Falling back on what some might consider the act of a desperate columnist, scrambling for ideas, I offer this week for your consideration one alleged pundit’s take on a bit of this and a bit of that.
• From what I’ve been able to grasp from snippets of news here and there, or here and now, as the case may be, Rick Hillier, the former general and a favourite son of Newfoundland, and for a time touted as a possible Tory leader, is the latest Dan Fan to have given former premier Williams near exclusive credit for what has been described as a reinvigoration of pride in Newfoundlanders, a stand up and cheer declaration that we take a backseat to no one, that we are no longer the poor second cousins of Confederation, that we have a newfound confidence in ourselves.
Well, playing the role of killjoy here, I would suggest that those who wish to make Mr. Williams the patron saint of Newfoundland, who cheer for his beatification and sainthood based on his miracle (right up there with Fatima) of fostering an awakening of spirit in this fair province of ours, should — as the young people say — “get real.” Only the brainwashed wouldn't recognize that countless Newfoundlanders, many of them from the arts community — Codco, the Mummers Troupe, Figgy Duff, Christopher and Mary Pratt, Gerry Squires, etc., etc., etc. — were responsible, especially in that renaissance period of the ’70s, for helping shed the cloak of second class subservience that hovered over much of Newfoundland thinking in the first couple of decades following Confederation.
Williams certainly carried the ball of self-confidence, but he was hardly the quarterback of the re-emergence of Newfoundland pride and culture, and the resurrection of that strong sense of place that had sadly gone adrift.
• And speaking of the arts world, it was another feather in the creative cap of this place to hear that CBC Television was renewing three programs with strong Newfoundland connections: “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” (reports of whose imminent death were greatly exaggerated); “The Mercer Report” (not my cup of tea, as someone who preferred Rick Mercer's biting satire to his one-man, Newfoundland version of Moe, Larry and Curly, but I admit I’m undoubtedly in the minority); and “The Republic of Doyle” (I’m an unabashed fan, and haven’t missed an episode. It’s not exactly “The Wire,” but it’s highly entertaining fluff, the shots of St. John’s are breathtakingly gorgeous, and the characters are an endearing lot).
• So John Crosbie, a fine performer in his own right, recently turned 80, a mark that makes many of us of a certain generation realize how uncharitably fast the years go by.
I have endless colourful recollections of covering Crosbie, several of the most memorable coming from the time we travelled together in 1976 when we were both still young, as he was attempting (successfully, as it turned out) to win a federal by-election in St. John’s West. There were just three of us in the campaign car wandering the roads of the riding one day when Crosbie asked his driver to stop so he could have a chat with an elderly man leaning against a fence. But the first question from this prospective Crosbie constituent had nothing to do with politics: pointing to me sitting in the back seat of the car,
a long-haired, scraggly-bearded, scruffily-dressed passenger (I never made the cover of Vanity Fair), he blurted: “Geez, who’s that fella, Mr. Crosbie?” Looking casually in my direction, Crosbie deadpanned: “Oh, him? That’s Rasputin, come back from the dead.” At a rally another evening in St. Mary’s, Crosbie was highly amused (he may have even orchestrated the incident) when a woman grabbed me by my beard, began to haul me across a gymnasium floor, and issued a loud warning: “If you write one bad word in The Telegram about Mr. Crosbie, I’ll haul the hairs out of your chin one by one.”
• Michael Ignatieff will certainly never match the success of John Crosbie. And as I watched Ignatieff on the boob tube the other night doing a pre-election drop-in at a senior citizens complex in St. John’s — it is strictly during campaigns that politicians seem to find the time to visit the elderly — I couldn’t help but think that the national liberal leader is just the latest in a long line of politicos, here and south of the border, who’ve been unable to pass the shallow but powerful
test of television. A politician’s IQ, philosophical makeup, and policies always seem to play second fiddle to the way he or she is simply perceived by the owners of giant television screens across the country, how they “come across.” And Ignatieff just doesn't have it, however you define the intangible “it” that gives a politician favourable reviews on TV. He even makes Stephen Harper — heaven help us all — appear positively charismatic (the ultimate illustration of the old cliché that everything’s relative).
• On a note of political despair, that’s “it” on this Saturday from one pundit’s corner.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 30 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.