Dr. Dawg

Skin in the game

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Politicians are rarely thick-skinned, despite appearances. They can’t afford to be. The one thing a successful pol requires is an extraordinary sensitivity to his or her constituency. Not merely to letters, calls, public statements and comments in the local papers, but at a far more basic, instinctual level. Politicians can feel a crowd. They can hear rumblings of discontent before they become roars. They can read people more or less instantly.

“But…but,” you say. Rob Ford? Surely the best counter-example? An ill-mannered, drink-soaked, drug-addled oaf, the butt of jokes across North America? You’d have to have the hide of a rhino to put up with that.

Not at all. Rob was a sensitive soul, all of his nerve-endings exposed. Here was a man of size, a former football player who could still charge a hapless Star reporter like a bull, but who ran back into his house and phoned 911 when Marg Delahunty showed up on the sidewalk dressed in her Warrior Princess togs. Neither of these actions, in fact, bespeaks a thick-skinned individual. He would respond to fancied slights with an immediate show of anger. He was the very opposite of aloof and professionally detached. Maybe that’s why so many people liked him, elected him, and (in diminishing numbers to be sure) went on liking him.

What kept him going? He knew he had a secure base, until he finally fell apart, crushed, not by others, but by himself. The rowdy support he enjoyed in the GTA was his armour. He was easily reelected in his own ward a few weeks ago, after all the kerfuffle.

But there are also a myriad of deeply personal reasons why someone like Ford would seek public exposure, even when that exposure would lead to incessant poking and prodding at his unusually obvious failings and weaknesses. I knew a national union leader once, deeply shy, nervous speaking to a crowd of two, woefully unprepared for his new office, who nevertheless seemed propelled, somehow, to seek a life every second of which must have been agony. He died young.

Don’t imagine for a moment that everything just rolls off the Harper crew, either. Last week the exceptionally dim and unqualified Minister of Environment and former Health minister Leona Aglukkaq went on a tear, threatening to sue Sam Tutanuak, the deputy mayor of Rankin Inlet, a Nunavut hamlet of 2,300 people give or take. The failure of Nutrition North, a poor replacement for the old Food Mail program*, has led to elderly people scavenging the local dump for food. Tutanuak publicly complained about that. He then claimed that Aglukkaq had demanded an apology from him for speaking out.

Of course it’s all “he said, she said” at this point. But for Aglukkaq, a simple denial that any such demand was made, truthful or not, is insufficient. She actually wants to go to court over it. Unbelievable.

We shouldn’t mock politicians for being thin-skinned, although many of us do so. It goes with the job; it’s how they survive. Indeed, to some extent, it helps to keep them accountable to their constituents, or a chunk of them, anyway. We can, and should, however, mock them for poor judgement, evident character flaws, venality, stupidity and incompetence. And we have the satisfaction of knowing, when we do, that their congenital hyper-sensitivity makes every shot count.

[Thanks to CC for an idea. I strayed from it.]

* The government claims that the cost of a food basket for a family of four has dropped by $110 per month. That’s four more cabbages, or less than two chickens.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on December 1, 2014 10:13 AM.

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