Obama’s Canadian Enemies

Canada has played an unexpected and controversial role in the U.S. Democratic primaries. In today’s Guardian, I try to give some context to the emerging scandal. You can read the whole article by clicking on the link above.

Here are some choice excerpts:

Barack Obama’s political momentum, seemingly irresistible a week ago, was sideswiped by false reports from sources within the Canadian government that he was being two-faced about Nafta, which especially hurt the candidate in free-trade hating Ohio.

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One contextual fact might help explain the whole matter: the increasing integration between Canadian and American conservatives, who tend to be as thick as thieves. Brodie’s own career is part of this story of the Canadian right becoming increasingly tied to its American counterpart. Brodie did his PhD in political science at the University of Calgary under Ted Morton, an American-born former academic and activist and known as the dean of the “Calgary school”, an intellectual movement that has remade Canadian conservatism along American-lines. Traditionally, Canadian conservatives have followed the model of old-fashioned British Tories, emphasising social cohesion and accommodation to the welfare state. Morton, who has served as an advisor to many conservative politicians, has consistently worked to make the Canadian right imitate their successful brothers to the south in marrying populism on social issues (including opposition to gay rights and abortion) with free-market economic policies.

*****

The Free Trade Agreement (and later Nafta) initiated a new era where that the Canadian conservative movement starting modelling itself after the American right. This process was accelerated by the emergence of a cohort of intellectual entrepreneurs, journalists and thinktank types who happily shuttled back and forth from Washington and New York to Toronto and Ottawa. David Frum is perhaps the most famous figure of this crowd, happy to write for the National Post and the National Review, work one day to merge the two right-wing parties of Canada and then go on to pen speeches for George Bush. (Despite his frequent border crossings, Frum is quick to accuse his political enemies, including antiwar conservative Robert Novak and liberal internationalist Barack Obama, of being unpatriotic, deracinated and post-national. Being Jewish himself, Frum should perhaps be aware of the unsavoury anti-Semitic history of this sort of nationalist rhetoric).

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