Whether we agree with everything Angela Merkel and Barack Obama resolved in unfriendly but decisive negotiations with Greece and Iran this week, we should celebrate that closers still make it to the top in these perilous times.
Nothing in the rulebook of contemporary politics favors closing. Endlessly spinning good intentions, turning disputes over to judges or public commissions, or simply waiting on the sidelines to attack is always safer than bringing the game to a stop.
Yet some of the people we elect do step out of the routines of the status quo. They don’t just show up for the group photo and sit as long as it takes to complete the agenda. The closers own the outcome. And that, gloriously, sets them apart.
Intelligent closers don’t look for wins compulsively or squander capital simply to help sex up a communiqué. They are disciplined by the fact that when they truly win big, they risk their futures and limit their appeal as well as make their mark.
The forgiving machinery of simply carrying on is rudely sidelined, and its busy helpers are diminished. Professional survivors feel smaller. Those great decisions that pay off over time can leave the most cerebral conferences with the feel of Waterloo the next morning.
Barack Obama will never be a left-liberal icon, let alone a cocktail socialist, after securing universal health care without a single public insurer. And Pierre Trudeau’s liberal constitutional legacy includes tacky accommodations: for instance, an unelected Senate and the Charter’s notwithstanding override.
Closers learn later, after the deed is done, whether they were liberators or bullies, whether they secured “peace in our time” or were appeasers, whether they will be honored at, or not invited to, their party’s next convention.
In our neighborhood, today, we’ll soon find out whether Stephen Harper will betray dairy farmers or win equal access to the burgeoning Pacific free trade area. Later this year, we may find out whether the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party can support, conceivably join, a left government not led by a Liberal.
But let’s acknowledge that the drama of closing also includes the bracing chance that closers can pay with their careers and, if not recently, with their lives. Canada’s unsung closer today must surely be Shawn Atleo, former National Chief of First Nations, who paid with his career for negotiating and, then, actually signing a new Aboriginal education framework with a Prime Minister every grassroots lobby loves to hate.