Anti-recall strategy: Attack the messenger, not the message

Harvey Oberfeld
By Harvey Oberfeld
September 29th, 2010

The Liberal strategy for fighting recall is now very clear: go after Bill VanderZalm personally, since they apparently don’t believe they can beat recall on the issues.


And their attack strategy has been picked up by their mouthpieces in the media: either deliberately, trying to scuttle recall, or naively by taking up the Liberals’ refrain in a drawn out, sustained fashion without thinking about their own double standard.

Just in the week we’ve heard over and over again all about VanderZalm’s own political past woes, dating back to 1991.  Funny thing, though: we keep hearing that from the very same people who say ‘Get over it!’ and cry foul when others try to question Premier Gordon Campbell’s fitness to lead by bringing up: his conviction for impaired driving in 2003, twelve years more recent than VanderZalm’s resignation. Campbell’s his tearing up legal contracts in 2002? Eleven years more recent than VanderZalm’s troubles. As for the Supreme Court’s ruling illegal of that action in 2007? Only three years ago.  

Not to mention the Convention Centre’s huge cost overruns, the lies that BC Rail wouldn’t be sold off, and the severe underestimates of Olympic costs. 

Those things are all old news that need not be rehashed, even though they go to the very crediblity of the Premier and his government that could play a LARGE part in many people’s decision on how to vote on recall. But it’s fine to keep raking VanderZalm over the coals in 2010 for things that happened almost two decades ago?

Hypocrites? Naive? Or Liberal puppets?

None of this, of course, is to suggest the media should not report problems that emerge about organizers or canvassers in the recall campaign.  Dirt makes great copy.  And fun to dig into, expose the truth and write about.

However, to blame the leader personally or hold him responsible for all the hundreds or thousands of  individuals who sign up or become active in the campaign anywhere in the province, I believe, is a bit ludicrous and over the top.  Especially when the whole recall campaign is a grassroots volunteer-driven effort, not funded by huge donations from political parties, business  groups, unions etc.

In fact, not even political leaders have personally worn as much muck as media pundits are heaping on VanderZalm when embarrassing facts have surfaced about political riding officials or propective candidates.

In recent years–no need to go back two decades–every B.C. political party has lost or dropped  candidates, who were linked to drug use, bribery accusations, smuggling and having “inappropriate” photos posted on the Internet.  Their leaders were embarrassed briefly, but there was no ongoing media campaign by the media to denigrate any party leader.

The issues got reported, the political liability was jettisoned, the leader was questionned, embarrassed and then everyone moved on.

But with the recall campaign and VanderZalm, I sense something more: every time a campaign official or canvasser is exposed for wrongdoing–real or manufactured–the leader will not only “wear it” personally, but efforts will be made to tar him personally.

From the Liberals, I can understand: they are in a battle for survival.  A successful recall campaign could see the fall of the government; and that seenms to me to be the ultimate aim of the recallers.

But the media should not willingly be played for suckers, allowing themselves to be used to dredge up VanderZalm’s personal past which is totally irrelevant to the issues surrounding the recall campaign.  Just as they don’t keep repeating  Campbell’s past personal embarrassments when they talk about the HST!

Unless their motivation, like the Liberals’, is to defeat the recall effort.

This article originally appeared in Mr. Oberfeld’s blog, Keeping it Real. Reprinted with his kind permission.


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