Thomas Mulcair? We can’t spare that man. He fights!

Ulysses S. Grant, exactly as he appeared. Below: Thomas Mulcair (from a Toronto Star photo), for comparative purposes; President Lincoln.

I like Thomas Mulcair for the same reason Abraham Lincoln liked Ulysses S. Grant.

As President Lincoln famously said of Gen. Grant, the Commanding General of the Union Army in America’s great Civil War: “I can’t spare that man. He fights!”

Legend has it that the president was responding to a silly delegation of people who wanted Gen. Grant cashiered because he was reported to be too fond of whisky. The President, who was personally an abstemious man, but one with a sense of humour, inquired of them what it was Gen. Grant drank … so that he could send a case of the stuff to the rest of his generals!

Last weekend, Canadian New Democrats came to a similar conclusion about Mr. Mulcair – who, oddly, physically rather resembles Gen. Grant, despite the century and a quarter that has passed since the American soldier and politician’s death. They voted for Mr. Mulcair because they believe they can count on him to fight.

Maybe he really does have a temper, they thought. So what?

Maybe he can be sharp with supporters who don’t agree with him – indeed, I personally have seen Mr. Mulcair do this. Maybe the flame of ideological purity burns a little less brightly in his breast than in some. But, by God, he fights! And what we New Democrats need now is a fighter!

So it should hardly surprise us that, despite the great strengths of the other candidates, in the end a majority of New Democrats rolled the dice for the candidate who is obviously prepared to stand up and fight this terrible neo-Con government of Stephen Harper and his failed Conservative retreads from Ontario and Alberta.

You could hear it in Mr. Mulcair’s voice yesterday as he stiffened his sinews, summoned up the blood, and assailed Mr. Harper’s contemptible budget – which attacks seniors, public servants and the CBC while waving a shiny penny at the media to distract their wandering attention.

What a pleasure it was to hear him state the obvious: “The Conservatives ran an entire election campaign without saying a word to Canadians about their plans to cut OAS or health transfers. Clearly Mr. Harper is not a man of his word.”

The mainstream media, not surprisingly, along with its allies and boon companions in the prime minister’s so-called Conservative Party, were quick to start calling Mr. Mulcair an angry man. The implication was his is the kind of irrational anger that requires a time out, or even a trip to an anger-management course. One bloviator for a national newspaper held forth on how this was not what the NDP, previously successfully led by the seemingly mild-mannered Jack Layton, needed to succeed.

Well, we’ll see about that. But it seems to me that Mr. Mulcair is not so much angry as he is determined. But if it takes a little righteous anger – and I use that term advisedly – to battle the vote-suppressing, robo-calling, Parliament proroguing, anti-democratic urges of Mr. Harper and his neo-Con goons, then I say bring it on, and about time too!

Jack Layton was a fine man and a extraordinary leader. But he was really untested when it came to dealing with the legendary viciousness of these unprincipled Conservative market-fundamentalists who believe any deception is fair ball if it advances their ideological agenda.

Earlier on in the last Parliament, the Harper Tories identified Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff as the Main Enemy, and through a long intellectually dishonest but highly effective campaign demolished that essentially decent man brick by brick. They ignored Mr. Layton, at least until it was too late – when we got a glimpse of the tactics they were prepared to stoop to with the ugly massage parlour allegations leaked in the dying days of the election campaign to the Conservative Party’s house newspaper, the Toronto Sun.

It may be a heresy in some circles to say this aloud, but I have wondered privately how Mr. Layton – a profoundly decent and kindly man – would have stood the full onslaught of the Eye of Sauron that occupies 24 Sussex when it was finished with the professorial Dr. Ignatieff.

Mr. Mulcair, it seems to me and obviously to many other New Democrats, is tough enough to stand up to these people, and to honourably and articulately dish it back to them in a way that will make sense to Canadians.

The hypocritical cavils of national press notwithstanding, how can this be a bad thing with an opponent like Mr. Harper and with a cause as important as saving our country from the depredations of neo-Con ideology?

The chief knock against Mr. Mulcair in the media is that he’s cranky?

Please! I’m cranky too. What reasonable Canadian wouldn’t be at the thought of the way these so-called Conservatives, who are in fact dangerous Straussian radicals, conduct themselves, and the un-Canadian program they intend to implement?

It was a legitimate issue for New Democrats – deciding how to order their own house after the remarkable Mr. Layton’s death – to consider Mr. Mulcair’s past role in a Liberal provincial government (though it was, as he pointed out, a government led by the only federalist party in the province in question) and whether that mattered in our leader’s resume.

Obviously, a majority decided it didn’t, indeed, that Mr. Mulcair took a considerable political risk becoming a New Democrat in a place and time where the conventional political wisdom had it that there was no future for supporters of the NDP.

But it takes some cheek for the Conservatives, of all people, to send out an email calling Mr. Mulcair a blindly ambitious and divisive opportunist, apparently all on the strength of the facts he saw the light and joined the New Democrats and has been guilty of the occasional sharp retort!

Now here we have a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, a standard Conservative rhetorical technique to be sure, but in the matter of the party of Stephen Harper, Rob Anders, Dean Del Mastro and 1,001 anonymous robo-callers more a matter of hilarity than outrage.

Conservative media commentators (which is pretty well all of them) who see horror in this need to remember that an unwillingness to suffer fools and Conservatives gladly is no barrier to success in Canadian politics – consider the sterling example of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

But these people appeal oleaginously to the better angels of our nature, as Mr. Lincoln might have said, and preach at us that we ought to have chosen a leader with a more patient and less acerbic personality, the better to be ground to dust by Mr. Harper.

Well, no thank you. I can only speak for myself, but I am sick of linking hands and singing Kumbayah. I’m sick of “moral victories” when in effect they are political defeats.

The Canada we have built is a great nation and the values of tolerance and social co-operation that characterize it are worth fighting to preserve – and to enhance.

I’m proud of my New Democrats for electing a leader who will be tough, and who will fight, for Canada.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

10 Comments on "Thomas Mulcair? We can’t spare that man. He fights!"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow its Ulysses Mulcair or Thomas Grant!

    God lawd the resemblance is uncanny!

    Was there a scandal we missed? Did Grant have a Canadian intern during his time in the oval office?

  2. Tom in Ontario says:

    One of the knocks the MSM loves to throw at Mulcair is that, horror of horrors, he was a member of the Liberals! Notwithstanding that Bob Rae was an NDP Premier, let's look at Mr. Harper's record. Before he was called by God to run for politics he was a kingpin in the National Citizens' Coalition, financed by insurance companies, and opposed to public pensions.

    After that gig, Stephen hooked up with Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance, the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party (what an acronym) and finally the Conservative Party of Canada. One big fat coalition after another. Did I miss any?

    After David Lewis and Ed Broadbent the NDP had nice leaders who didn't seem to have the stomach for down and dirty fights. Now that a cranky battler sits opposite the bully across the parliamentary aisle, let the games begin!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for your perspective. I completely agree, but I hope that Mulcair doesn't turn people off by being overly aggressive. I hope he is principled, kind but also very strong, strong, strong… something we didn't see in the last couple of Liberal opposition leaders. Don't be a wolf among wolves, but a lion.

  4. jerrymacgp says:

    Critics of Mulcair's past membership in the Quebec Liberal party obviously know absolutely nothing about Quebec politics. Provincial politics in La Belle Province are highly polarized between the separatists, embodied in the PQ; and everyone else, embodied in the Liberals. It's a bit like BC, where you have the NDP, on the one side; and everybody else who opposes them under the BC Liberal umbrella (although we have recently seen some holes in that umbrella).

    There is no viable provincial NDP in Quebec. That is primarily because the left in that province, especially the labour movement, has been avowedly sovereigntist for decades. There are also a couple of small splinter movements and parties, such as the flash-in-the-pan ADQ of Mario Dumont a few years ago. But really, the only way for a non-separatist to become involved in public affairs in Quebec is through the Liberal party. Therefore, there is nothing remotely contradictory or objectionable about Mr. Mulcair's political stripe at the provincial level.

    In addition, he quit the Charest government and caucus over a matter of principle, something we need to see more of in Canadian politics, and entered federal politics with what could only have appeared at the time as the longest of long-shot parties. I'm not his biggest fan myself, but I do not like to see unfair and illogical criticism levelled at anyone.

  5. Filostrato says:

    "Please! I’m cranky too. What reasonable Canadian wouldn’t be…"

    I second that emotion.

    Good news from the other side of the pond, too. George Galloway was elected in Bradford with a majority of over 10,000 votes. They thought it was a safe Labour seat – New Labour bearing as much resemblance to Labour as cat food does to salmon paté, kind of like the Cons and the PC's.

    In an article by Tariq Ali, he said:

    "Labour has paid the price for its failure to act as an Opposition, imagining that all they had to do was wait and the prize would come their way."

    Sounds like the Libs in Canada.

    More similarities:

    "Galloway has effectively urinated on all three parties. The Lib-Dems and Tories explaining their decline by the fact that too many people voted!"

    I guess the whole robocall and misinformation campaign before the last election was the Cons way of ensuring that "too many" voters didn't happen here.

    Go get 'em, Mr. Mulcair. We've put up with these Cons for too long.

  6. Ronmac says:

    Reminds me of a Winston Churchill quote on why he appointed the thoroughly cranky Bernard Montgomery to head the British 8th army in Lybia at the the height of the Africa campaign: "If he's disagreeable to those around him then he'll be disagreeable to the enemy too."

  7. Sam Gunsch says:

    Agreed re Mulcair ability to fight in a forceful articulate fashion, and based on his interviews and newsconferences last weekend he knows very well how to manage his verbal and non-verbal communication while he's on his feet under media fire.

    If he can consistently maintain his presentation style both audio and visual demonstrated at his first news conference last Sunday morning that ran 20 minutes fielding a wide variety of questions, this guy is going to attract a lot of new support for NDP.

    The news conference was archived on CBC.tv site and probably is on CPAC's.

    Watching him without sound: he conveyed an appearance of thoughtfully attentive, mostly a positive, friendly, smiley image.

    And while I share your view about Trudeau's success with what JR Saul described as a direct abrupt intellectual style of communication; for our times, Mulcair will have the advantage in sounding less intellectual and conveying more of the 'authoritative' tone of the managerial class that has dominated Canadian politics for a couple decades.

    And his speed of speaking can easily be moderated if it becomes an issue. A long time political observer, Karl Nerenberg, noted that this fast pace of speech is actually quite typical of Quebec political discussions among the citizenry.

    I find it impressive, the amount of informed content this guy is capable of explaining in fairly straight foward language, i.e. not sounding like an ivory-tower professor.

    And re Liberal past. No handicap whatsoever:

    For ex., I know of one successful politician from Western Canada with shall we say, a bit less actual knowledge of public affairs, who was ok with being a 'liberal' mayor of corporate welfare 'hive-mind' town. And when he jumped to provincial politics, (BTW, leaving his city with the highest per capita debt in Canada according to a Sun columnist) he successfully made the conversion to an MLA for a Conservative party at the time being transformed into a privatize-everything corporatist machine, and thus successfully joined a propaganda parade going in the opposite direction of his mostly 'liberal' supporting political career to that point.

    As pointed out by other commenters here, there are significant other reasons the 'liberal' knock on Mulcair is a quite minor concern.

    And as other posters have noted…Harper's variegated political past has never seemed to make a difference to retailing the Con's.

  8. Bobbie Saga says:

    Ah, a fellow student of history.

    Nice pics! And since the TheoCons talk in terms of war, whereby the rhetoric has changed in recent years to political enimies vs opponents, your piece is truly fitting.

    Mulcuir is not bad with a sound bite either. In addition to the one you have,re: federal budget, I rather liked the following:

    “In the long term, the continuation of these Conservative policies will leave the greatest economic, ecological and social debt in our history in the backpacks of future generations."

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    You might be right that the NDP needs a fighter right now in order to fight the bullies but I for one do not agree with you. This is not a show stopper though and a lot of NDPers can live with it, but the main concern is not that and I am quite sure you know it.

    The main concern is that Mulcair wants to take the party to the center under the modernizing excuse. I think this is the biggest mistake the NDP is going to make. Maybe not at the short term but for sure for their future. The reason why Canadians are turning to the NDP is because they want more social democracy. If they were looking for the center they would vote Liberal. Both the Conservatives and the Liberals moved to the right and now the next step is to fall off the edge. Canadians are tired of seeing strong clear abuses of the elites and corporations against the regular Joe. They want a stronger government that cares for them and that governs with their interests in mind not more neo liberals that govern for the very rich under the social covers. If Mulcair moves to the center it will be just a question of time before Quebec turns their backs on them and fast. The conservatives sure like Mulcair, their policies have been close in the past.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for articulating Mulcair's appeal to mainstream NDP supporters. I think Carlos B makes some good points, but in the end the NDP needs to move away from the traditional base if it wants to successfully fight against the cold right-wing agenda propagated by Harper's ilk.

    What makes me sad is that there is so much quality in all the other NDP candidates combined – something we've never seen in any PC individual or group, particularly here in Alberta. Put them in a bottle and you'd have a truly formidable and worthy leader.

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