Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Duffy Scandal: PM Harper does not get it that there is a second trial going on

Harper defence to Trial #2
Here’s what Harper is saying in response to questions about the senior advisors and senators involved in a cover up of the real facts in the Duffy senate expenses scandal:

The Conservative leader refused to respond to direct questions whether Novak had his support and would remain involved in the ongoing election campaign.

“Once again, I am not going to cherry pick facts that are in dispute before a court,” Harper said, to the applause of Tory supporters at the campaign event.

He repeated his assertion that Duffy and Wright alone are the ones responsible for the controversy.

“These are the people responsible. They’ve been held accountable. That’s my judgment in how this matter should be handled,” he said.

Our prime minister, despite having been elected on a platform of bringing accountability to the government of Canada, has stubbornly set his sights on riding out this storm of outrage by concentrating on his talking points.

I wonder if his chief of staff, Rat Novak, helped him draft these talking points?

That would be ironic, because right now evidence has been submitted through emails to the Duffy trial that on the face of it indicate that the public statements by Conservative Party spokespersons are dead wrong about the degree of knowledge of the PM’s current chief of staff of the Wright payment of the Duffy expenses, and of the extent of Novak’s involvement in the planning and execution of a scheme designed to deceive the Canadian public.

There are two trials taking place.

One is in a court room, where Duffy faces 31 serious charges. There, he is being ably represented by barrister Donald Bayne, who is slowly and systematically shredding the state’s case. The state has relied primarily on one main witness to buttress its charge of bribery, but Nigel Wright is being taken apart, email by email, in the courtroom. As a result, the state’s ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt – the standard required in criminal cases – is being badly damaged with each email discussion.
Good Old Duff and Buddy

What is surprising is that the state has not called other witnesses to buttress its bribery charge. A handful of senior advisors and senators have been involved in the Duffy events. To salvage its chances, the crown will have to call as witnesses several of these, or face an acquittal of Duffy on the serious bribery charge.

The second trial is taking place in the court of public perception.

The standard of proof in this second trial is not the same as that in a criminal case. It is simply the common sense conclusions of ordinary Canadians as to who is telling the truth, who is not, who is involved in planning and carrying out a scheme to deceive the public, and who knew about that scheme.

It is also about the judgment of the prime minister, and his tolerance for those in his Prime Minister’s Office who planned and carried out a scheme to deceive the public.

What does it say about a man who professes to be the best person to lead our country during tough economic times and in threat of further terror attacks, if he is reluctant to even consider whether he should be cleaning house? At the very least, he should be explaining why he is not distancing himself from those involved in planning and carrying out a scheme to deceive the public, interfere in a legitimate senate internal and external audit, and write scripts for others to use that are false.

Harper is badly misjudging this second trial, as his talking points quoted above show. He and his advisors seem to believe that he can avoid this trial by pretending that it does not exist.

There is a name for such a response: it is called the ostrich reaction. If you bury your head in the sand, then the reality of the world does not exist. At a later moment you can take your head out of the sand, and everything will not have happened.

Harper and the Conservatives are losing their chance to present a creditable case to the public regarding this second trial. They will pay a heavy price for this bad call.

Harper has advisors, who are supposed to handle what Wright quaintly calls ‘issue management’ but what ordinary Canadians might call something less positive.

Harper and advisor Ray Novak
Where are those advisors? What advice are they giving Harper about the second trial that is being held right now, each and every day?  Did they not anticipate that there would be a second trial, inevitable once the emails were disclosed in court? Did none of these talented men and women take a look at the evidence to be tabled, and do some collective brainstorming to decide how to handle the issues that were inevitable? There seemed to be no shortage of advisors gathered like flies around the Duffy expenses conundrum (over 500 emails from dozens of people), over a period of months.

Perhaps part of the problem is that some of those same advisors are still advising the prime minister, and have divided loyalties because their personal careers and reputations are now caught up in the second trial and the Duffy trial.

What does it say about the leadership competence of a man who continues to take advice from an advisor who might, according to statements by the harried and uncomfortable looking Conservative Party spokesperson, be involved in the cover up?

Is it not time for Harper to get a new team of advisors, who have had no connection with the Duffy scandal and the cover up, to give him unbiased advice?

If he does not change his approach to the second trial, Harper will be found guilty by ordinary Canadians by default.  And that will be his legacy, despite his ten plus years in the highest office in the land.

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