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Politics

Never say never, especially not about this

As someone still sporting deep ego bruises for having declared Quebec separatism dead a few times too many, I humbly offer a word of caution about Monday’s election. Don’t.

Yes, the separatist parties tanked. But here’s the thing: Separatism was never about separation. It was always about identity. And that issue never dies.

Read the rest on the Ottawa Citizen website.

The past you thought you knew

One thing I didn’t talk about when I wrote about the Kavanaugh-Ford business last week was whether I believed him.

I said I believed her. I still do. It’s entirely possible to be wrong about certain details 30-odd years later, but personally I know exactly who assaulted me on that bed back in 1987. My memory is extremely clear on that. Of course Dr. Ford isn’t me, and it may be that she’s mistaken about who it was who pinned her down at that party. But I doubt it.

Do I believe him that he remembers no such thing happening, that night or any other night? Yep. I believe he’s truthful when he swears he has no memory of such an event.

To my mind the only way this can be true - that they can both be truthful and believable despite the fact that their accounts contradict each other is that he was not sober at the time. I didn’t want to say it last week because a) I don’t know him and b) it’s not really my place to say this sort of stuff because of a). So I didn’t.

But listening to these people talk about him makes me almost sorry I didn’t say it earlier (so does this piece). I find it interesting that people who would remain silent about all those serious allegations of sexual misconduct are incensed at his portrayal of himself as a student to speak out to reporters about the young man they knew back then.

And I find myself wondering: Wouldn’t it be better to admit - like George W. Bush did - that when he was young and stupid he was real good at it but that he’s a changed and better person now that he’s all grown up? It worked for W, certainly. And I’m sure there are lots of people with lots of anecdotes about the former president who’d come out if they thought it was necessary to correct a public narrative they considered not just wrong but offensively so.

Sure, everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. Maybe Kavanaugh is and was a saint. The high-school version of it, at any rate. But you know, I haven’t been to Georgetown Prep or anything, but back in my day saints were pretty rare. Still are. I was never one myself.

I do think admitting you were a party boy with the antics to match would be a better bet than trying to pretend you were only thinking about your studies and that sports team you were on. Especially if there are plenty of people around who weren’t drinking enough to forget how you behaved when you misbehaved.

Honor, decency and virtue - yes, even towards that president

You're not supposed to speak ill of the dead, especially not when the dead in question is a hero. But John McCain should have invited the president to his funeral. 

Oh, I understand why. Donald Trump, as an individual, is odious. He is vulgar, overly self-centered, bigoted, ignorant, loud and boorish. And that's on a good day. I absolutely cannot stand him, and I have a big problem with the people who support him even with their nose plugged. Plus he said really nasty things about John McCain that he had no business saying. I get it. And yet. 

He should have been invited. Because no matter how much we despise him, or how right we are to despise him, he occupies the office of President and that's what matters. The symbol if not the man. He quite probably would have declined to attend, especially if he had not been asked to speak and had to sit quietly while two former presidents did so. But then it would have been Donald Trump disrespecting the office, and no one else. 

The United States, like most countries you'd actually want to live in, works (however imperfectly) because enough of its people believe in the ideals of honor, virtue, and decency. The fact that the current occupant of the Oval Office embodies the antithesis of those ideals is most inconvenient. It cramps our style. But that doesn't make the ideals not worth living up to. Quite the opposite. 

John McCain, although he was no saint (just thought I'd put this out there), was a man who believed in those ideals. You just have to go back and read what he said against the use of torture even in cases where "enhanced" methods of interrogation could potentially thwart terrorist plots. His reasoning was magnificent. He could be incredibly frustrating when he stood up in defense of his ideals. He might bend sometimes, but he would not break. When people questioned Barack Obama's patriotism because of where his father had been born, John McCain defended him. He didn't need to do that. But he did it because he couldn't stand racism and bigotry. 

That's honor. That's decency. That's virtue. 

So Donald Trump fiddled with the flags. He pointedly went and played golf while the rest of the country mourned with John McCain's family and friends. Whatever. That's the kind of boorish fellow he is. We don't answer with more of the same. We quietly respect and honor the office and symbols, with as much dignity as we can muster, and move on. I am sorry to see that a man who could withstand torture (to say nothing of D.C. politics) with honor would, in his last hours, weaken in his resolve and leave us with this bitter gesture. 

Yes, we can make politics more civil

My concluding column for the Politics for the Rest of Us series in the Ottawa Citizen. We hope to keep this project going, and the column explains why and how. Thanks everyone for reading (and sending me lovely emails), and a special thanks to my interviewees without whom this project wouldn't be nearly as interesting.