Though we’re only in week two, the extreme vacuousness and dullness of the 41st Canadian federal election has already reached depressing heights. Lacking anything of substance to debate (as I pointed out on The Mace, both the Liberals and Conservatives share a fairly conservative fiscal agenda, and Harper has pledged no interest in discussing social issues), partisans have resorted to endless nick-picking of the feuding campaigns themselves, and all the superficial fluff that surrounds them.
Complaining about ads has thus emerged as a predictable sport of choice, and Stephen Harper has recently wandered into some trouble with his latest offering.
The one minute-spot features the PM giving a rather shrill and nasally monologue about Canadian greatness, interspliced against a bland montage of stock footage clips depicting what I take are supposed to be “inspiring” scenes of Canadiana.
If the ad looks familiar, it should, because it’s a complete rip-off of a much better ad that former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty made to promote his own presidential campaign a few months earlier. The idea that Harper’s team expected such unsubtle plagiarism of one of the most ubiquitous and acclaimed campaign commercials of recent decades to go unnoticed really speaks to how sheltered and lame the Conservatives’ PR team has become, and why I’m becoming increasingly skeptical that the party is competent and media-savvy enough to pull off a majority.
Of course, the Liberals have predictably jumped all over this embarrassment, blastingHarper for copying a “Tea Party governor” ad, the latest in a now well-worn strategy of making the PM appear scary by comparing him to fringe elements of the Republican right. (Though I’d note it’s somewhat charitable to describe Pawlenty as a “Tea Party” guy. If anything, he’s likely to sit on the more moderate and establishment end of the spectrum in the upcoming GOP primary).
The Harper ad is most notable, however, for really plunging Canada’s already trademark dullness to an all-new depressing lows. Pawlenty is hardly the most inspiring man in American politics at the moment, and yet somehow, Harper still managed to make a commercial that makes him look practically exhilarating by comparison.