The show’s over let’s get back to reporting

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and for Stephen Harper and the boys in Afghanistan, it took the shooting of a civillian to bring things back down to earth.
I’m not sure if you caught it, living under a rock, on a desert island with no means of communication etc., but Stephen Harper made the great trek to Afghanistan. That’s right friends, our fearless leader grabbed the reins of a Hercules and flew over to visit our good men and women in uniform.
First off I am not criticising him, in fact I would like to send a well done lad/pat on the back directly in Stevos direction. But that’s as far as I want to go.
Let me say, to put it bluntly, that the start of this week could best be described as fellatio for Stephen Harper in the form of editorial copy. He hit the front pages of all the major dailies and news broadcasts and the editorial boards and pundits were abuzz.
Here’s a few quotes:
” It has been a while since we’ve had a PM we could truly be proud of — one who makes us believe in ourselves and our country. The wait may be over.” National Post, Mar. 14
“With this stunning gesture, Harper has gone us one better. He has risked his own safety to address the Afghanistan contingent in person — something his predecessor never did (and Jean Chretien did just fleetingly, in Kabul in October 2003).” Toronto Sun, Mar. 14

Now of course the stream of these papers tends to flow right, but these are not extreme examples. Flanked by excited Canadian soldiers running amuck, cameras at the ready, Stephen “Won’t cut and run” Harper dominated the news cycle, largely complemented by quotes from soldiers saying how happy they were that he was there and telling reporters at the same time that they were upset Canadians didn’t like them back home, much to the tune of Betty-Lou Who’s “Santy Clause why are you taking my Christmas tree?”
For an excellent account of the media coverage of this journey check out Antonia Zerbaisias’s Mar. 14 column on the Toronto Star website (sadly I don’t know how to post links on this fancy blog).

Anyway in her column she says, “But what could be happening is that, after some six weeks of information starvation by the Harper government, the media are giddy with excitement over having some access to the government. Recall that the Prime Minister’s Office has put its foot down on ministers talking — for fear they may put their foot in it.
Still, too much has been made of how Harper opted to go to Afghanistan rather than take the more traditional trip a newly elected PM would take, i.e., pay a visit to the White House. Make no mistake: by going to Afghanistan first he all but did check into the Oval Office. But, if any critic pointed that out on TV yesterday, I missed it.”

Thankfully in scanning the clips today I was pleased to see that the show is coming to an end, unfortunately though it took the death of an Afghan to do it.
I’ll be honest, I’m not always a fan of Christie Blatchford’s columns, but I would have to say that she did the best job of covering this event. Her analysis reported on the events of the shooting and also raised several good questions such as…
How could warning shots end up killing a man? How many shots were actually fired? Who was the man that was shot and what was his background? Why was he travelling so fast? etc.
Anyway, I thought she raised some excellent questions and I hope they get followed up in the near future.
Finally I would just like to give props to Mike Blanchfield in the Ottawa Citizen for his post-game analysis of the Harper trip. If you haven’t read it here’s a synopsis: When all is said and done we went on a photo-op junket. For example, he talks about how despite what was reported, Harper did not journey to Kandahar proper, and instead was in the well-fortified PRT base in the city. As well, he describes the scheduled photo stops that were taken throughout the trip.
Sadly, I wish this critical eye presented itself during the height of Harper’s trip (in which Blanchfield was present), to put things in perspective a little better.


(Oh and for the record Jean Chretien also made a trip to the front when Canadian soldiers were in Bosnia, when he was there a man was apparently killed just outside the compound. However, all most remember of this trip is the photo of the prime minister sitting with a military helmet on backwards.)

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