Justin Trudeau’s “contrition” session with the press turned out to be a nothingburger. He did not apologize. He would only cop to an “erosion of trust” between his guy, Gerald Butts, and Jody Wilson-Raybould, implying that Canadians should be blaming Mr. Erosion, not him. He allowed as how “there is always room for improvement,” the kind of thing one sees written on one’s children’s report card. He has nothing against contrition—in fact, he was on his way up north that very day to express contrition to the Inuit … for the past deeds of other people, that is, something he excels at.
As National Post reporter John Ivison noted in his column Mar 8, Trudeau’s press conference was “the enactment of humility,” and not the real thing. Exactement! “Enactment” is in fact the story of Trudeau’s public life. He is all political theatre, shining when he has memorized a script (“Canada’s back!” “Diversity is our strength!”…”Because it’s 2015!”…”Jobs!”), but very much at sea when the other actors walk away from the parts his scriptwriters assigned to them. At which point, as in his “contrition” press conference, he hits verbal bathos: “to move forward, not backward,” or “every day as prime minister I learn new things.”
Quebec journalist Richard Martineau delivered the cruellest thrust: “[Trudeau] thought he was indestructible, now he realizes he’s only a human being like the others. Goodbye Superman, hello Clark Kent.” Ouch. The New York Times wasn’t much kinder: “the fresher the face, the more obvious the blemishes.” Two-thirds of Canadians tell pollsters Trudeau has lost the moral authority to govern. That’s today. Come election day, who knows.
We had full warning of what we were going to get in Justin way back in 2000, when he performed the eulogy at his father’s funeral. And oh my goodness, “perform” is the operative word. Recently I found out Gerald Butts—of whom I had never heard at the time—had helped him write it. Well, that may explain a lot. Who begins a eulogy, “Friends, Romans, countrymen” – I mean, apart from Marc Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar? It was an extremely odd opening, because it conjures up one of the most egregious power grabs in western history, by a cunning political upstart with a silver tongue and an instinct for crowd-pleasing.