"October surprises" in April.
LAYTON CAUGHT IN MASSAGE PARLOR!
HARPER'S ANTI-CANADA QUOTES REVEALED!
IGNATIEFF EXPOSED AS WANNABE YANK IRAQ-INVADER!
We're into the Hallowe'en phase of the federal election campaign.
A fat dossier of potentially damaging Harper quotes over his lifetime, first compiled nearly a decade ago, somehow lands in the Grit camp two weeks ago.
The leader of the Grit camp, meanwhile, is depicted an Iraq-invasion mongering tool of George W. Bush, sort of, in a photo that a high-ranking Tory operative is accused of providing the upstart Sun News Network (SNN) last week.
And now Jack Layton (shown campaigning Friday in Courtenay, B.C.), who especially couldn't hope to escape the smear season, given the NDP surge, is reported by the same SNN to, according to an unnamed, now retired, Toronto police officer, seen by the officer and his partner naked in a Chinatown massage parlor in Toronto some 15 years ago.
Full disclosure: On eight separate occasions in the mid-2000s, someone bursting into the massage room of my chiropractor would have found me lying starkers on a bed. I can feel my reputation rapidly slipping away as I try to explain my conduct. Of how the young woman massaging me was gradually (miraculously) removing the previous decades' of accumulated stress from my major muscle groups, notably in my shoulders, that had seized up. I swear nothing untoward happened. I was lectured incessantly on the merit of bike lanes by possibly the GTA's only masseuse who knew the names of each anti-bike-lane member of city council. This work was done in her basement clinic on a Toronto sidestreet, which makes the whole enterprise sound even dodgier.
Layton insists that, while he did obtain a massage from a facility properly licensed with the city as a registered massage parlor, he also did not engage in improper behavior. He recalls the two officers telling him the premises were suspected of being used for illicit purposes, and that he should stay away from the place. Layton gave the cops his telephone number and address and left. Later that day he told his wife, Olivia Chow, MP for Trinity-Spadina, about the incident. She issued a statement yesterday saying she had known previously of her husband's massage-clinic appointment, "as I always do," and has seconded Layton's assertion he had done nothing wrong.
What's interesting here is that through Layton's eight election campaigns since 1996, that incident has never been revealed. Has been non-newsworthy until this highly convenient time, though it occurred in the news-media capital of English Canada, and starred an individual even then among the most prominent people in the city.
By 1996, Jack Layton had served for ages on Toronto city council, and had endured a high-profile loss in a run for mayor. In a world of "gotcha journalism," Layton would have been a prize indeed for the scandal-hungry Toronto papers.
But no, we did not learn about this incident - an entirely innocent one, according to the only two people who will go on the record about it - for a decade and a half. We're first learning of this stale "news" 72 hours before Election Day, on the only occasion in its 79-year history when the CCF/NDP is poised to form a national government or official opposition.
The timing alone was sufficient reason for Sun News Network (a.ka. Faux News North) to hold the story until it could be confirmed with real people whose names aren't lifted off tombstones.
And, obviously, the big question for our unnamed retired police officer? Why tell your story now, what's your motive in doing so, and what contacts have you had with any political parties or individuals? A less obvious question: With three all-news TV networks to choose from, why did contact the weeks'-old conservative one with your story?
I can guarantee that curious minds that want to know the identify and motive of this snitch with nothing to actually snitch about won't be satisfied prior to May 2. After May 2, the story will simply die. It will no longer matter, the smear having done his damage. That's how smears work.
Only in the second case above do we know the alleged smear artist. And Patrick Muttart, erstwhile deputy chief of staff to then-prime minister Stephen Harper, has been summilarly exiled by the Tory camp. (Goodness, the company our PM keeps! As if Bruce Carson wasn't enough.) Having been made to walk the plank, Muttart has reverted to omerta, though, again through unnamed sources, he is said to be upset by how the Tory campaign has treated him, poor dear.
It's odd that Faux News North would examine the purported Iggy photo the Tory operative provided it, determine that it was not a photo of Ignatieff but of a U.S. soldier, and therefore not use it. Yet just 48 hours later, FNN stooped to shoddy journalism in running an unsourced story in which Ignatieff's chief rival, Layton, is hazily depicted as a patron of an illicit bawdy house.
Odd that this tale would lie dormant until the first time in its 79-year history the NDP was a threat to replacing the Grits as the official opposition or even the Tories as the governing party.
We shouldn't call them "dirty tricks," which suggests Lucy pulling Charlie Brown's football away at the last minute. Dirty tricks, executed properly (that leaves out Gordon Liddy, planner of the botched Watergate burglary), can subvert democracy. Indeed, that's the point.
By this means, of course, we first had Stephen Harper thrust upon us as PM in 2006. On that occasion, it was the Grits that were smeared, and too late in the day to recover.
The RCMP, world's least competent national police force - which almost allowed one of our PM's and his wife to be killed in their beds at 24 Sussex, then Tasered an innocent, tragically confused immigrant to death at Vancouver International - took it upon itself at about this point in the 2006 campaign to insert itself into the political process.
In the 2006 campaign, the Mounties "revealed" that then finance minister Ralph Goodale had possibly acted improperly in his handling of income-trust policy. With the very real Liberal sponsorship scandal as the background context, a great many voters were prepared to believe this new, unfounded "report" of possible misconduct. From which, in the fullness of time, no hint of actual misconduct was ever shown to have occurred. Too late, of course. And to this day we don't know who or for what purpose the RCMP operatives chose to meddle in an election campaign.
There's a natural inclination to feel badly for the victims of smear jobs through history. Save it. We're the victims. We the electorate. The thought that even one among us will vote against Harper, or Ignatieff, or Layton, because of dirty tricks is repugnant. Smears are an assault on our democracy in denying voters the full range of honorable candidates to choose from.
John McCain (shown, in 2007, preparing for a second South Carolina primary race) was sailing toward the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 when shoppers in South Carolina emerged from supermarkets to find fliers under the windshield wipers of their cars informing them that McCain, frontrunner in the Palmetto State primary, was the father of a black love child. Signed, unsigned. And that, plus the votes of the five Republican-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court, is how George W. Bush became president. From which followed 9/11, the botched Iraq invasion, Katrina, the Great Recession, a record trillion-dollar-plus deficit, and eight lost years in stem-cell research.
That's why my despair for McCain is measure. My sorrow is directed, instead, at a great country deprived of a genuine democratic choice in an election.
McCain, of course, went down in flames in the 2000 South Carolina GOP primary, breathing life, finally, into a Bush campaign which to that point had lost a series of contests to McCain.
And, as I noted earlier, we still don't know who smeared the hero of the Hanoi Hilton on behalf of Dubya, the chronically AWOL National Guard airman. Karl Rove is widely assumed to have been the mastermind, and the fact he's not tried to clear his name - establish his honor - more than a decade later suggests the widely held assumption is true. But smear-job artists, Muttart aside, very seldom pay a price. Rove thrives as a TV talking head and campaign stratgeist for hire.
If you're in the market for a permanent governing majority that lasts six years, Karl's your man. And somewhere out there is a retired cop who can regale you with tales of naked men he's seen in Chinese massage parlors. Can't say he witnessed anything beyond the "wink wink" stigma, but that may suffice.
Kinsella: "I was on Sun News tonight. My take: if a political party was ultimately behind this story – and it’s highly unlikely a political party wasn’t – they’ll be really, really sorry if they get found out. Voters aren’t stupid. Things like this don’t happen by accident."
Edmonton Sun report.
Photos: Layton, CP; McCain, Getty Images.