is chuckling at the Canadian news media who are all experiencing the big O.
R can’t shake the feeling that there’s something going on here today. I guess everyone else is excited about the Oilers taking on the Stars tonight too.
N saw obama in his motorcade, and did not experience any change.
B is demanding 20 minutes with Obama as well.
A is happy for Ottawa’s leper community today.
R is Obamatastic!
E just missed barack in the stairwell… saw his entourage.
S questions the sanity of the people calling in to cpac.
C counted from his office window 40 vehicles and 2 helicopters in the Obama entourage
B is stuck in traffic, why didn’t the President just fly to the Hill like a superhero? Or he could have walked on the canal proving he can walk on water.
L just saw the motorcade go by! Video to follow!
H is going to the Obama press conference!
J is wondering – can Canadian media get any stupider over a Presidential visit? “Yes they Canada!”
Z thinks that if they’re going to close the city down, it might as well be a holiday.