In light of the 50th anniversary of the death of Jack Kennedy, and the media discussion that the event motivated, I want to open this post with a few words about so-called "conspiracy theories." The simple fact is that while many people belittle any talk of a conspiracy concerning almost anything, there is a simple and understandable motivation for such ideas. When any "official" explanation is not believable or stretches the boundaries of credibility, people look around for other possible explanations. Such is the case with the Kennedy assassination. There are so many strange coincidences, so many difficult to believe twists of fortunes, so many rules broken by officials in the lead up and and the aftermath of the assassination, that it leaves people with the feeling that the official explanation is, at the very least, wanting. This, coupled with the fact that the Warren Commission was almost uniformly unwilling to even address many of the problems, drives people to call for new pieces to the apparently unfinished puzzle. And so people suggest possible answers - some wild and even more unbelievable than the official story, some cogent and serious.
And so today we have a similar type of situation in our parliament. Almost everyone, with the exception of the most blindly partisan, simply don't believe the official explanation of what happened in the PMO. It is just not credible that successful PMO lawyers with excellent professional reputations would orchestrate an illegal effort to bribe a sitting Senator all the while hiding it from their boss, the most controlling PM in Canadian history. And as Harper bobbed and weaved over the past month, changing his story gradually to fit the gradually exposed story, people found the official explanation less and less believable. Couple with this, the apparent fact that half a dozen PMO associates were actually privy to the facts, and that people who have been virtual lapdogs of the PM were involved in a cover-up, and people are looking for a more believable story. And that story, invariably, involves the PM knowing about almost every facet of the conspiracy and cover-up.
But the real story here is not really a PMO orchestrated conspiracy and cover-up, so much as it is the fact that this seems to be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back of the public's tolerance of Harper and his cabal. The best expression of this moment was expressed by Andrew Coyne in his most recent column. Keep in mind that for quite a few years Coyne was nothing short of an apologist for Harper regime's worst aspects and scandals. Coyne tells us that the real problem for the Conservatives is
" . . . . the general impression that we are being governed by a gang of thugs - secretive, high-handed, unprincipled gusting to unethical, and openly contemptuous of such quaint notions as democratic accountability - an impression that grows more baked in each time the Prime Minister dodges a question in Parliament, or worse, sends in the clownish Paul Calandra to answer in his place."
With friends like this, Harper certainly doesn't need enemies. Perhaps most importantly, Coyne points out that Harper seems to be in complete denial that anything is wrong or that he needs to change his attitude and his course. This problem is, unfortunately not unexpected, and easy to explain. The fact that more and more people seem to be realizing is that Harper is not the clever, strategic politician that some thought he was. Rather, he is simply a control freak who benefited from an unusual set of circumstances. Harper's actions have never been part of a strategic plan but rather the natural expression of a man with a disturbing, narcissistic personality disorder. He cannot change strategy now because he has no strategy, and he surrounds himself with people who have the same kind of angry, dismissive personality has himself. Thus we are treated to people like the "clownish Paul Calandra" whose only political instinct is to insult anyone who might disagree with him and his holy fuhrer. This is a brittle kind of politics that always ends in a disaster of one sort or another.
The only political scandal in Canadian history that really compares to the Senate/Harper scandal is the so-called "Pacific Scandal," involving another Conservative Prime Minister. Though John A. Macdonald would eventually recover from his scandal, we can safely say to Harper "you ain't no John A. Macdonald!" Furthermore, we live in different times, times of extreme exposure and ones in which all facets of life are significantly sped up.
Conspiracies aside, it is not the Senate Scandal that will sink Harper or tarnish his historical reputation. Rather, Harper will be a dark note in Canada's history books because he is a sick, narcissistic thug who has poisoned the well of Canadian life.