Skip to comments.Obama of the North The cautionary tale of Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
Posted on 02/27/2008 2:51:05 PM PST by hecht
Obama of the North The cautionary tale of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. by Lionel Chetwynd
Chris Matthews tells us that Obama's victory speech after the Potomac primaries he felt "this thrill going up my leg." Frothing on, he invokes the last Democrat to carry Virginia, JFK. Brit Hume runs a replay of an audience member at the same speech enjoying an almost orgasmic reaction. Again, someone mumbles the sainted Kennedy name. Even as Obamamania reaches new heights, those of us who were actually on hand for John Kennedy's squeaker victory over the dour Richard Nixon in 1960 do not recall Kennedy's evoking the deep, visceral excitement Obama summons. It appears the infection now loosed upon the land is rarer than any seen in 1960--more unusual even than the state of mind induced after 1963, when the masterminds of Camelot hawked their false memories.
Yet, rare as it is, this virus is one I've seen before. It devastated a country I loved, the place that had raised me and nurtured me. Back in the Canada of 1968, in the wake of "Beatlemania," we called the malady "Trudeaumania," deliberately invoking pop-idol glitter.
Even those of us who held posts in his own Liberal party were powerless to thwart the mad embrace millions of Canadians threw around Pierre Elliott Trudeau, with his promise to reconcile the two founding peoples, to unite the English (more correctly, Scottish) heritage with the French legacy and take us forward into a brave new age. He promised, too, to reforge our relationship with "the elephant to our south" and to elevate Canada's role in
the world. What that actually meant or how it was to be achieved never seemed worth mentioning, as if the mere stating of the intention were equivalent to a result realized.
As a candidate in 1968, Trudeau was completely nonspecific, avoiding policy questions and depending entirely on style and panache. This would surely undo him, or so we reassured ourselves, those of us who believed him to be a hard-line leftist because we'd read his essays in Cité Libre and studied his academic writings at the University of Montreal. We were wrong: His lack of specificity was his strength. A brilliant and smiling Savile Row-suited orator, he spun webs around huge crowds, proposing big ideas in obscure terms, leaving listeners to discover in his speeches their own dreams. He was all things to all people. And out of party loyalty and civility, we held our tongues.
Meantime, the delighted English-language media, at last presented with a French-speaking Canadian they could love, dubbed him "Canada's JFK." He would serve as prime minister for 15 years (1968-79 and 1980-84). The damage to what Canada had stood for would be staggering.
Before Trudeau, Canada still basked in the glory of its own Greatest Generation. Canada had raised the largest army in the world, per capita, to fight Hitler (1.4 million from a population of 11 million). Emerging from World War II as a leading industrial power, it had devoted a vast part of its treasure to financing the Colombo Plan, "the Marshall Plan of Asia." Parts of the infrastructure used to this day in Pakistan, India, and South Asia were paid for by Canadians. Those same Canadians generally viewed the United States with affection, even admiration. True, many harbored a residual anger at America's more than two-year delay in entering World War II, but that was a family squabble, easily put aside. They had no laws barring or limiting the flow of American popular culture across the border. That Canada's moment of triumph came in the summer of 1967 with the hugely successful Montreal world's fair known as Expo '67.
One of the reasons Trudeau got a free ride in the English-language media in 68 was because:
Months before, as federal Justice Minister and Minister for Quebec, he had sent De Gaulle packing after the aging French leader (with nostalgic dreams of the old French Empire) had tried to encourage Quebec separation with the infamous “Vive le Quebec libre” speech during a Montreal visit.
For that, Trudeau was viewed as a “national defender” and virtual hero. The outcome of the election was then easily predictable.
Two years after Trudeau was elected, Canada was under martial law, with armed soldiers and tanks in the streets of Montreal - the “October Crisis”.
But that’s another story ...
Trudeau, the first Nazi PM of Canada.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.