Anger, or a Footnote?
If PM Martin continues to blunder, and finds himself out of office, the issues I’m about to deal with won’t amount to a thing. Even if he manages to win a landslide majority, it’s unlikely they will have a defining importance, and certainly no invasion and/or counter invasion plans from the 1920s and 1930s will have to be dusted off. However, it is in this latter case, that he wins even another minority, that these events may return to complicate an already strained relationship.
Not so long ago, US President Bush probably saw Paul Martin as a potential friend and working partner. After all, Jean Chretien had antagonized, frustrated and disappointed the Republican leadership in Washington. But after Martin arrived on the scene, he found himself in a position of having to defend and promote many of his predecessor’s foreign policy choices, if only as a way of preserving his leadership of the Liberal caucus. Just how far Martin has fallen out of favour in DC may be seen in recent US headlines, which explained Bush now sees Tory leader Stephen Harper as a potential new best friend.
But it has been over the past few weeks that Martin has escalated his attacks, prompting some to speculate that Martin himself has jumped on Carolyn Parrish’s anti-American bandwagon. This would not have made headlines, except for the fact that one person coming to that conclusion, and very publicly, was US Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins. Wilkins, who did not actually mention Martin’s name, hinted there could be reprisals, stating “It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner constantly…But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on the relationship” [Wilkins’ remarks reported by CBC, 13 December 2005. Story posted at http://www.cbc.ca/story/canadavotes2006/national/2005/12/13/wilkins-051213.html
]. Martin flatly rejected the charge, stressing, “I have not made the United States or any country a target in the campaign” [Cited in http://www.cbc.ca/story/canadavotes2006/national/2005/12/13/wilkins-051213.html
US officials almost certainly understand that playing the Anti-American card sometimes benefits other national leaders, especially when an election is in play. Every one of Martin’s comments, ranging from those over the US position on Kyoto, trade, and the line announcing “I [Martin] will defend Canada,” should not have antagonized the Americans. Indeed, this prompted some to suggest Martin actually had prominent Republican friends, feeding him ammunition during the election campaign, which he in turn could use to whip up a following and secure another big Liberal win. But, seriously? Key Republicans, friends, involved in a conspiracy to reelect the Martin regime? There may be another answer.
Just days before Wilkins’ outburst, Martin, in Montreal, attended an international summit on climate change. Also there was former US President Bill Clinton, and the PM found himself faced with a photo op he couldn’t refuse. If Bono no longer wanted to make himself available, could Clinton’s superstardom benefit the Liberal leader? By 9 December 2005 both Clinton and Martin were in public explaining their very high profile meeting had no political purpose or impact whatsoever. “We’re here at an international conference that was organized ages ago and long before there was talk of any election…It actually never crossed my mind that when I heard that former president Clinton was coming here that I shouldn't meet with him,” said Martin [Quoted in “Paul Martin Denies Using Bill Clinton to Boost Election Fortunes,” CP, 9 December 2005. Story posted at http://news.yahoo.com/s/cpress/20051209/ca_pr_on_na/fedelxn_liberals
]. But could it be that the meeting bothered Washington for reasons most observers do not suspect? Couldn’t it just be that some observers to the South might have been offended by what could be seen as a foray into US domestic politics? After all, isn’t it possible to argue that Bill Clinton hasn’t completely yet graduated to the rank of elder statesman, and that some may see that Clinton name still attached to presidential campaigns in the not too distant future?
Happy New Year.
Posted by Stan Markotich
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