What is the cruellest month? In 1995, as the political storm clouds gather, spring is the cruellest month. Bodies are being laid out for disposal, reputations are about to be shredded, new careers are just over the horizon and the jackals await the ripe flesh on the corpses.
One can scarcely recall a period when so many prominent figures were so destined for oblivion. The public, suddenly sensing its power that always existed, is taking great glee in tossing the rejected overboard. There is a whiff of death in the air.
In Ontario, the shrewd Bay Street millionaire Andy Sarlos is arranging an April fundraising banquet at 1,000 smackeroos a plate. The recipient? One Bob Rae, the semi-demisocialist who ostensibly runs the province and is going to be whipped in this year’s election.
A lot of smart capitalists such as Sarlos admire Rae, because of his intelligence and integrity. But we have bad news for him. There are more ordinary voters than there are Toronto millionaires, and he’s gone, dead meat, headed for a new career, possibly playing piano in a Yorkville bistro.
The jackals seem to have swiftly dethroned Mike Harcourt in Victoria, his downward swoop in the polls even inspiring speculation that the NDP troops, who never kill their young, might try to replace him. That won’t happen, but his stumble-footed indecision, combined with some clownish activities of high officials under his ambit, make a renewed law career a likely possibility.
Voters today—building on the unrest they see elsewhere—don’t seem to like anyone who is in power. The NDP rules more than half the Canadian population through three provinces, and now both Ontario and British Columbia seem to be for the high jump.
Nova Scotia has a new wrinkle. Doc Savage, the boss, is about to be unhorsed not by the voters but by his own Liberal party. This is rather unusual for an incumbent premier, but that’s the mood these days.
In Quebec, the dear voters who put into
power a party that promised separation are now clearly rejecting that romantic dream, worried instead that those pension cheques from Ottawa might not arrive in the mail. Lucien Bouchard and Jacques Parizeau resemble nothing more than Robert Shapiro and F. Lee Bailey in Los Angeles, each with his own agenda, shopping their versions of Valhalla through the media.
In Mexico, things are so logical that the past president, who the last time we looked was being backed by Washington as the new poohbah of the World Trade Organization, has seen his brother arrested for murder, has himself tried a bizarre hunger strike and has fled to the United States while denying that he has. Except he ain’t coming back.
Such is the upside-down nature of the political world that in the most powerful nation on earth, the most powerful and influential politician in the land is not the president but
a talkative chap from Georgia who seems to have mesmerized the press and most everyone else with his verbosity.
He has a dozen ideas on every subject under the sun and will do himself in with his tongue, but at the moment, Bill Clinton, who is apparently the president, doesn’t get half the newsprint allotted to Newt Gingrich, the new Mouth from the South.
Political troubles? We don’t even have to mention Italy, where flavor-of-the-month is the new prime minister. Even the Italians don’t pay attention any more. In France, Monsieur Balladur, who thought he had the job cinched, is now badly bogged down on the backstretch, his fetlocks mired in mud.
Thanks to world television, North Americans are now completely bored with the tragedies in Bosnia and Rwanda and elsewhere, and don’t even pay attention.
In London, son-of-a-trapeze-artist John Major is so deep in the glue that a triple half-gainer cannot rescue him. The Tories, who do eat their young, are seriously contemplating laying out his body with salt and stale bread before they go to their inevitable defeat at the polling booth.
Poor Yeltsin in Moscow is so desperate—his fate sealed—that he’s offering to keep the tanks away from the 50th anniversary VE-Day parade in Red Square so as to entice the troubled Clinton to come and stand beside him and save him. How can you have a Red Square parade without tanks? How can you have a VE-Day anniversary without tanks?
What are they going to use? Palm fronds? You know you’re in trouble when they’re trying to use a wobbling Bill Clinton to prop up a wobbling Boris Yeltsin.
In Alberta, Klein is safe for a while. In Manitoba, Filmon will probably squeak back in this spring. In New Brunswick, everyone knows Frank McKenna is just preparing his run at the federal Liberal leadership. No one knows who runs Prince Edward Island and no one cares. In Newfoundland, Sir Francis Drake Tobin is suddenly more popular than Screech.
Otherwise, it is indeed a hard time to be a public figure. The demand is for term limits (I wonder if the advocates have ever heard of a chap called Churchill). The voters are after their pensions. Every doxy who can find a lawyer can suddenly remember a pinched bum on an elevator.
The falling bodies come crashing all around us. The tabloids are aflame with scandal. Secretaries with long memories bring down statesmen. Freedom of information laws reveal secrets that mothers cannot love.
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