Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Faking the highroad while taking the low road
A particularly odious style of "attacking attack ads" is claiming the high ground in a self-righteous campaign against negativity while going negative, something politicians of all stripes seem to favour. It seems that this is what the sole Manitoba PC Leadership candidate is intent on doing.
Brian Pallister certainly is running a slick campaign and is very likeable in person. It's also fine and dandy (and honourable looking) to admit that the other person is a good human being: someone you just have policy disagreements with.
It's quite predicable that Pallister, when talking about how different and honourable the PC campaign will be this time, utterly ignores his own party's fear-mongering last election. What's more interesting is the swipes against Obama, who's quite popular in the Canadian prairies.
PC Party activists could be substantially more anti-Obama than the Manitoban population at large (which is likely). Alternatively, the prospect of corporate records being within limits for opposition research might make the country club conservative Pallister nervous. This could be especially worrisome given the risk poses to his "man of the people" image.
On the substance of his observations about US politics, they're flat out wrong. The most devastating element of many of the Obama camp's attacks on Romney are the truth they hold: Romney hasn't released extensive tax returns. Claiming that people don't know how much Romney paid in taxes for many years, stating his phenomenally low tax rates for the year of Romney's tax returns the American public does have access to, and noting the various places famous for being tax shelters where Romney has bank accounts is perfectly fair, fact-based campaigning.
When it comes to the Manitoba NDP campaign last provincial election, quite a few facts were presented. The Filmon PC's cuts (which Pallister stands behind) and McFadyen's track record as an advisor to the Ontario government were facts that the NDP presented. What Pallister seems to have a problem with is the unfalsifiable speculation that McFadyen secretly intended to privatize Manitoba Hydro if his party formed government. Many issue-based negative attacks contain a mix of fact and speculation, is the speculative part what Pallister opposes?
If so then why is he delivering unfalsifiable speculations himself?
Let's take this speech of his to the Conservative Club of Winnipeg, for instance.
“We are not a have-not province. I believe we are a have Province which suffers from a have-not NDP government.”I mean, how would one go about assessing the truthfulness of this claim? You'd have to claim that specific NDP policies are hurting the province and then you'd have to subtract those policies from the "fundamentals" of the Manitoba economy. Doing this is very hard (in no small part because correlation does not imply causation), as is subtracting all the shocks (like that pretty massive global financial downturn that skyrocketed the deficits of almost EVERY GOVERNMENT in the developed world due to falling tax revenues because of falling business profits due to poor consumer demand). Pallister's insinuation that we'd be a have-province were it not for the NDP is tantamount to the NDP's claim that McFadyen intended to privatize Hydro once in office: it's impossible to disprove with certainty.
One can assess the probability of various statements and make arguments and inferences for specific conclusions while exploring ideas (something this blog aims to do), but matters like that are hardly ever cut and dried - which is what Pallister seems to be aiming when complaining about other "non-research based" campaigns.
Regardless of whatever he's aiming for, in his press release summary of the "we are a have Province which suffers from a have-not NDP government" speech, Pallister feels no need to provide data and hard figures. It figures.
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