TORONTO - Ahhhh, that “intangible”… that “Je ne sais quoi”… “can’t quite put my finger on it” mystique that makes one a “star”, or a successful political leader. It is an undefi le quality that differentiates one from the rest; that makes one “first” and, consequently, “everyone else last”. Deep down, intuitively, we all know what it is: that elusive expectation that this time, this special individual, will come closer to satisfying everyone’s hopes that “things will be different”, maybe even better.
Alas, an inevitable needle appears from nowhere to burst the bubble. Maybe it will not happen to Justin Trudeau.
He’s [relatively] young, good-looking, charming, photogenic, very attractive for the “sel- fi generation”. A modern day exemplar of the “yuppie generation”, and, like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama before him, he is popular at home and abroad.
And virtually impervious to criticism. No, not Tefl e. Just likeable. The public genuinely wants to say something positive about him; wants to feel good about him. He is a rare political “asset”.
It is a “fragile asset”, this rela- tionship that the public has with him. It is one that the Press and Media in Ottawa are getting set to destroy with jihadi fervour.
Already they are stripping away the legitimacy of his closest advisors and the chiefs of staff of two of his Ministers. The reason? They charged the public purse for their moving expenses. That, in and of itself, is not a big deal. It is part of the compensation pack- age negotiated by others before them.
What is shocking the Press Corps (no doubt encouraged by partisan political MPs) is both the amount and what the rules that permit. To describe them as generous is an understatement: $220,000 in the case of the PM’s top two advisors.
After a few days of what seemed to be a strategy of hide- and-seek, the advisors self-identifi said the [long-standing] rules allowed for their claims, repaid part and apologized. For some reason, someone thought it was also a good idea to point out what happened in the previous administration – the one that was “booted out of office”.
The Press was expecting a sincere mea culpa, a complete repayment of everything except transportation costs and a declaration that the rules would be changed. The Press was offered up what they interpreted as an “everybody does it” defense. Now it is reacting accordingly. It is unlikely to be generous in its reporting or analysis going forward.
Danger signals abound every- where. Italy’s Premier, Matteo Renzi, a younger, equally photogenic, popular leader (early in his career) has seen his reputation eroded by actions not entirely of his own making. Today he is em- barking on a Constitutional Referendum, the outcome of which will determine his own future, that of his government, and in the view of European observers, Italy.
For lovers of Shakespeare, he will emerge as either Macbeth or Malcolm. No matter, it is a cycle as old as at least the Oedipus Rex, the Greek morality play: every- one pays for [their] sins, whether committed by volition or unwittingly by association.
Trudeau supporters will hope this episode does not transform his “intangibles” into a hard and fast target.