Edmonton Journal columnist Lorne Gunter has succinctly identified in his column today why Helena Guergis's airport tantrum is particularly obnoxious.
Given her power position, too, her behaviour amounts to bullying.
Bullying has been much in the news the past week or so in the U.K., because of reports that some of the PM's staff sought counselling help for bullying treatment in Gordon Brown's office. There's been a bit of debate in Britain -- but not here, so much -- about whether bullying is just an occupational hazard in the realm of politics. Politics, the argument goes, is such a place of high drama and ego that you just have to expect that tempers will get out of control.
I look at another way -- as yet more evidence of politics' increasing irrelevance to the lives of normal citizens. It doesn't resemble any workplace we recognize, at least not any functional workplace. Tantrums and bullying may be part of the ordinary working day here in Ottawa for some folks, but when those tactics are exported to the realm where most of us operate -- an airport lineup, for instance -- they are exposed for the sociopathy they are. Ditto for when you try to use political-discrediting techniques on non-political people such as bank CEOs or public servants.
This explains, and I don't say this lightly, why some people in government have a hard time finding jobs after politics. Employers in the private sector, for the most part, actually have little use for folks with highly developed skills in haranguing, bullying and intimidating people. The "communications experts" who believe that you can manage the media with threats, for instance, aren't so much in demand outside politics. In short, the methods that some political people use to get their own way here are not transferable to the private workplace, unless you have career aspirations in the direction of pro wrestling.
The sad thing about Guergis's tantrum is that in Ottawa, it almost looks like business as usual. Fifty yards away from Parliament Hill, as the old saying goes, it's a little harder to get away with this nonsense.