TORONTO - His team kept reporters and National Television waiting for more than two hours while he rehearsed his talking points. That was stupid. Why did it take Justin Trudeau’s brilliant strategists that amount of time to figure out the choices were (1) deny, deny and deny again, or (2) acknowledge the photo, the insensitivity that it might project in 2015, sorry, I mean 2019, and move on?
It’s not a nice photo of him. Four elegant, smiling (dare I say attractive looking?) women, dressed in formal evening wear, and a very dark-skinned man doffing a turban with one of his hands inappropriately placed on the uncovered chest of one of the ladies. Trudeau admitted that he was that man.
He also explained that he had chosen the make-up (black, brown?) to make his character more in sync with the theme of the Gala: Arabian Nights. He dressed the part, although any characters I ever recall from Arabian nights just had a swarthier complexion than Southern Europeans.
Who can tell? Not me; it was a black and white photo. Besides, I don’t get out much anymore. More troubling is that fact that the ladies in the photo do not appear to have gotten the same memo regarding the dress code for this school function.
That suggests that Trudeau, at the time a 29-year-old teacher at the school, must have had a special role as a welcoming host, or he was just being flippant. Or he “has a thing” for “costumes”, as per the India trip last year.
Who knows? Italian custom permits celebrants at the Carnevale (Shrove Tuesday) to imitate anything and anyone and dress in any way they choose – without recrimination or judgement.
I know, this was not Shrove Tuesday and the Gala took place in Canada. Anyway, he apologized, sort of, for what he did in 2001.
My 10-year-old grandson, who sat quietly beside me at the table while trying to do his homework, wondered aloud why skin pigmentation was so important to these people on television? Why don’t they just go to his school and see if it matters to anyone, he murmured?
Then he asked why the Prime Minister of Canada could use pedestrian, impolite words that are forbidden in his school and in our house. I apologized for Trudeau, reassuring him that there is no room for uncouth language in public discourse, even if “the language of the street” is now replete with expletives.
I, and we at the Corriere, are not making light of these turn of events. The public will decide. For example, American TV, more specifically Don Lemon on CNN, used Trudeau’s woes as a lead story. Their own President gives them lots of material to dissect.
As a Newspaper, we have been repeating the need to move away from the desensitizing war-room electoral tactics designed to denigrate and muddy the character of opponents in favour of moving to more productive discussions of issues and strategies.
For this reason, we chose not to pile on Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer for statements he made on same-sex marriage when the enabling legislation was being debated in the House of Commons, 14 years ago. In our view, there is better use of space for public debate. We still hold the view in this instance.
The placement of the hand in the picture and the language in the “apology” are a different matter.