Barack Obama begins his historic "Who's Your Daddy?" world tour with a six-hour stop in Ottawa--a sojourn which has been described as far too brief but which will, in fact, give the presidential couple plenty of time to achieve their three top objectives: scoring some cheap Manolo Blahniks at the Sparks Street Holt Renfrew, stopping by the nearest ByWard gift store to grab some plastic Mounties and faux-Inuit crap for the kids, and pretending to give a shit what Stephen Harper thinks (in roughly that order).
Even as I type, both leaders are doubtless glancing over last-minute memoranda in advance of the august event. For Obama's staff, the key question is whether Harper will spit or swallow. This is a crucial issue, since it has been bi-national protocol, at least since Pearson, to ensure that someone on the President's team has a handkerchief handy in the event that seminal residue needs to be wiped off the prime minister's chin before the joint press conference. Control freak that he is, Harper has likely already signalled his intentions in this regard. Let's face it: the man's waistline bears eloquent testimony to his utter inability to resist swallowing whatever comes within cake-hole range, and I trust he'll relish the clean-living, entrepreneurial, non-socialist outpourings of Obama's fine American manhood.
As for Harper's team, there is still much to do: someone must tactfully warn Rob Anders against referring to Obama as a "kaffir"; Laureen must be reminded not to ask Michelle to hang out the laundry; Harper must be talked out of his ill-advised plan to bridge the cultural divide by wrapping his arm around the president and hustling him into a Mulroneyesque duet of "Fuck Tha Police". And time is running out.
We all know that virtually nothing of substance will occur in Ottawa tomorrow, but I thought it might be useful to describe that nothingness in more detail. Here, then, are just two of the many important things that will not be discussed during Stevie and Obama's brief encounter:
1) Cross-Border Security:
This issue comes up only when American politicians feel the need to press upon their Canadian counterparts their chronically paranoid and hysterically bogus concerns about licentious, Commie Canada sending terrorists and cannabis across the "porous" border to cause grief for law-abiding Americans.
Meanwhile, we Canadians are forced to marinate in the humiliating certainty that the people we over-pay to guard our interests are far too polite to remind their American equivalents that the U.S. is virtually the Master of Ceremonies of Canadian street-level crime--being its de facto armoury as well as the inspiration and HQ for most of our branch-plant street gangs. The result, Americans get to belly-ache smugly and self-pityingly about non-existent terrorists sneaking across the border, while we get to witness daily killings, robberies and rapes committed with American guns by "thugs" driven by specifically American notions of prestige and power. Even American network television (which seems to become sicker and more debased with every passing year) has become deadly.
Rest assured that Harper and the entire Canadian Right would reflexively blame the inherent "illiberalism" and "primitivism" of radical Islam if a bunch of Arab-Canadian youths wearing T-shirts with the silk-printed image of Muqtada Al-Sadr were to engage in a beheading rampage tomorrow. But blame America simply because Canadian kids are forming local chapters of the Crips and the Bloods, carrying Tec-9 semi-automatics, and spending their weekends doing drive-bys just like their American heroes? Perish the thought! Lighten up, dude: it's all in good fun...
2) Omar Khadr:
Forget that the charges against him are considered ludicrous by virtually every responsible authority, that his American lawyer--a soldier--cannot believe the boy was ever imprisoned in the first place, that Khadr has rotted in a prison cell for over five years for most likely not killing someone when he was fifteen years old, whilst Bernard Madoff, an adult millionaire who has killed two people so far and who has ruined thousands of other lives, enjoys "house arrest" in his luxury penthouse amid an opulence totally beyond the dreams of people who actually work for their livings (exposing American "justice" in all its repugnant vileness as it has rarely been exposed before).
Think of this only: would Harper not, at least, want to hear Obama's explanation of why an FBI agent perjured himself during his testimony at Khadr's trial? The implications here are immense: the agent, an officer of the United States government, uttered a transparent falsehood designed to smear, not Khadr, but Maher Arar--a man who was cleared of any and all charges by a Canadian Parliamentary inquiry, the findings of which were accepted without reservation by Harper and his government.
What are we to make of the fact that Harper seems incurious about the anatomy of this outrage? Does he simply assume that FBI agents and other American security officials are inveterately corrupt and routinely lie, even under oath? If so, should we see in this assumption surprising and heart-warming evidence that Harper isn't quite as gullible and stupid as he seems, and should that realisation dampen the rage we naturally feel at the thought that Harper is willing to subordinate Canadian interests to the whims of a foreign national security bureaucracy he knows to be corrupt?
Perhaps some brave journalist will bring these matters up, after the press corps flunkies exhaust their probing questions about Obama's pectorals.
Fascinating. The Canadian Press avers that "crowds [were] relatively sparse" immediately prior to Obama's arrival in Ottawa--with police and crowd-control elements apparently outnumbering spectators--while Reuters insists that over three thousand Obamamaniacs lined the streets in order to get a glance at His Most High Obamaness.
Whom to believe? Let's put it this way: the Reuters piece says that Obama's fans had to brave "freezing temperatures and snow" while waiting for him on Parliament Hill. Chaps, I live within hearing of the Peace Tower chimes, and I've just been out: for a late February day, today's high was balmy (hovering comfortably around 1 degree Celsius), and the only snow is on the ground--and it's melting fast.
Methinks the Reuters team is getting its information from a reliable source whose vantage point is a barstool at the Heart and Crown. Clearly, the intent is to turn this event into an American lullaby: "Everything's back to normal, folks. We really, really like you again". Please.