In what can safely be described as the triumph of stuffy over stimulating, Canadians should be taking enormous heart from the recent Liberal leadership convention and its appointment (anointment) of the man who may one day be putting the prissy back into Prime Minister – Stephane Dion.
Just look at him: grey, bland – even a little pasty – a man for whom the term ‘colourless’ could well have been coined. His posture shouts (well, murmurs really – there’s nothing loud about him) schlub, his fashion choices whisper ‘drab’ and his eyes sparkle not at all. He’s about as cool as the flip side of a pillow on a hot summer night, and even the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty likely considers his appearance just a little too “ehn” to defend.
He’s the new leader of the Liberal party – the Canadian answer to the dangers of charismatic leadership, and the folly of admiring leaders of action over those who would choose sober second thought.
Nobody is going to put Dion on their fantasy list of world leaders (living or dead) they’d like to sit down to dinner with, and that’s just fine with me; I’d rather he was beavering away in his opposition leader’s study, burning the midnight oil, sorting out the future of the country I call home, than chariz-ing wildly away over supper with his fans.
As goes Stephane Dion, so maybe goes the notion of political maturity at a national level. Could we have become a citizenry that is finally consciously choosing substance over star power? Or is this just a blip on the radar of bland?
I remember (oh how I remember!) the near constant comparisons of the front runners for President made in the 2000, then 2004 U.S. elections; Al Gore and then John Kerry attacked by both the people and the pundits who judged, then accused the men of being “wooden”, “stiff”, “boring” and “indecisive”, whilst congratulating Bush for his qualities of charm, charisma and “keeping it real”… He was the leader voters thought they’d most like to hunker down and tip back a beer with. He quickly gained the reputation of a man of action – no girly sitting around and pondering the potential downside of a preemptive invasion of Iraq (that was for little old ladies and the weapons inspector fusspots out of the U.N.) – showing his cojones by sending others to risk theirs.
Ah, but it’s an old story now, of chickens as if shot from cannons whizzing home to roost, and Republicans backing away from their once slavered over leader faster than you can say “mission accomplished”.
But Bush is still in denial.
The latest “Good God! Please, someone – anyone – what the hell are we going to do?” bipartisan effort to address the quagmire that is the war without end in Iraq – the Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State to former Bush President George H. W., James Baker – which suggests waking up and giving reality a shot, was greeted by the President with about as much enthusiasm as Britney Spears demonstrates for underpants.
Damning the report with some of the faintest praise he could muster, calling it, “interesting” with “some good ideas” that he would “consider”, the President left few wondering whether the document suggesting accelerated troop withdrawal from Iraq as well as serious diplomatic talks with Syria and Iran would achieve anything other than a quick trip to the circular file. Had the report been a blind date, you just know the setter-upper would have had some explaining to do for even suggesting such a homely gal.
The unintentionally funniest moment (the only kind he has as far as I know) of the affair so far came in Bush’s comment during the press conference when reporters seemed to be questioning how seriously he took the nine-months-in-the-making study.
“To show you how important this one is,” he said. “I read it.”
But I digress.
What was I saying? Oh, right; Stephane Dion.
You see, that’s how forgettable he is.
The man whose sole quirk appears to be his attachment to a cherished backpack he totes to work in place of a briefcase, has already lifted the Liberal’s approval rating up and over the Tories, suggesting ordinary Canadians are also liking what they don’t see.
Which isn’t to suggest that just because a man is bland instead of folksy, or boring instead of charismatic, that such a person would make a good leader; rather that the absence of a glittering personality and a slickly delivered way with words doesn’t mean the opposite.
In Dion’s case, even his critics agree the intellectual academic with the mile-high out-of-office resume is a man of outstanding honesty, integrity and intelligence. Paired with his former life as a professor teaching political science at a number of prestigious universities, as well as being the editor and author of countless books and published papers focused on political science, public administration and management, it appears the man has more than enough experience, smarts and insight to lead a party, and maybe even a country, in the sort of considered, thoughtful, reflective style rarely observed in these days of packaged personalities and cynical sound bites.
He’s bringing stuffy back.