There’s an old, unattributable saying: once you’ve bought your first Ford or Chrysler, you’ll probably stick with Fords or Chryslers because you won’t want to go through the hard work of studying the market objectively every time you buy a car. Pundits can be like that: once they’re committed to a candidate, they can relax their analytical and critical muscles. Here’s the esteemed national columnist Lawrence Martin bolstering Justin Trudeau’s thin political biography as a credible alternative to Stephen Harper:
“But to argue that he (Stephen Harper) was better prepared would be to forget a big advantage Mr. Trudeau has over everyone in the experience department. You want political seasoning? How about being raised since birth in the cauldron of power? How about living all your early life at 24 Sussex Dr., son of a prime minister?
“For a course in political immersion, it’s hard to beat. Years of foreign leaders and premiers and princes and kings traipsing through your living room. Heated debates at your dining room table. Daily life with Papa PM during the fight for the country in the 1980 referendum. Constitutional negotiations with the premiers just down the stairs from your bedroom. Foreign trips to broaden the perspective. Then, all the counsel and tutoring in his father’s post-prime-ministerial years.”
The tough question left for Martin isn’t about policy or vision or name recognition or personal charm, but whether all that time “at the vortex of power” has provided Justin Trudeau with those (political) smarts.
Unfortunately, political smarts and (if we bother to throw in his country’s interests as well as his Party’s) sound judgment aren’t much nurtured by simply being there—whether upstairs at 10, or checking in at 20. Indeed, being attached to a leader every day as a speechwriter, or as a loyal son, or as a loyal staffer, doesn’t count for much of anything.
Competent political and, dare we say, prime ministerial decision-making, above all, requires experience in making decisions.