‘Heightened scrutiny’ of Mulcair should include foreign policy

Photo by Matt Jiggins

This just in: Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson’s crystal ball reveals that NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s front-running status in opinion polls means he will attract more media “scrutiny” as the election approaches.

I gather that’s what passes for a eureka moment inside the Globe’s largely moribund Ottawa bureau these days. My goodness.

Recently, Ibbitson rehashed the magnified “scrutiny” trope, which really is pundit code for: Once me and my neocon pals in the establishment press get through with exposing the “real” Mulcair, his political fortunes will fade and the Orange Wave will inevitably recede…as waves always do.

Earlier this week, evidence of this supposed heightened scrutiny came courtesy of Maclean’s magazine, which recycled an eight year-old story about Mulcair’s flirting with joining the PMO as some sort of environmental advisor.

Depending upon whom you believe, the ill-fated negotiations between Mulcair and the Tories fell through over disagreements about money or policy. The intent of magazine’s stale “scoop” may have been, in part, to reignite questions about whether Mulcair is actually a time-share socialist who is, you know, just passing through.

The irony is that if Ibbitson and Maclean’s had been paying even fleeting attention, they would have noticed that many New Democrats concluded long ago that Muclair is a lassiez-faire social democrat with a cosmetic allegiance to core NDP values, particularly on foreign policy issues.

For real evidence of the former provincial Liberal cabinet minister’s faux conversion on the road to Jerusalem, New Democrats point to Tepid Tom’s muted response – to put it mildly – to Israel’s invasion of Gaza last summer and the shockingly disproportionate number of Palestinian children, women and men who were killed and injured during the all-out assault.

Indeed, Mulcair was lauded in neocon circles for his “mature” reaction to the invasion of Gaza and the breathtaking scope of the human carnage it caused…more than 2,000 civilians killed, including hundreds of children, while countless other Palestinians were injured, traumatized, and left homeless or orphaned.

Through it all, the usually loquacious Mulcair kept his snappy trap shut and as far away as possible from a microphone, choosing instead to issue boilerplate press releases urging both sides to “de-escalate.”

Even the NDP’s patron saint and much heralded human rights champion, Ed Broadbent, remained noticeably and uncharacteristically silent about the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. (At the time, I requested interviews with Mulcair and Broadbent to discuss Gaza, but their “people” insisted they were either too busy or unavailable for comment.)

Predictably, most of the well-trained seals that make up the NDP caucus fell into line, and also kept mum even as the number of dead and injured Palestinians climbed precipitously during the nearly 50-day conflict.

Exhibit A: That normally mainstream media magnet, Libby Davies, kept her reservations about the rising toll on Palestinians limited to rather circumspect posts on social media… all the while declining, like her boss, interview requests.

Mulcair and company were praised by the National Post, among others, for not parroting the NDP’s usual “knee-jerk,” “moral platitudes” in reaction to explosions of violence in the Middle-East – as if condemning the indiscriminate killing and maiming of thousands of innocent people by the air, sea and land somehow constitutes a “knee-jerk” response.

In any event, Mulcair’s brain trust enthusiastically shared the Post’s support for their man’s “balanced approach” on Gaza on Twitter as further proof, I suppose, that he can be “trusted” to govern “responsibly”…. that is to say, that when it comes to Gaza, at least, Muclair is one of the boys, at heart.

(Speaking of “moral platitudes,” Post columnist Robyn Urback recently denounced Conservative Party TV ads featuring ISIS produced images of men about to be executed as “revolting,” “depraved” and a signal that the Tories were “losing sight of humanity.” Recall that much earlier, Urback dismissed efforts by the Ontario government and others to get 100 injured Palestinian children to Canada for medical help as a publicity stunt. I’m obliged to pose the following question: In what kind of cockeyed moral universe does a writer express outrage over the ‘inhumanity’ of Tory TV election ads, while tacitly approving the refusal of the very same government to extend a humane helping hand to injured kids?)

The unexpected bromance between Muclair and the National Post over Gaza isn’t, of course, shared by veteran New Democrats who are deeply disillusioned or have abandoned the party outright in the wake the NDP leader’s so-called “balanced approach” to Gaza.

Skepticism about Mulcair, and more particularly the “team” around him, became acute when NDP stalwarts like Paul Manly – the son of former NDP MP, Jim Manly – were banned from seeking party nominations in British Columbia.

And what “crime” did Manly commit to warrant being banished by Mulcair’s inner circle? He publicly criticized the NDP for having “lost its way” and Mulcair for having “whipped and muzzled” a pair of BC MPs into silence when the party failed to demand his father’s release after he was imprisoned and briefly held incommunicado by Israeli authorities in October, 2012. Manly took part in a failed attempt to break an Israeli maritime embargo of Gaza.

Turns out Mulcair’s shadow privy council, including NDP National Director, Anne McGrath – who pulled the trap door on Paul Manly – is as petty, insular and vindictive as Stephen Harper’s notorious short pants brigade. How’s that for doing politics differently? (Manly is now running for the Greens in the upcoming election.)

Not surprisingly, like much of the Canadian media, Mulcair and the NDP paid little, if any, attention this week to news that Israel seized another vessel trying to deliver aid and relief to Gaza. This, despite the fact that two Canadian human rights activists were arrested and jailed before being deported to Canada on Thursday.

I suspect that when Mulcair asks NDP supporters for their help in the coming weeks and months to get him elected, more than a few will say: Je me souviens Gaza.

Andrew Mitrovica is a writer and journalism instructor. For much of his career, Andrew was an investigative reporter for a variety of news organizations and publications including the CBC’s fifth estate, CTV’s W5, CTV National News — where he was the network’s chief investigative producer — the Walrus magazine and the Globe and Mail, where he was a member of the newspaper’s investigative unit. During the course of his 23-year career, Andrew has won numerous national and international awards for his investigative work.

This article originally appeared on iPolitics.ca.

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