Here and there

Bob Wakeham
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When I was away for 10 days or so in the U.S. of A, I was smothered in politics as some of the most bizarre Republican nut cakes you can imagine fought in a very public and daily way for the right to be defeated by Barack Obama next year.

I don't think I was completely clear of the American political experience until I had devoured the last pages of the one U.S. paper left at my disposal just as we were landing at the cruel hour of 4 a.m. in St. John's last Wednesday.

(And if I can take advantage here of the opportunity to tear a strip off Air Canada: the time of arrival was still another illustration of the airline's unfriendly skies, its scheduling sadists guilty of this particular affront to normal flying hours. There was also a $3-charge for a pathetically small bag of almonds on the three-hour trip; there was another 20 bucks or so to have my bag stowed in the jet's belly, leading me to believe Air Canada will eventually demand money to use those oxygen masks the flight attendants tell us might be dropped in front of our frightened faces in the event of an emergency, 10 bucks to inhale a whiff of life-saving air, credit card only; eventually, it'll be a buck or two for a bowel movement in that tiny closet that passes, so to speak, for a toilet at the rear of the plane).

Getting back to the Yanks, though: they have some real loons down there on the right side of the political spectrum. The latest frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination when I was Stateside was former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a hypocritical moralist whose claim to fame was coming within a hair of bringing down Bill Clinton - now largely acknowledged as one of the finest U.S. presidents of the last 50 years - because Billy let his willy do his thinking on a couple of brief encounters with a White House tart.

You can initiate and manage a great economy, make Americans feel good about themselves and their place in the world and utilize a great intellect to significant advantage, but, by Lucifer, take the old Johnson out of your pants for a few minutes of slam-bam, thank-you-ma'am oral sex, and Newt will have your, well, your gonads in a vise.

In any case, the latest inmates in the Republican cuckoo nest were at least out front and observable, allowing the rest of the country, and the world for that matter, to take them in, warts and all.

At least that's what I had to admit as I crumpled up the Philadelphia Inquirer before deplaning the other morning in Torbay, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, having concluded still another trip southward to visit my Newfoundland parents, eight decades old and counting.

(Just in case any of my folks' dwindling contemporaries living in Gander, Grand Falls or St. John's are wondering, I have no qualms about taking personal advantage of this Saturday morning offering to exploit this column and share their state of being: the old gent and the matriarch are, in fact, still holding their own, my 86-year mother, in particular, apparently following in the footsteps of her grandparents from Fox Harbour, Placentia Bay who, according to family lore, never saw a doctor in their lives and - Mudder joked last week - had to eventually be shot to force them belatedly to their heavenly rewards as they neared the 100-year-old mark).

But back to politics on this circuitous route: having been blanketed in politics for a week and a half, I felt the need to take care of my withdrawal symptoms within the first couple of days back in Newfoundland by trying to see what the local crowd were up to.

It's easy, though; the politicos operating out here in the Atlantic are much more difficult to locate than are their American cousins to the south.

Of course, it doesn't help that the Newfoundland legislature, the venue where you might have a regular sighting of the people who govern our daily lives, has been locked up tighter than a frog's arse, and Kathy and the kids can scurry around Confederation Building and wherever else to avoid any media or public scrutiny.

But, lo and behold, I did manage to track down five cabinet ministers in one spot earlier in my pursuit.

Smug shot

There they were, in a government advertisement in The Telegram, looking quite like a serious and rather smug lot as they aligned themselves with a proclamation to prevent violence and abuse against women in Newfoundland.

A laudable cause, for sure, but did it take the mugs of five cabinet ministers to draw attention to its merits?

Oh, of course, all of their departments are involved, I'm sure, and they had no choice but to appear in the photo.

It had nothing to do, perish the thought, with exploiting the issue, a way to garner some cheap publicity. Clyde Jackman, Keith Hutchings, Charlene Johnson, Susan Sullivan, Felix Collins, "honourable" members pushing the 2011 Purple Ribbon Campaign, all of them with obvious expertise, we're led to believe, in dealing with the abuse of women. I couldn't help but think that Newfoundland women, upon seeing that ad last week, must have honestly believed they need shiver no longer in fear, not with that band of merry ministers in their corner.

Instead of posing for the government photographer, the ministers would have done a lot more good by using their time in the legislature, where they belong (it's impossible to make that point too many times), answering questions about that very issue of abuse of women, and dozens of other matters as well.

But Chicken Little Kathy has given that kind of democratic accountability the thumbs down.

Anyway, for my part, it's always grand to return to Newfoundland, and for a whole bunch of good reasons, but also just to get back in the Saturday saddle, the saucy saddle, the retiree saddle, and head out in search of those rascally Newfoundland politicians.

And give them the hard time they nearly always deserve.

Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at

Organizations: Air Canada, Philadelphia Inquirer

Geographic location: U.S., Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's Torbay Gander Grand Falls Fox Harbour Placentia Bay Atlantic

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Recent comments

  • Bob Kieley
    December 03, 2011 - 12:10

    Of course there is an alternative to that 3:30 a.m. arrival when connecting from Philidelphia but that would mean getting the backside out of bed for an earlier departure out of PHL. For the record on the current Air Canada schedule there are actually two earlier flights the writer could have taken. There are any number of alternatives: (1) Overnite in Toronto or Montreal, or (2) Continental via Newark. While it's a national pastime to knock Air Canada, Continental is no sweetheart for reliability into St. John's. I am in agreement about the bag of almonds. Huge change from when the skies and people WERE more friendly. Your father would agree.

  • W Bagg
    December 03, 2011 - 09:01

    Bob, don't bothr, you can't even shame this govt into action. Democracy is practiced on opinion pages and open line shows in this province. Proof is Nalcor (meanjng govt) sending ed martin over to VOCM to defend Muskrat with RHandee.