A chicken and a liar.
What on Earth possessed Harper yesterday to challenge Iggy to a duel? And less than 24 hours later refuse to show up? And then lie about the incident?
Here's Harper's "explanation" in Halifax today for why he's turning chicken in revoking his own challenge yesterday to Ignatieff for a one-on-one debate:
We were open to all kinds of options. Our first preference was a direct debate with the leader of the coalition. Mr. Ignatieff insisted that his first preference was to have his coalition partners with him at the debate. That’s the format that was proposed. We’ve accepted it.
We've learned - or re-learned - these past few days how hard Harper has worked to rewrite the history of his many past flirtations with a coalition to deny power to the party winning the most seats. We've heard less about his current cone of silence about to Ralph Klein with a brainwave on Alberta separatism (the scurrilous "firewall" letter of which Mr. H no longer speaks). And his belief that Belgium, sight unseen by Harper, has a better form of government than Canada. (Still without a government a year after its most recent election, Belgium now faces the prospect of breaking up on ethnic lines as the former Czechoslovakia did.) And there's Jim Flaherty's transports of admiration for a now-insolvent Ireland's ultra-low corporate-tax regime, which should be applied post haste to Canada. The Tories gone silent on those and other brain cramps. And the MSM, appreciating that people change and ideas are in flux, haven't dwelt on them.
And that, as an incident like this shows, was wrong. Since we've not challenged Harper on his past, we're all condemned to relive it.
How? In the fake costing of 65 jet-fighter planes. (Harper cost, $17 billion; real cost, $29 billion.) And the non-costing of new and expanded prisons that would be required by Harper's proposed tougher sentencing guidelines. (The outside estimates are roughly $9 billion.) It was a vote on that contempt of Parliament, and not the Flaherty's stillborn budget, that brought this government down last Friday.
But this episode is astonishing, a Harper rewrite of events that unfolded just yesterday. To the question of how far Harper will go in insulting the voters, there is no apparent answer.
Soon after Harper suggested the notion yesterday of squaring off with Iggy alone in a televised debate, Iggy's immediate response in fact was:
A one-on-one debate? Any time, any place.
Iggy tweeted that response to the world, aware of the consequences of backing out.
Harper or his war room quickly decided the Tory leader's hustings challenge of a one-on-one debate was not such a great idea. So within hours, Harper was trying to reel back his own idea, in the most disengenuous way.
Curiously, my team proposed 1:1 to TV consortium today; however, your team did not speak up.
That is, excuse me, horse dung. The "teams" take their orders from the leaders. If the teams were tied up in logistical knots about an agreed-upon mano-a-mano, they'd just have to figure it out. Because their leaders were on record agreeing to a duel, and voters give a rat's ass about logistics.
Each leader would invite accusations of cowardice if he backed down. So Harper has tried his best to depict Ignatieff as being the one to duck a one-on-one debate.
And that's a lie.
Kinsella dumps all over Harper today as a "chicken."
It's worse. In this incident, Harper has shown himself to be cowardly and a liar.
I don't use either word lightly. I admonished Duceppe for his Day 2 labelling of Harper as a liar for distorting the intent of the notorious 2004 letter signed by Harper, Duceppe and Layton, making themselves available for the G-G's consideration as a coalition government seeking to deny Martin the chance to lead a minority government. There's enough wiggle room in the wording of that document to make "liar" uncalled for.
The PM's conduct yesterday and today are wholly different. The PM lied to Canadians. A bald-faced lie, and not about the intent of an arcane document seven years ago. But on the question of who said what in recent hours about a challenge to a duel - something any voter can relate to.
I don't get it. Partisan sentiment aside, what Harper and Ignatieff said is on videotape and printed-out tweets. Common sense says you can't try the gambit of the cheating good 'ol boy of C&W songs who, contronted by his wife, asks: "Who ya gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes?"
For the umpteeth time in a campaign not a week old, Harper has stepped on his own message. But it's Week 1 and no one's paying attention. At least that's one of the truisms of the game. I have a feeling, though, that this item has legs, as Variety would say.
If the folks at Grit ad agency Red Leaf aren't splicing up footage right now for ads on Harper's two-facedness to run during the NHL playoffs they should be fired.
No name yet for the Tory campaign plane. Scott Feschuk suggests Chicken Wings.