Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Smart People Do Even Stupider Things

Just when you think Harper has reached his stupidity nadir, he reaches again. I've already chronicled some of his attempts to be the stupidest PM in Canadian history:

But his quest for political stupidity seems to reaching Feithian levels. Perhaps he's looking for the type of legacy that only a Tommy Franks diatribe can inspire:

Either that, or the Pepsi has finally rotted out his cranium. Whatever the cause, today's Globe offers a fascinating account of how far Harper will go to in his quest to prove he's an epically moronic tactician:

Instead of letting the Dodge story drift away into that good media night, Harper apparently could not keep himself from raging against the dying of the news cycle.

So what did he decide to do?
1) Start a pissing match with former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge.

2) Box himself into a corner by insisting that Canada is in fine economic shape.

3) Bet against an unprecented global meltdown.

Let's start with number 1. No doubt that the federal Tories were mad a Dodge for his earlier comments. So what? Suck it up and move on. The last thing you do is feed the media another news cycle. The fact that Dodge didn't predict the recession is neither here nor there. He's not exactly the type of person you want to be seen attacking. You're not going to be able to start a witch hunt against a former Bank of Canada Governor. Stupid, but not fatally stupid.

Now for number 2. The Globe notes that Harper has backed away from his reckless claim that Canada will lead the G-pack out of the recession. But he has still left his political behind twisting in the political wind, and pointing out that economic forecasts are "all over the map" will hurt rather than help him down the road. Canadians remember that this is the same economic genius who responded to the beginning of the meltdown last fall by saying that it presented great buying opportunities. Harper's one claim to fame was that he understood economics; once that claim is burnt, he has nothing to fall back on except the ineptness of the Liberals, who will surely get their act together before the economy recovers.

Harper seems to believe (perhaps sincerely) that the health of the major banks will act as a type of galactic force field that will protect the Starship Canada from the evil subprime borg. He is, of course, completely deluded. Since its genesis in the financial sector, the meltdown virus has mutated into a global tsunami that has cut a path of destruction straight across national economies, from consumer demand to export markets. Canada is, among the G-7, unusually dependent upon commodities and export markets, and our manufacturing base is heavily dependent on the auto industry. The destruction of demand for everything from softwood lumber to lobster (not to mention base metals and oil) will severely undermine Canada's capacity to bounce back as quickly as more diversified economies. A smart politician would have realized his mistake and kept quiet.

As for number 3, who in their right mind would bet against this tsunami? In terms of a costs/benefits analysis, this one is a no-brainer: whatever benefit you might possibly get from being Mr. Economic Optimist is far outweighed by the risk of getting it wrong.

If things get worse before they get better (as they likely will) today's Globe may have written Harper's political epitaph: "Mr. Harper stood by his relatively confident take on the Canadian economy yesterday despite Mr. Dodge's forecast in The Globe and Mail that Canada and the world are facing a long and deep recession that will alter the nature of capitalism."

Iggy must be pinching himself.

Recession Update:
Yup, we're doing just fine...

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