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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Conservative party leadership: If not Maxime Bernier then Andrew Scheer or possibly Kevin O’Leary

Maxime Bernier

The Conservative Party of Canada’s (CPC) leadership race is in full stride with no individual candidate separating her/himself from the pack, leaving the contest wide open. As might be expected, the field has been drawn from among current and former caucus members and a non-politician “outsider,” giving CPC members a wide range of political views to choose from.

The already crowded field will likely be augmented soon by another candidate, the well-known businessman and TV celebrity Kevin O’Leary, bringing the total number of candidates to 14, namely: Chris Alexander, Maxime Bernier, Steven Blaney, Michael Chong, Kellie Leitch, Pierre Lemieux, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Rick Peterson, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Saxton, Andrew Scheer, Brad Trost and Kevin O’Leary.

Unfortunately—at least from my viewpoint—current interim leader, Rona Ambrose, MP for Sturgeon River-Parkland is not in the race, which will conclude with the leadership election on May 27, 2017.

When this field will begin to be winnowed out is anybody’s guess, but until then we are fortunate to have the opportunity to debate the many different approaches to how a future Conservative leader might govern the country.

According to an early December 2016 Forum Research poll, Michael Chong led with the support of 10% of respondents representing all Canadians, followed by Lisa Raitt (8%), Kellie Leitch (7%), Chris Alexander (6%), Maxime Bernier (5%), Steve Blaney (5%), Andrew Scheer (3%) and Brad Trost (2%), with other candidates excluded from the survey for brevity.

Among Conservative voters, however, none of the candidates scored more than 9% cent support, while 48% said they preferred “someone else.” Conservative respondents chose Chris Alexander (8%), Steve Blaney (9%), Michael Chong (8%) and Lisa Raitt (8%) in a virtual tie for first place.

I believe that the ones who will be in the running with a reasonable good chance of winning on May 27 are: Chris Alexander, Maxime Bernier, Steven Blaney, Michael Chong, Kellie Leitch, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Scheer and Kevin O’Leary.

Of these, I could see myself voting for any of (no particular order of preference): Maxime Bernier, Michael Chong, Lisa Raitt, Andrew Scheer or Kevin O’Leary.

If the leadership election were held today, my vote would go to Maxine Bernier. Maxine is youthful, presents well and is receiving enough caucus support and endorsements to be a credible candidate. Furthermore, the MP for Beauce, Quebec has the most extensive, thoughtful and conservative platform—check it out.

My second choice—although it is still early times—is MP Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle), the former Speaker of the House of Commons who enjoys very strong caucus support and endorsements, an important element of any leadership bid. Mr. Scheer may well move up on my ballot after he releases more specific policies—and here’s hoping he’ll do that soon.

My third ballot choice is a toss-up between Michael Chong and Kevin O’Leary, should the latter enter the race as expected. At this point, however, I’m pretty lukewarm on both.

Photo credit: By Marcello Casal Jr/ABr (Agência Brasil [1]) [CC BY 3.0 br], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, January 12, 2017

On balance I find the unsubstantiated allegations about Donald Trump and Russia to be credible

Portrait of Donald Trump during a campaign event on August 19, 2015

None of us ordinary folk can be certain one way or the other of the truthfulness of the unsubstantiated allegations being reported by US intelligence chiefs regarding the connection between United States president-elect Donald Trump and Russia.

I believe, however, there is enough material now in the public domain for each of us to decide whether we believe the thrust of the allegations. And I for one do believe they are substantially true, notwithstanding denials by president-elect Trump, his army of apologists and paid spin doctors and, of course, the Kremlin.

For several months now we have heard Trump dismiss high-level intelligence reports of Russia’s interference in the presidential election, calling them “ridiculous” and placing the blame on Democrats who he claimed were upset over election results for publicizing such reports. In a mocking Tweet, Trump quoted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s statement that “a 14-year-old kid could have hacked Podesta.”  Now he reportedly concedes Russia probably meddled in the election. So, was he being disingenuous when he persistently insisted Russia was not to blame?

Furthermore, months ago the president-elect was caught on a hot mic boasting that he groped women and then defended himself by claiming he was engaging in locker-room talk—in other words lying.

There are webpages dedicated to tracking and reporting Trump’s falsehoods and exaggerations, which are published by reputable media organizations. For example, during the lead up to the Republican nomination, POLITICO subjected a week’s worth of the president-elect’s words to their magazine’s fact-checking process. This amounted to 4.6 hours of his speeches and press conferences. According to POLITICO’s website, “more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false—the kind of stuff that would have been stripped from one of our stories, or made the whole thing worthy of the spike. It equates to roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average.”

A simple Google search will show a stunning pattern of falsehoods, half-truths and exaggerations emanating from the president-elect’s mouth. Even Mr. Trump’s paid spin doctor, Kellyanne Conway, seems to concede that the president-elect cannot be taken at his word. Last Monday (Jan. 9), she went on TV to defend her boss, who had once again denied mocking a disabled reporter.

“Why don't you believe him? Why is everything taken at face value?” Ms. Conway said. “You can’t give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he’s telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what’s come out of his mouth rather than look at what’s in his heart.” [Emphasis mine.]

So, clearly Trump’s words of denial cannot be taken at face value. And, as for Russia’s denials? Well, they invented the term from which “disinformation” is derived: dezinformatsiya, defined in the 1952 official Great Soviet Encyclopedia as spreading “false information with the intention to deceive public opinion.” Such tactics have been an integral part of Russian and Soviet tradecraft for several decades. Whole books have been devoted to this subject.

On the one hand, therefore, we have known liars denying the accuracy of the unsubstantiated allegations, while on the other hand we have the chiefs of US intelligence apparently believing the information they had was credible enough to be brought to the attention of President Barack Obama.

Then there is the credibility of the controversial dossier’s apparent author, the ex-MI6 (British secret intelligence service) officer, Christopher Steele. It is reported by media sources I trust that his sources and the people who vouch for him are credible. One described him as “very credible” and “a sober, cautious and meticulous professional with a formidable record.” He is also described as an experienced and highly regarded professional who is not the sort of person to simply pass on gossip.

As a conservative with a keen interest in politics, I have followed the US presidential nomination and election process closely for what must be about two years now. Over that time, I’m sad to say, my opinion of the president-elect deteriorated to the point I seriously doubt Donald Trump could himself “pass” Senate confirmation hearings for membership in his own cabinet.

And that’s a sad state of affairs. God help the United States of America find a way through this crisis.

Photo Credit: By Michael Vadon — This file has been extracted and cropped from another file: Donald Trump August 19, 2015.jpg , CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

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