Harper's bad start.
Day Four of the campaign and the topic is still Harper's real or alleged hypocrisy over a coalition agreement with his then-fellow opposition parties seven years ago to bring down the government of Paul Martin.
I don't know how long that fateful 2004 document signed by Harper, Duceppe and Layton will be the gift that keeps on giving.
But for now it's sucking the oxygen out of the Harper campaign.
As long as the PM feels it necessary to defend his honour, he's is playing the opposition's game. He's on the defensive. And he isn't getting the Tories' message out.
Coalition talk has trampled all over the Tories' first campaign goodie, an income-splitting tax break. Which in any case turns out to be an empty Christmas stocking since it may or may not take effect four or five years from now when the books are balanced, on second-day elaboration by Harper. Your vote today for the possibility of a tax break half a decade hence. This is the Wimpy principle taken to chutpah lengths.
Finally, Harper's pained coalition talk reminds us of his career-long habit of signing documents that later blow up in his face. (Harper's 2000 "firewall" letter calling for Alberta's de facto sovereignty will suffice by way of example.) Which episodes Harper has characteristically refused to acknowledge, or reinvented the intent of, or tried to explain away, as in 2004 coalition case, of being somehow justified by the "context" of those times.
He dissembles, in other words, just like any pol.
It takes some doing for a generally competent leader of a G-7 nation to render himself ordinary, but this always has come naturally to Harper. That's why no party he's led has cracked 40% at the polls. He's our Nixon, competent but unable to shake our sense there's something untrustworthy about him.
Coming out of the gate, a majority-bound Harper should have been talking of little else than having successfully navigated Canada through the Great Recession, restoring before any G-7 nation all of the 400,000 jobs our country lost during the economic meltdown.
Instead, Harper's trademark mean streak compelled him to launch the Tory campaign by demonizing the opposition as engaged in a conspiracy to steal his premiership from him. Which finds him coming across as a whiny child, anything but the thick-skinned visionary demanded by these tough times at home abroad.
Some of us remember how Trudeau dealt with this stuff. With a shrug. Yes, at times that seemed contemptuous. But what we know of him now, many biographies later, is that for him life was too short to get bogged down in the trivialities of the political game. So he lost an election and won four, and governed for about 15 years.
Aside 1: Layton has played this card best, choosing merely to clarify the 2004 episode, rather than depict Harper as a out-of-control power seeker (Iggy) or a "liar" (Duceppe).
Aside 2: While Harper was in Beaumont, Alta. yesterday whinging to supporters about a coalition-minded cabal, Obama, who enjoys an 80% approval rating in Canada, was giving one of his typical speeches of a lifetime. This one outlined what will come to be called the Obama Doctrine of a new way of communally intervening to prevent genocide in Libya and elsewhere. It doesn't help Harper (or Iggy) that the most commanding figure on the world stage just now puts on a clinic, as they say of unhittable baseball pitchers, in statesmanship.