Tuesday January 19, 2016
Trudeau’s silence on terrorism is deafening
It’s early still in the life of this government. Yet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Grits closing in on 100 days since their Oct. 19 electoral triumph, a pattern begins to emerge. It’s one that does the new regime and its leader little credit. It smacks of an inability or unwillingness to perceive sentiment beyond the urban Liberal echo chamber. It bespeaks a lack of imagination — including an inability to imagine threats to the government’s capacity to endure and succeed long-term. Tunnel vision and obduracy are not supposed to set in quite so soon.
Let’s begin with this: Trudeau’s Achilles heel. Every politician seems to have one. For this PM, for the longest time, it was his tendency to blurt silly things about serious geopolitical issues at inopportune times. There was his tone-deaf statement in an interview with the CBC that the Boston Marathon bombers must have felt excluded; his offhand praise of China’s system of government; his curious joke about the Russians invading Ukraine over hockey. Most memorably, there was the juvenile quip about former prime minister Stephen Harper whipping out Canada’s CF-18s to “show them how big they are.”
That series of gaffes, combined with Trudeau’s decision in the fall of 2014 to vote against Canadian participation in the U.S.-led air war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, was a factor in the collapse in public support that led to the Liberals entering last year’s election campaign an underdog. That they recovered and won resoundingly is a testament to Trudeau’s political skills and the quality of the campaign he ran. None of that mitigates that his perceived instincts and judgment about foreign policy — especially as concerns the war against Islamist, jihadist terrorism — are his greatest weakness.
Tonally this manifests as an inability, or unwillingness, to emit more than the minimum necessary wattage in public responses to terrorist atrocities perpetrated by ISIL and its fellow travellers. That was on display immediately after the massacre in Paris last November. It was on display again this past weekend, in the aftermath of Islamist killing sprees in Jakarta, Indonesia and Ouagadougou, Burkina-Faso, that left seven Canadians dead. (Continued: Michael Den Tandt, Postmedia)