At 2:27 Eastern Time, on March 30, 1981, John Hinkley Jr. squeezed off all six rounds from his revolver and, though an act of genuine incompetence, failed to kill anyone.
Hinkley was hoping to kill President Ronald Reagan.
While shootings are rarely funny, there’s a dark irony in Hinkley’s Taxi Driver-inspired attack. The would-be assassin, who was a dreadful shot, failed to hit the president with his first five rounds — he hit three other people, and took out two windows — but on the sixth, struck lucky. Hinkley’s .22 caliber bullet ricocheted off the armour of the president’s 13,000-pound Lincoln Continental limousine, and hit Reagan in the lung.
The car designed to protect the president from a Kennedy-like assassination attempt, ended up getting him shot.
Oh the irony.
Stephen Harper, sitting in his very own Lincoln Continental, is probably not enjoying that irony at all.
Whereas the open-top convertibles of Paul Martin’s and Jean Chretien’s administration facilitated their downfall, Harper knew from day one the value of a roof. He needed armour. He needed shields.
That’s when he built his PMO.
Layers and layers of impenetrable steel, tinted windows, and a detail of fallguys who are willing to give their lives. The office will be pierced not by bullet, nor bomb, nor Access to Information Request. It is a bunker into which he can dive, if the chaos of the outside world poses a problem.
Nigel Wright, Benjamin Perrin, Arthur Hamilton, Chris Woodcock, Irving Gerstein, Majory LeBreton, David Tkachuk, Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, Patrick Rogers, Carl Vallee, and “others in the PMO.” All there as human shields — the living embodiments of plausible deniability. Tasked with carrying out the operations that the boss ought not do, nor know about.
But Harper’s protection may become his downfall. While the secrecy of the PMO has long given him cover, it has involved locking himself in an enclosed space with his clean-up crew — his Nixonian para-governmental force. As he’s locked in the backseat, surrounded by the elite squad to which he gave a license to kill, he must confess that he never asked where the bodies were buried.
“The Prime Minister knew nothing of, nor did he have anything to do with, nor did he direct in any way, the scheme,” according to the boss’ new press flack.
The new strategy is to simply pretend that everything is okay. To pretend that we don’t know that he knew — “in broad terms only.” To wander into the hall of smoke and mirrors and hope that everyone gets lost.
The last stand of the PMO will be to continue misdirecting and hope that the steel reinforced-floor does not fall out.
It seems like a strategy destined to fail. There is more to come. And as his team falls one-by-one, and as more and more bullets are fired at the Prime Minister’s mobile bunker, eventually, something will ricochet.
They should unlock the doors and surrender.
Stephen Harper should resign.
The Prime Minister must not resign. He ought not resign. He need not resign.
But he should.
This is the nuclear option of extreme plausible deniability. If you ask your inner-circle to operate with such a level of autonomy and secrecy, you have to accept that, when the screw up is of a certain extreme magnitude, you must go.
It’s too late to lurch towards accountability. Letting your fallguys take their choreographed falls does not count as accountability. His 13,000-pound Lincoln cannot be converted to the Popemobile overnight.
And the opposition — between Trudeau’s obsession with the word ‘transparency’ and Mulcair’s never-ending audition to become the new prosecutor on Law & Order — will not relent. While Grandmaster Harper’s ability to play chess blindfolded has long frustrated opposition efforts to predict and pin down the Prime Minister, Harper is now left only with his king and a few pawns.
So he needs to find someone new. And those names are beginning to surface.
Jason Kenney, Lisa Raitt, Maxime Bernier and James Moore have already made the opening moves.
But step two is exceedingly difficult.
If Harper does not go, who will dethrone him?
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