Thursday, September 18, 2008

Of Emetics Past

I should like to remind Lawrence Martin--who concedes today Stéphane Dion's "pusillanimous image" and that he (Dion) "should have been showcasing his star players since the day his campaign kicked off"--I should like to remind him, I say, of a piece he wrote not quite two years ago on the subject of Mr. Dion's rise to the Liberal leadership:
Is there something in the air? Quiet noises? Generational change? A touch, just a hint, of RFK?

At the same time that the Liberal Party was holding its leadership convention in Montreal, the film Bobby appeared. The movie isn't so much about him as about the period, its music, its mood, its character mix, its ferment. It doesn't make the mistake, as some such films do, of trying too hard.

Nor was Bobby Kennedy making that mistake back then, in 1968. After the shock, the despair, the tumult, his seething had stopped. He had taken on an almost mystical quality, drawing strength from whatever destiny awaited him.

It appeared he had done -- to borrow a phrase used by a young Liberal delegate to describe Stéphane Dion -- what few political men are able to do: He had "conquered his own inner territory."

It's a quality, the delegate noted, that sets real leaders apart. Their equanimity allows them, as the convention's kingmaker Gerard Kennedy put it, "to tune out the static" from the political backrooms and "to listen to the quiet noises."


Mr. Dion, a logician, didn't light up the convention hall with his words. It was his spirit, his demeanour, the sense of honour he embodied that the party admired. He was, in his self-effacing nimbus[*], as far removed from darkness as RFK was from Richard Nixon.

Is there something in the air, a new awakening in our political culture as 2006 closes?

Much appeared to change during that weekend in Montreal. The old guard was drowned out by quiet noises. Generational change was on the way. A leader with a trace of the mystical, with the potential to change so much, was born.

Bobby, one can imagine, would have approved.
I lost my lunch reading this two Decembers ago, and nearly did again today rereading it. All things considered, it seems to me only fair that Mr. Martin should now be made to fold his little column between two pieces of pumpernickel and see how long he can keep the lot down.


*Note that in the more recent column, Mr. Dion's "nimbus" remains, but is no longer "self-effacing" (gag!), but is one of "vulnerability". (Hack!)