My dear Paul,
You probably didn’t know, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching your career blossom over the past 25 years. Indeed it was half-a-life ago when you were covering Dizzy Gillespie for The Gazette; whether his trumpet fired you up about journalism, or your love of music drew you to writing, the media is better for your decision to formally enter the fray and make a career out of it.
You’re both an excellent writer and cogent observer, which are too rare in the Fourth Estate. Simpson has the gift, too. But with the absence of Dalton, the two of you don’t have much company, at least in the world of Hill columnists. Awards may adorn your office shelf, but the delight with which you tackle each day tells us distant observers that you have the zeal to ply a difficult trade for decades to come. Whether or not the National Magazine Awards take notice from one year to the next.
With this success, a burden comes your way. The Parliamentary Press Gallery looks up to you, just as they did to Graham Fraser when you were fresh out of Undergrad. Which is why your humourous blog about Mark “Chuck Norris” Carney is so troubling. Do your media colleagues know you were kidding? That you weren’t suggesting Carney had jumped the shark?
History is at work here, I fear.
Governor Carney is no Kim Campbell, and I’ve had the chance to watch them both. After building her up to be, literally, the second-coming, I know the Press Gallery felt burned when it turned out in 1993 that Ms. Campbell had none of the qualities and capabilities that they’d been led to believe were what made her different from any public figure they’d come across since Trudeau. Fluent in Russian? Could barely string a sentence together. Deep thinker? She’d leave cabinet committee meetings to call her Chief of Staff to see how she should vote on an item before the group. Loyal? There wasn’t a relationship that lasted more than a few years pre-Ottawa. Ray convinced the Gallery she was God’s gift, and it worked.
When the fraud was uncovered, the Gallery took it personally. Which is why I think they have been stomping on so many up-and-coming throats for the past 19 years. Once burned, etc., etc.
Carney is different. Unlike Campbell, Carney has actually done some meaty things prior to arriving in Bytown. Campbell’s resume reflected a life of hopping between lilly pads. Carney gives off no such dilettante-ish tendencies. Even if a career turn at Goldman Sachs is now akin to spending a year in jail, his nomination to run the Financial Stability Board is definitely the Finance industry’s version of an Oscar statue. The fact that Carney had a public set-to with JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon about capital ratios and the burden of regulation should serve as a call-to-arms for anyone who earns his living spilling ink.
And while the Norris piece was funny, the concern is that your colleagues will misunderstand. That they’ll think you were mocking the fact that three people close to the Bank of England believed that Carney was what the U.K. needed to get its own Central Bank in order. Whether the story was accurate or not, the fact that the gold standard of financial journalism believed it to be so tells you something about where Carney ranks in a variety of areas: leadership, judgment, conviction, sense of purpose…. The kinds of things that people like you and I yearn for in the public sector.
I think the Prime Minister has those qualities, as do John Baird and Jim Flaherty, for example. Whether or not you agree with them is never the point. The question is simple: would you rather a former assistant manager of the Oliver’s Pub, on the Carleton University campus, take their place? Or any of the U.S.C. VPs you watched over the years, myself included?.
I doubt it.
As much fun as you like to have with the people you cover, don’t forget that the country you hope to live in has to be governed by someone on our way to utopia, unless you’re prepared to do it yourself. Near as I can remember, you left the politics to the rest of us, and stuck with your love for the written word. Which makes it all the more important that you not forget that the only thing worse than having Chuck Norris protect your family, is having someone who isn’t a Texas Ranger failing you in the process.
(this post, like all blogs, is an Opinion Piece)