Monday, April 04, 2011

Smart is as Smart Does - Rex, Iggy & the Other Guys

As usual our revered Newfie broadcaster Rex Murphy has started out the current Canadian federal election, by clearing away every worthy, possible discussion topic so he and other at least temporarily parochial commentators can have the venerable Cross Country Check-Up all to themselves for their latest fix of Can-Pol junk. For those who may not know this program airs every Sunday, live across Canada. The topics range from the good fun of summer book selections to the most serious and deadly of world issues. And Rex, who uniquely combines a homey squid-jiggin' dialect with Rhodes scholar intellectual agility, is never at a loss for words or facts. Definitely worth a listen for anyone not yet familiar.

Well, usually worth a listen except for these periodic Canadian federal elections when his addiction to the small talk and smaller issues of our frozen Dominion swamp his good judgment. I refer primarily to the obsessive, repetitive insistence on covering the election despite ample more important issues. This week for example, it might have been rather important to consider the future of Western aid and presence in Afghanistan where mobs murdered selfless UN workers in response - get this! - in protest of a wing-nut Florida preacher burning a copy of the Koran. A lot of Canadians, including yours truly, might have wished to discuss these atrocities and what it says about putting our youth's lives on the line and our economy in debt to spend so thankless a decade among the Afghans. But no, we had to suffer through 2 hours of hearing about Elizabeth May being shut out of a televised debate or, the pros and cons of Harper's unfounded rants about hidden agendas and coalitions. (For podcast of this, the April 3 episode of Cross Country Check-up, click here)

And as if the choice of topic was not bad enough, Rex Murphy somehow got himself into saying some very strange things about Michael Ignatieff, the Liberal leader. Kicking off the program with a discussion with Rob Russo, Ottawa Bureau Chief of the Canadian Press, these two luminaries hastily reached concurrence that "Stephen Harper is very very smart" and that, on the other hand, (I directly quote from the podcast) for Michael Ignatieff,

Russo" "...the expectations are so low that if he'd put subject and predicate together, put one foot in front of the other he would have exceeded those expectations."

Rex:"Very true...I subscribe to the analysis that you've just laid out, I have no dissension on it all"

Now let me get this straight: Stephen Harper, Master's in Economics from the University of Calgary whose pre-political work experience was following the well-oiled (pun intentional!) path of his Dad at Exxon's Canadian branch plant, Imperial Oil -- is the "very, very smart" one of our principal combatants for Prime Minister.

And the inarticulate bumbling one to be facetiously congratulated, as Rex would later put "because he put two words together that had a sequence that is allowed by logic" - that's Ignatieff?
You know, the guy who holds a doctorate in history from Harvard and held teaching posts over the years at the University of British Columbia, Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, the University of California, the University of London and the London School of Economics. Yup, that Ignatieff, the former student and biographer of Isaiah Berlin, author of 17 fiction and non-fiction books, one of which, Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond, won the George Orwell Prize while another, Scar Tissue, got shortlisted for the Mann-Booker. Poor tongue-tied Iggy was also a BBC broadcaster for a while, writing and hosting the award-winning series Blood and Belonging: Journeys into the New Nationalism, which probably helped land him on Prospect Magazine's list of the world's top 100 public intellectuals (Very, very smart Harper has yet to appear, nor have Murphy and Russo). Oh, I almost forgot: he also somehow managed to handle a few subjects and predicates in a logical-enough order to be Massey Lecture laureate on Rex's own home network, CBC, in 2000.

Mind you, Rex ain't no slouch either on the brain side. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Ignatieff's Oxford - never completing a degree, mind you, but that hasn't impeded his stringing together those circumlocutory sentences that we all so love, has it?