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Dustin LindenSmith

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On Jean Chrétien's recent autobiography, My Years As Prime Minister

Reading Peter C. Newman's scathing review of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's autobiography, My Years As Prime Minister, in this Saturday's Books section of The Globe and Mail had me laughing out loud this morning. I wanted to put some of the highlights of the review in here for posterity.

On his atrocious English language speaking skills:
Canadians watched with fascination as le p'tit gars de Shawinigan disgorged disconnected words instead of marshalled ideas. He once promised to enact reforms, "the better the sooner." It was virtually impossible to follow his train of speech, always on the point of derailing itself. He turned incoherence into an art form. When he was tackled about the absence of proof that his government's Quebec sponsorship program (later proved to have been criminally fraudulent) made sense, he replied: "The proof is the proof. And when you have a good proof, it's proven." (see this youtube clip)
On the general quality and truthfulness of the book, especially in comparison with the other main biography of Chrétien:
This chronicle of his 10-year reign doesn't live up to its billing. Its cloying perspective and deliberate avoidance of key issues guarantees that Lawrence Martin's Iron Man: The Defiant Reign of Jean Chrétien will remain the definitive study of the period. Martin portrayed his book's chief protagonist as exercising an instinct wonderfully at one with the country's broad wash of citizenry and their values, but devoid of the intellect with which to clothe it. "He was born not with a silver spoon in his mouth, but rather a cement mixer," Martin concluded.
On his taking personal credit for his three majority election wins:
He takes full credit for having won the trio of elections he called between 1993 and 2003, not bothering to acknowledge the kamikaze tendencies of his opponents. How lucky can one politician get: to have run against the hapless Kim Campbell and her unerring instinct for own own jugular; followed by Preston Manning, who boasted the finest medieval mind in the Commons; and finally having to contend with Stockwell Day, who has made a spectacular recovery since, but at the time believed in the possibility of dinosaur petting zoos.
That last bit cracked me up, reminding me of how former Canadian Alliance / Conservative leader Stockwell Day, a staunch Creationist, publicly stated that he believed that dinosaurs and humans co-existed on Earth before dinosaurs became extinct. And to think that he might have become our Prime Minister. Sheesh.

Newman closes his review thusly:
Still, My Years as Prime Minister is valuable because it fills in some blanks and explains why, over the years, Canadians have become so cynical about politics that even when cabinet ministers admit they lied, nobody believes them. The Chrétien who emerges from this auto-hagiography is a politician who trails no history, except the conviction that his performance was flawless. This, though he was the first Liberal PM to be overthrown by his own party.
Personally, I'm glad that he's gone. Stephen Harper is not necessarily a better PM, but he's different. I was never proud to have Chrétien as our PM while he was in there. He was an arrogant leader who routinely embarrassed Canadians with his incomprehensible speech and never once took responsibility for egregious errors for which he was personally responsible.

Hmm, that sounds like another world leader I know...

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