If you’re one of those Newfoundlanders with a softening of the heart affliction that provokes some sympathy for the polls-challenged Kathy Dunderdale, you may find yourself with one very notable person sitting alongside you on the pity pot these days.
And I’m referring, in fact, to no less a figure than the premier herself, who seemed to be wallowing at times in an unattractive mode of self-pity and defensiveness during a morning sermon last Saturday to delegates attending the PC annual convention in Gander.
Now to be fair, she was preaching to the converted, and I’m absolutely sure just about all of those followers saw her spiel as an aggressive and necessary attack on government foes, the kind of unabashedly partisan speech that always works well at political conventions.
But what I detected was a whiff of whining, a long-winded complaint that the Tory administration is not being appreciated for conducting itself in what she believes is a four-star manner.
Dunderdale joins a long list of politicians who — usually in desperation and suffering from a diminishing popularity — launch into a defence that has a “I’m just misunderstood” flow, a self-serving denunciation of those perceived to be the enemy, anyone, in other words, who hasn’t swallowed the Kool-Aid, as prepared and served by a governing party.
Under the radar
In the premier’s case, the litany of complaints, the woe-is-me message, the condemnation of those with the gall to question her credibility, her vision, her sincerity, did not seem to receive a lot of media play, mainly because her homily was delivered with only one reporter, The Telegram’s James McLeod, within earshot. McLeod certainly drew attention to the premier’s apparently extemporaneous remarks in his front-page story in Monday’s paper, but to his credit, he also published just about the entire content of the lengthy speech on his blog.
Now, I’m not a big blog man myself, having barely mastered a cellphone, but I was grateful to have been guided to his site — I think that’s what it’s called — and had a chance to get the full-meal-deal version of Dunderdale’s somewhat weary attempt to sell herself to her disciples and, by extension, to the rest of Newfoundland.
There’s a lot there, and those readers consumed by politics might want to try and read the whole rant. But, as a public service, I can provide a few highlights.
On her philosophy of having “one agenda” and that is to “do right” for the people of the province: “It’s why you’re prepared to have the arms and legs torn off you, publicly.”
Poor thing, as Mom would say.
My pal, the PM
On her oft-criticized cosy relationship with Stephen Harper, Dunderdale is more than slightly defensive: “Not everything has to be a brawl on the steps of Confederation Building.” That could be true, premier, but when the prime minister breaks a promise or cuts back on crucial services in Newfoundland, or treats the province, and you, like dirt, or, worse still, in a condescending fashion, he does deserve a good, resounding kick in the arse.
Dunderdale made a big deal out of the fact that Harper is going
to deliver on his government’s
commitment of a loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls, as if that was the act of a man of “principle,” in her words.
Well, damn it all, he’s simply keeping his word. There’s no highfalutin’ principle involved there. He’s doing what he said he would do. Period.
Getting the message out
On her government not getting the credit it deserves: We have worked hard this summer, let me tell you, on doing the kinds of things and supplementing our communications staff … to make sure we’re effectively communicating to the people that we serve so that they understand what we’re doing.” Translation: government flacks, the people paid to make the politicians look good, under any and all circumstances, are being read the public relations riot act.
On the “scandalous” spin placed on government’s freedom of information act: Dunderdale obviously believes she was the victim of an unfair hatchet job. My gosh, there was even one “lazy journalist” (unnamed) who twisted unfairly the intent of the legislation.
And, besides, government workers don’t have time to be responding to “frivolous requests” for information, to help journalists and others on “fishing trips.” There are also people out there who want to know “stuff” that’s “none of their damn business.” (She did put that particular remark in the context of recent examples of violations of privacy by health-care workers, but her message was obvious: there’s a bunch of nosy types out there who are making it difficult for government to do its job). Just trust us, she was saying. We’re all good guys and gals.
Then there was this woeful prediction: “Only the people who love us very much will be around when we finish the job …”
What a martyr for the cause, to quote my mother once again.
And she and everyone else in government are as pure as the driven snow: “We didn’t come here to get rich. Most of us didn’t know what the salary was.” My gracious, what a glorious, upstanding crowd are they, don’t you think? Imagine: they earn their salaries.
And incomes, by the way, premier, most Newfoundlanders would kill to have.
There was one ironic remark: “I think Newfoundlanders and Labra-dorians are the most politically astute people in the world.”
One might wonder if that astuteness has led to Dunderdale’s dramatic dip in the polls.
As I say, the speech is located on McLeod’s blog, and you can make your own judgment (big of me, some of you might suggest).
My reaction, though, in a nutshell, is to cite that famous quote from Shakespeare, one that seems to come in handy with these sorts of epistles: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.