Canada Foreign Policy
Bush Has Landed
US President George W. Bush arrived today for his first working visit, met with Prime Minister Paul Martin for a couple of hours, and the PM emerged to tell the press both leaders would act in 2005, cooperating on terrorism and forging ahead with North American prosperity plans.
Very early in the day, indications were the President would be likelier to meet with more opposition at a Washington Cabinet meeting dominated by Condoleezza Rice than in Canada. Accounts said about 20-30 protesters gathered in Ottawa preparing to greet Bush, while 42 journalists muscled their way past the demonstrators. Within hours, busloads from Toronto, Montreal, and across the country arrived, swelling the ranks to what organizers say will be a sizeable crowd numbering some 15,000 at the very least. Clashes with area police are now being reported.
At their joint press conference, Martin stressed there were major points of agreement. While there is divergence on many foreign policy matters, there is profound unity on some. Bush, for instance, finds commendable Canada’s willingness to contribute humanitarian aide to Iraq. And speaking about the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, both leaders stood firm disputes in that country must be settled calmly, through dialogue. Bush added he hoped any resolution would reflect “the will of the people.” But when it really comes to the thorny question of Iraq, there appeared to be little common cause. Defending his policies, Bush said: “I made some decisions that some in Canada obviously didn't agree with…I'm the kind of fellow who does what I think is right.” When queried directly about his “unpopularity” in the Great White North, the President replied: “I haven't seen the polls you look at…We just had a poll in our country where people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush administration ought to stay in place for four more years.”
All indications are there will be no speedy settlement when it comes to outstanding bilateral trade issues. For his part, Bush expressed a measure of sympathy with Martin’s “frustration” at the slow pace of progress. In any event, the leaders will be dining on Alberta beef. [all direct quotations in this piece cited from Deb Riechmann’s “Bush Defends Iraq Decisions in Canada,” AP, 30 November 2004].
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Bush Wants Rice
So much seems to have happened over the past four weeks or so, and yet somehow none of it signals that the dynamic of international politics is in any danger of changing.
Earlier this month, President George Bush won reelection, an outcome that likely stunned a few Ottawa insiders. Within days of learning he would serve his second term, President Bush found himself at the helm of a coalition offensive in the city of Fallujah, the largest action in Iraq since the war started last year. In the past few weeks, however, events in that country have dropped off the media map. It’s unlikely this signals affairs have somehow grown dull or manageable.
No sooner had Bush won than our officials extended an invitation to the US leader to come to Canada, a trip he failed to make during his first term, or so we had thought. Evidently Bush accepted, was more than eager to see what life is like in this country, and implied we should prepare for his imminent arrival. When that message was sent, I somehow doubt many in Ottawa understood. Indeed the President would visit, but surely not before, say, summer of next year, and certainly not before the inauguration in January. But on 16 November 2004 we learned Bush would be coming 30 November, of this year, and staying through the next day.
So much is already on the November agenda. Only now is Prime Minister Paul Martin wrapping up his ten-day trip to South America and Africa, which included the APEC summit in Santiago, Chile. While in Africa Martin, on 26 November, made his case for steeling the United Nations with a mission that would include allowing the organization to go well past its mandate of involving itself in conflicts between states, to include the imperative of becoming active in controversies that erupt within countries. Then there are the international crises, so difficult to plan for and cope with whatever the circumstances. The human tragedy in Sudan goes on. At the moment, some argue Ukraine is at a turning point, and a peaceful resolution to a presidential election result in dispute, pitting a pro-Western candidate and a pro-Moscow politician, appears less and less likely. And back on 11 November 2004 Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died, complicating a fragmented political environment in the Middle East.
Then there were the developments on the domestic front. First, and perhaps a positive for many, renegade Liberal Member of Parliament Carolyn Parrish is now free to build her own political party. On 18 November the Prime Minister threw her out of caucus. Parrish had continued to make statements some insisted were anti-American, and the week she was tossed from Liberal ranks she even made an appearance on the satirical television show This Hour Has 22 Minutes
, crushing a Bush doll underfoot. Yet none of this, say Liberals, forced Martin’s hand. While Parrish’s anti-Americanism did not make her the PM’s ally, she was sent packing only after she attacked her leader and colleagues, saying that she would not lose sleep if they were to lose the next election. For some reason, some members of the Conservative Party found this objectionable, arguing Parrish ought to have been shown the door earlier, and stressing it took a direct attack against members of her party to prompt action. What remains unclear is whether or not Parrish is forced to take up residence in the political wilderness forever, or merely for a very long time. In either case, it is now unlikely that she can work at bringing together disaffected fellow MPs, and even harder to image that she can be an extra-parliamentary organizer or worker for interests that may have objections to the direction of Canadian foreign policy.
And then we have what may be going on within the Conservative Party itself. So far not explored by the media, and in fact perhaps a story, if at all, only in the earliest stages, we just might be witnessing rifts within Tory ranks. Back on 10 November former Prime Minister and Tory Brian Mulroney was dusted off and presented as the elder statesman, speaking to the press about the state of global affairs. He remarked that it might be time for members of the world community to set aside their grievances and let old wounds heal, while seeking to cooperate with US aims and projects throughout the world. In addition, he mentioned that American authorities could be more sensitive, and learn to be more receptive to others’ interests, perhaps not rushing to unilateral solutions in all cases. It struck me that Mulroney’s remarks reflected so well what is likely the conventional belief within the inner ranks of the Liberal elite. And in an unrelated development, during the past few weeks current Tory foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day has had to defend an internal memo in which he explains why he failed to send condolences to those grieving the loss of Yasser Arafat. In short, Day suggested he abhorred Arafat’s politics, but reportedly circulated his internal email with an attachment that included an article by neoconservative David Frum. Frum is among the main architects of Bush’s neocon agenda. At least some members of the Canadian media noted both the attachment, and a sentence in Frum’s piece that hinted that Arafat might have passed away because of complications arising from AIDS. Immediately there was suggestion that Day’s agenda was somehow linked to AIDS. Day rebutted the accusations, and stressed that the bulk of Frum’s commentary dealt with Arafat’s politics. What few picked up on was any possible linkage between Day and any sympathies for the political philosophies of the neocons. If the Tory foreign affairs critic cited Frum owing to some conviction that the neocon political philosophy has more than passing merit, it may be asked how many Tory caucus members share such views. Can neocons and loyalists of a Mulroney Tory legacy co-exist without any tensions?
But back to Bush. Most of us are now familiar with certain aspects of his governing style. There’s unilateralism. Then we have Canadian officials worried about laissez faire, believing the Bush visit may represent some breakthrough on bilateral trade issues, and perhaps some are hoping for a concrete announcement on softwood lumber or beef. Undoubtedly border security will be addressed, as security has come to be one of the defining issues of the US administration. Yet I am somewhat unable to explain why there are two features of the Bush style that evade commentators in this country. In fact, both Bush presidents have displayed an ability to throw off observers by invoking some surprise, or last minute, initiative. Then there’s the calculated selection of seemingly weak personalities for key government posts. Back in 1988, when George Bush Senior ran, there were rumours in advance of the Republican National Convention that a Bush running mate would be an official from Indiana, and immediately there was speculation that Senator Richard Lugar, a foreign affairs specialist, would be selected to run for Vice President. Seemingly out of nowhere Bush Senior went with Dan Quayle. The current Bush needs a new Secretary of State, and current national security advisor Condoleezza Rice may not have to worry about sending an application for the commissioner’s posting at the NFL for at least another four years. Bush wants Rice. Bush also wants to visit Ottawa, but not to speak before Parliament. Instead, Bush wants to travel to Halifax to thank the people of the Maritimes for the help they offered American travelers during the 9/11 crisis. Canadian officials just might learn much by coming to understand what President Bush wants.
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Well, well, well, so much for prognostications and projections. The only prediction I have left for now is that I think I’m likelier to get an invitation to a futurologists’/psychics’ convention long, long before Dr. Fellman does.
If you’re still interested in analyses of the US election results, what they mean for Canada, and reactions to those returns, you may want to check out BC-based broadcaster Peter Warren’s 3 November 2004 program. It’s archived at CKNW Radio’s audio vault, and available for at least the next few weeks, at
Just access the audio archive for the 3 November date and begin listening from the 0830hrs. time slot. Peter also runs his own website: www.peterwarren.ca
And I just recently blundered across a new local Vancouver online journal that looks like it has potential. They have a really good piece on a Church, the State, immigration, Canadian policy, and one specific case at
I’m informed the Only Magazine
will have more content up in the near future.
Finally, I’ll be posting a new original essay in about 10-12 days.
Kerry Will Win Today…
…Says one British Columbia-based historian. Dr. Michael Fellman, Professor at Simon Fraser University, has been covering the US presidential race for the online The Tyee
. I’ve shared my views in the past, and, according to a few observers who’ve followed my opinions, some “balance” is needed. With that, I’m reposting Dr. Fellman’s latest article, published originally at www.thetyee.ca
[posted at http://www.thetyee.ca/Views/current/ImCallingKerry.htm
] back on 25 October 2004. All of Dr. Fellman’s insightful pieces can be found on the The Tyee
site. Both Dr. Fellman and The Tyee
editor David Beers have given their kind permission, allowing this piece to appear here.
I'm Calling It for Kerry
Prophet or idiot, I say he’ll win by a fair margin. Here’s why.
Mon., Oct. 25, 2004
By Michael Fellman
Americans sometimes forget that their elections are nearly always nasty, and that nasty does not always work, so transfixed are they by the current king of savagery, Karl Rove. Who knows what evils plots Bush’s top strategist is spinning, but I doubt whether he is omniscient, and I think the voters will actually decide the election and that someone will win and someone lose. This is a controversial position of course, as many expect a repeat of last time’s hung election.
As for me, I will go out on the limb of my wishes and predict a fairly clear victory for John Kerry. On November 3, you can call me a prophet or an idiot.
I base my prediction (beyond my cockeyed optimism), on several portents I see relating to current polls.
To begin with, I have never seen the pollsters so nervous about their own methodology. They are not so certain they are getting a clear picture of the electorate, weighted as it is to previous turnouts (“likely voters”)—a measurement that leans toward the Republicans. This year the turnout is likely to be much larger, and therein lays their doubts and my sense of portents for Kerry.
In many places, including in several key states, there has been a massive registration of university students, way beyond previous levels. Last Friday, for example, students at the University of Wisconsin held a huge rally to cheer for themselves: 6850 students registered for the first time in Madison alone (on a 35,000 student campus). And honey, these are not Bush voters. I know of similar results at the University of Colorado—another key battleground state. I extrapolate from this, based on my hunch that more University of South Carolina students will vote for Bush, but that in many key states, including Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the university student vote will be overwhelmingly Democratic. Students, and the young generally, are not counted as likely voters by pollsters.
In Ohio, black registrants in the Cleveland area are up 250 percent while white registration is up 25 percent. The Republican state returning officer tried to block many of these black registrants, similar to the case in Florida, where black registration is way up as well. I should think the net result of such shenanigans, added to the voting history in Florida in 2000 related to blacks, will bring blacks to the polls in far greater numbers than usual. Sounds like the bad old days to them, and many are furious. Kerry is pretty white, but at least he is not their active enemy. Most pollsters would not consider them likely voters.
It is said that seven per cent of American voters have only cell phones, no landlines. They cannot be polled, according to the procedures of the pollsters, and they tend to be younger urbanites more likely to vote Democrat than Republican.
Just those three groups of first-time voters could provide a very big lift for Kerry, and, in certain states, for Democratic congressional candidates as well.
Another group, on whom I have an only anecdotal fix, are well-educated, upper middle income Republican professionals, several of whom I have heard interviewed, who have said they were switching this time from their 2000 vote for Bush. I cannot really measure the size of this group, but I have heard the tune quite frequently.
Similarly, the push by certain Catholic bishops to essentially excommunicate Kerry because of his stand on abortion, seems likely to me to increase the tendency of Catholic voters to cast their ballots for Kerry in resistance to such bullying tactics. Catholic voters are pro-choice by a three to one margin, and they resent it when some of their religious hierarchy orders them to vote as they are told, which they consider a matter of conscience, as do many other Catholic priests for that matter.
Mud won’t stick
Beyond such portents, I think that the level of mudslinging on both sides will likely turn off voters, and that scare techniques, particularly about national security may well not work. I don’t know whether to conclude that Democratic scare tactics about social security will also turn off voters. Which fear counts for more with, say, the millions of retired folks in Florida? Maybe this is a saw-off between the parties, but I think that the vituperative name-calling the Bush crowd is resorting to, something not reciprocated by the Democrats, may well turn off even more voters. It has long been my gut feeling that the right wing has gone to the well of hatred one election too many, and that this time their weak candidate and weak record will catch up to them.
Whatever the result on November 2, I am certain that the American electorate will remain deeply divided, and that rancor will not decrease over time, unless Bush loses big (defined as 5 percent or more), in which case, more moderate voices may challenge for control of the Republican Party. If Bush wins, I will have to buy a new set of tea leaves.
Historian Michael Fellman, author of several books on the Civil War including The Making of Robert E. Lee. He is also Director of the Graduate Liberal Studies Program at Simon Fraser University. He writes an occasional column on the U.S. elections for The Tyee.