Right Side Up

February 19th, 2009 at 11:21 pm David Frum | No Comments |

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Finished late last night Right Side Up: The Fall of Paul Martin and the Rise of Stephen Harper’s New Conservatism by Paul Wells. Wells is one of Canada’s shrewdest – and certainly its wittiest – observer of electoral politics. His book on the past two years of Canadian political maneuverings lives up to his high standards. Wells’ personal sympathies are pretty strongly engaged on behalf of Canadian Liberalism, but he can do justice to all sides.

Here he is for example praising Liberal leadership hopeful Michael Ignatieff’s seemingly (or anyway currently) firm support of Canada’s Afghanistan mission: “On any other issue, this would be the point in the conversation at which Ignatieff would begin to equivocate.” (p. 171)

Here by contrast is his description of the Conservative party war room in the winning election of 2006:

In the Tory war room, meanwhile, a sign hung in plain sight of all the staffers who had to deal with reporters on the telephone. It reminded them of their obligation to proper phone etiquette. The four questions they should never stop asking themselves were:

1) What are we accomplishing with this? (That is, were they accomplishing political goals when they said something, or must making themselves feel better?)

2) Are we debating on our ground or theirs? (Were they talking about what they wanted to talk about, or what Liberals wanted to talk about?)

3) Are we taking their bait? (The second rule restated for emphasis.)

4) Is our tone neutral? … [A]ngry people don’t win debates.

Entertaining. Recommended to those interested in closely detailed narratives of Canadian electoral politics – which alas may be something less than the overwhelming majority of NRO readers ….

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