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When my son was away at camp last week, I was able to achieve a fairly firm stranglehold on our TV remote. Not that my grip would ever be classified as weak, mind you, but the viewing environment was certainly less competitive than usual!

As I watched a few regular season CFL games and NFL exhibition contests, I was unexpectedly reminded of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s long-running battle with the latter organization. It’s funny how the human brain works sometimes.

In Sept. 2017, Trump ignited a firestorm of controversy at a political rally in Huntsville, Alabama when he took direct aim at the NFL. “You know what’s hurting the game?,” he said during his speech, “When people like yourselves turn on television, and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem. Wouldn’t you love to see one of the NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now?’”

The precipitous reason for the former President’s statement occurred the year before. Then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines by sitting on the bench during the team’s third pre-season game in 2016 during the playing of the U.S. national anthem, followed by kneeling during regular season games. He was protesting against racial injustice, oppression and police brutality in America. Kaepernick’s actions were widely viewed as disrespectful and offensive, but he certainly had support in the left-wing social justice movement.

When Trump injected himself into this controversial debate, it took on a whole new life. Basketball stars like Stephen Curry and LeBron James traded barbs with him on Twitter. Several pro championship teams either weren’t invited, or rejected invitations, to the White House, including the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018 (which Curry played on), the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 (which was rescinded by Trump). Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV couldn’t stop discussing it, either.

No matter your feelings about Trump, one thing was clear: he was a master media manipulator. With a quick personal jab and/or short tweet, he had the uncanny ability to create a narrative that riled up the general populace and kept him top of mind, even in the busiest of news cycles.

Trump’s critics believed his battle with the NFL had made a mockery of First Amendment rights. They felt he had launched the U.S. into another controversial episode of racial prejudice.

Yet, the Trump-NFL kerfuffle wasn’t solely about free speech. Otherwise, right-leaning individuals like me who opposed Kaepernick’s decision to take a knee would have sided with NFL players. They had the freedom to do this, be it an issue of police brutality, race relations or an intense dislike of Trump. Rather, the mistake they made was that it was a multi-faceted issue which went far beyond the parameters of free expression. As odd as this may sound, the protection of speech was the least important component of this entire dispute.

Trump maneuvered this debate in an effective manner. While Twitter could occasionally be his worst enemy, it served in this case as an ally. In a Sept. 25, 2017 tweet, he wrote, “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!” He framed it properly. The issue wasn’t about him or the players, but about flag and country. That’s the perfect way to win over public opinion, and his opponents couldn’t properly combat it.

Many Americans have long believed pro athletes are whiny and overpaid to begin with. The public’s love-hate relationship with sports stars, which is very different from the early days of hero worship, worked heavily against today’s players. Their passion for the game is often in dispute, and their reputations off the field are occasionally sullied. While it’s obviously unfair to paint all players with the same brush, this negative image remains firmly entrenched in the back of fans’ minds.

The NFL is a business first, and a social justice organization last. Several high-profile figures did support NFL players in the beginning, including Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, a major contributor to Trump’s inaugural committee, along with personal friends like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and then-New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. It didn’t last. Fans expressed their disappointment with players taking a knee each week, and the NFL ultimately banned players in 2018 from doing this during the national anthem. If they hadn’t intervened, it would have led to reduced ticket and merchandise sales and diminished profit margins. The owners simply weren’t going to stand for this kneeling any longer.

Finally, the personal isn’t always political. Debating Trump’s motives in taking on the NFL remains fair game, but it was an issue that elicited strong views from many Americans. Plus, Trump had a strong interest in football based on his former ownership of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals and previous desire to own an NFL franchise. Hence, his decision to enter the fray was quite similar to the way his predecessor, Barack Obama, joined the equally controversial debate about the nickname of the Washington Redskins (now Commanders). Fancy that.

“Is the NFL ready for the return of Donald Trump?,” Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr wrote on July 28. “Can the league ensure it will not again be a cowering minnow trying to keep itself from the open mouth of a passing-by shark, like when it altered its national anthem policy in the wake of criticism from the former president?”

This remains to be seen. I’ll ponder these questions once I figure out where my son hid the remote in our house. Aargh!

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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Who would have believed we’d see the day where the FBI raided the private residence of a former U.S. President, either Republican or Democrat? Yet, it actually materialized this week – and many questions surrounding this stunning decision remain unanswered.

On Monday, FBI agents raided Donald Trump’s home at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. This is related to 15 boxes of classified material that the former President reportedly took with him upon leaving the White House. The U.S. Justice Department, speaking on behalf of the National Archives and Records Administration, is investigating the matter and hasn’t revealed any of the contents.

Trump’s Aug. 8 press release described his home as being “under siege.” He noted that “such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries. Sadly, America has now become one of those Countries, corrupt at a level not seen before.” As well, he made this juxtaposition, “What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee? Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States.”

Is this an accurate interpretation? Let’s try to piece together some of what we know.

18 U.S. Code § 2071 (Concealment, removal, or mutilation generally) specifically bars the removal of classified documents by judicial and public office holders. Anyone who does could potentially be fined, imprisoned for up to three years – or both. The Code also states the following, “Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.”

This seems pretty cut and dry. Except for one thing: no current or former U.S. President has ever been criminally investigated for the removal of classified or declassified documents. While there’s a first for everything, and no-one is above the law, the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago could lead to a multitude of legal interpretations and court battles.

“Federal law bars the removal of classified documents to unauthorized locations,” noted Fox News’s Bradford Betz, Jon Street, David Spunt ands Brooke Singman on Aug. 8, “though it is possible that Trump could try to argue that, as president, he was the ultimate declassification authority.”

Trump, like many Presidents who preceded him, declassified various documents, papers, studies and other materials while in office. That’s a common procedure and perfectly acceptable. The question here is whether the 15 boxes of classified material were either declassified when he was still in the Oval Office, or shifted from the designation of classified to declassified when he brought them to Mar-a-Lago. The latter has obviously never been tested in a court of law, and could set a legal precedent for Joe Biden, the current President, and all other office holders moving forward.

The removal of the 15 boxes from the White House is the most likely reason why the FBI raided Trump’s private home. Some people believed it was related to the proceedings of the United States House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, or January 6 committee, but several news reports have denied this. While it’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty whether the upcoming midterm elections did or didn’t play a role, the timing is certainly unusual. One has to hope the FBI made this difficult decision unilaterally.

Did the FBI do the right thing in raiding Mar-a-Lago?

That’s a difficult question to answer at this stage. It depends on what the FBI knows, or suspects, is in those boxes. Trump’s strongest critics and supporters all claim to have the answers – but in reality, they don’t have the slightest clue. It would be wise for everyone to keep silent for the time being until the investigation has been concluded. Alas, we know that’s not going to happen in this day and age.

If the FBI ultimately finds incriminating material related to the former President, ex-White House staff or both, it needs to be dealt with under the fullest extent of the law. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.  If nothing of importance or relevance is unveiled, it will be a mess of epic proportions. The reputation of the 114-year-old intelligence and security service will also be irreparably damaged.

Many things are riding on the FBI’s raid of Trump’s estate in Mar-a-Lago, including the political landscape in Washington for the next two years. It’s unfortunate that it had to reach this point, and could leave the U.S. in a more vulnerable position than ever before.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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One year into his presidency, Joe Biden took questions from reporters for over an hour and a half.

Like his first year in office, it was an uneven performance, but it was also several things at once: it was calm and professional, a bit folksy, a bit in the weeds, even sometimes a bit blunt. He flashed anger at disingenuous questions, cracked jokes and flashed a big grin. He joked if reporters wanted to “go another two hours” and at one point let journalists ask questions by passing the microphone down the row of chairs.

His withdrawal from Afghanistan was a humanitarian, geopolitical and PR nightmare, but he defended the decision in a convincing way that there was never going to be a good time to leave, but leave he must with Americans unwilling to risk more lives and spend indefinite sums.

He made news, saying he would be open to splitting his signature Build Back Better bill into individual packages, prioritizing the half-trillion dollars for climate action, and trying to make progress on early childhood education.

His American Recovery Act was a massive stimulus and public health bill, larger than anyone thought could pass. His bipartisan infrastructure deal also was not only more money than anyone thought would happen, but passed with real bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans – something no one thought could happen.

On COVID-19, he brought reasonableness and a general sense of science guiding decisions, after the chaos of the Trump years. He prioritized vaccines and got them out the door. He failed to anticipate the anti-vaxxer extremists would self-sabotage their own health, and wasn’t prepared for the variants. But, there is a sense that he at least put a lid on the pandemic after a year of Trumpian disaster.

His efforts on voting rights and fair elections came belatedly, but forcefully. He needs to find a way to get something done on this, come hell or high water. Executive action if congress fails to act. Narrow efforts if he can’t get the whole package – but not just about how to count the votes after they’re cast. He also has to ensure the rules of the game are fair. This is about America’s original sin of a racial caste system as much as it is about democracy. It is too big to ignore.

He’s taken the politics largely out of the justice system, though it would be nice to see more forceful prosecution of the January 6th insurrection. Perhaps his Attorney-General is on it, and he as president is removed from it. That’s as it should be, but it’s unsatisfying, I suppose.

He’s also a typical Democratic president when it comes to Canada: friendly, but in it for his country, not for our interests.

He is ultimately stymied by his narrow margins in the Congress, a victim of the big-ten nature of his party, with senators and congressmen who’d be moderate Tories in Canada made to caucus with young socialists. I still don’t understand why he didn’t offer a few Republican senators an ambassadorship to (at least temporarily) boost his margin in the senate, but maybe that’s why I did the comms, not the legislative strategy.

The press conference – both in style and length – was a fitting rebuttal to the notion that he’s lost a step. His forcefulness of late has shown he has the energy to lead – he just needs the wins to prove it.

His consistent refrain, and probably best political point, was to challenge the Republicans for not only being the Truman “do nothing Republican congress”, but taking it even further, repeatedly asking, “What are they even for?” Calling out the performative vacuousness of his opposition has legs. “What would even be the Republican platform right now?” he asked. It’s a line that hits the mark. “I honest to God don’t know what they’re for.” Indeed.

The first year can best be summed up as a decent start, with room to improve. After four years of Trump, that’s pretty reassuring.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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U.S. President Joe Biden’s first anniversary in the White House is mere days away. When that moment arrives on Jan. 20, he and his Democratic staffers may opt to toast each other (in a virtual space, one assumes) for a job well done.

In reality, they should keep the champagne on ice for a bit longer. Much longer, in fact.

Biden’s left-leaning support base was obviously thrilled when he took office, and Donald Trump left the White House. They were pleased when he cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline, returned the U.S. to the Paris Agreement, withdrew the nation’s military forces from Afghanistan and halted the construction of his Republican predecessor’s border wall with Mexico. They supported his announcement of several stimulus bills and infrastructure projects to help individuals, families and businesses. They cheered when he increased the number of COVID-19 vaccinations across America.

Then, reality began to set in.

The Taliban took control of Kabul, meaning the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan had been done in a rushed, ineffective manner. COVID-19 cases surged this past summer due to the Delta variant, leading some Americans to start doubting the effectiveness of the vaccines and whether herd immunity was achievable.

As for the $3.1 trillion in stimulus spending, it was gradually viewed as expensive and wasteful by conservatives and some progressives. In turn, the Build Back Better Act, which was supposed to cost $3.5 trillion and was lowered to $2.2 trillion last November, may not pass at all. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has refused to sign the bill unless the amount is dropped to $1.75 trillion and Biden’s signature social policy and climate change bill are eliminated. Manchin’s heroic stance in support of some fiscal prudence in these difficult times has been praised by most Republicans, and predictably condemned by his colleagues.

That’s why Biden’s approval ratings have slid from 53-36 percent on the plus side (Jan. 23, 2021) to 43.2-51.5 percent on the negative side (Jan. 12, 2022), according to FiveThirtyEight.com. This has been a fairly consistent pattern since Aug. 30, 2021, and it takes into account polling data from firms like YouGov, Rasmussen Reports/Pulse Opinion Research, Ipsos and IBD/TIPP.

Gallup has shown a similar trend. Biden’s latest job approval rating is 43 percent, which covers the period of Dec. 1-16, 2021. This drop has been consistent since Sept. 1, 2021, and his first year term average is 49 percent. This isn’t necessarily the end of the world. Trump’s average was lower at 36 percent, while Reagan (49 percent), Obama (50 percent) and Clinton (53 percent) were about the same. Nevertheless, his dip from a high of 57 percent (Jan 21-Feb 2 and Apr 1-21, 2021) is notable, and he’s only slightly above his lowest recorded job approval rating of 42 percent (Oct 1-19 and Nov 1-16, 2021).

Everything is working against Biden. If the Omicron variant keeps surging this winter, or if his domestic and international agenda continues to tank, so will his numbers.

This partially helps explain why Biden went on an aggressive attack against Trump during his Jan. 6 speech. On the first anniversary of the storming of the U.S. Capitol, he used fiery language against Trump and his supporters, claiming it was a “dagger at the throat of American democracy.” Biden also said, “The former president of the United States of America has created and spread a web of lies about the 2020 election. He’s done so because he values power over principle, because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interests and America’s interests, and because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution. He can’t accept he lost.”

The political left was euphoric. They seemed ready to celebrate in the streets with COVID-19 masks and proper social distancing. Once again, they should keep that cork in the champagne bottle.

Biden’s speech played right into Trump’s hands. He used the language, tactics and mannerisms the former President worked to his advantage in 2016. It helped create an “us vs. them” environment and “me vs. you” image of a political showdown, which is exactly what Trump was hoping for. It also shifted the image of Biden from political conciliator to a partisan firebrand, which is neither wise nor politically viable for his re-election bid.

Trump is gearing up for 2024. He has a 43 point lead (54-11) over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as the choice of Republicans to be the party’s presidential candidate, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll. His press releases remain tough-nosed, but his media appearances are significantly different. For instance, he confirmed that he received a COVID-19 booster last month during a tour with Bill O’Reilly. In a One America News interview on Jan. 11, he said that “vaccines saved tens of millions throughout the world” and his opponents don’t want to say whether or not they got the booster “because they’re gutless.”

Things can change in politics overnight. We know this. Nevertheless, the more reasonable that Trump sounds, and the more irrational that Biden sounds, will work to the former’s advantage. If the latter maintains his newfound persona, the door to a second Trump presidential term could potentially open up more widely.

Let’s see what Year 2 of the Biden presidency brings.

Michael Taube, a long-time newspaper columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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Whenever I advise a politician, I always make a prediction.

“I predict you will have a long and prosperous political career,” I’d say, “if you don’t make any predictions.”

Other advice I give: don’t ever, ever answer hypothetical questions about the future, because they are (a) hypothetical and (b) about the future, which hasn’t happened yet.

The most famous cautionary tale about political predictions comes from 1948. (I wrote all about it in one of my books, which I predict you will now want to buy.)

1948 was a U.S. presidential election year. That year, Harry S. Truman was the Democratic candidate and the incumbent. Thomas E. Dewey was the Republican standard-bearer, and the Governor of New York.

The Chicago Daily Tribune was pretty pro-Republican, and regarded Truman as “nincompoop,” quote unquote. Their Washington correspondent filed his election night story early – too early – and the resulting Daily Tribune headline forever became the stuff of legend: DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN, it hollered.

Except, he didn’t. Truman won a massive electoral college victory. So much for political predictions.

But politicians still make ‘em. During the pandemic era, in Canada, we’ve been on the receiving end of not a few, too. Remember a cowboy-hatted Alberta Premier Jason Kenney boasting at the 2021 Calgary Stampede that the province would experience the “best Summer ever”? His party even sold ball caps bearing that prediction, so confident were they.

Well, no.

Covid 19 went thereafter on a rampage in my home province. So, in September, Kenney apologized: “It is now clear that we were wrong. And for that, I apologize,” he said. But polls suggest Albertans have not yet forgiven him.

And, to be fair, he’s not alone in getting things wrong. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for example, stepped into the minefield that is the soothsaying business in November 2020. The pandemic’s almost over, Trudeau suggested: “We’re going to need to have to do this for another few weeks, for another few months, and we can begin to see the other side of this.”

A “few weeks”? Nope. It’s much more than a year later, and the number of infected Canadians is worse than it’s ever been. With no end in sight.

But Messrs. Kenney and Trudeau aren’t alone. The leading American infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, actually forecast the end of handshakes: “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.”

That one didn’t come to pass, either. Many people still do, although perhaps not as much.

Other predictions by politicos and polling expert types: birthday candles would never again be blown out. Office spaces would never be used again, or not like they once were. Samples in cosmetic stores: gone. Business attire: toast. Air travel: buh-bye. Oh yes, and cities: cities, along with all that other stuff, was declared null and virus-voided. By some supposedly-smart political people, too.

A few pandemic prognostications were crazier than an outhouse rodent, and everyone knew at the time. Witness President Donald Trump’s firm prediction that the virus would away by the time the weather got warmer.

The virus didn’t go away, however. But Donald’s presidency sure did.

Political predictions are risky, risky business. We ink-stained wretches make preposterous predictions all the time, and we rarely get called on it. But woe unto the politician – cf. Trump, Kenney et al. – who has a muddied crystal ball. They’ll never hear the end of it, if they get things wrong.

So, no predictions, here, about when the pandemic will end, whether another variant is heading our way, or whether the Maple Leafs will ever actually win something (anything).

Instead, I verily predict that this column will end right about here.

(And the Leafs will never win.)

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.


Well, it’s that magical time of year again, when we all hunker down in our homes in the face of yet another December COVID onslaught.

True this is somewhat depressing, but on the plus side the isolation gives us an opportunity to ponder things.

For example, right now, in the wake of Erin O’Toole’s disappointing showing, I’m pondering what it would take to create the perfect Conservative leader.

Yes, I know, this is a total waste of time, but hey, it’s a fun holiday exercise.

And right now, with everything that’s going on in the world, we need all the fun we can get, right?

So, let’s begin the frivolity.

First off, I’d argue the perfect Conservative leader would need a strong dose of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s sense of gravitas.

I say that because Harper’s strength as a politician was that he exuded seriousness; he actually had deep intellectual thoughts and was therefore able to offer leadership that went beyond vapid superficial glitz.

I mean, admit it, wouldn’t it be nice to have a political leader again who actually came across as an adult?

Of course, to complement his (or her) seriousness a perfect Conservative leader would also need to manifest former US President Ronald Reagan’s geniality.

Indeed, one chief reason for Reagan’s political success was that people tended to like him and people who liked him also tended to vote for him.

In short, likeability works.

Hence, the perfect Conservative leader would be somber, yet likeable.

Plus, in order to ensure he (or she) got a good hearing in Quebec, the perfect Conservative leader would also have to possess former Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s fluency in French.

As a native Quebecor, Mulroney could speak the lingo with more authenticity than any leader who learned the language in French immersion classes.

Besides, as someone whose name escapes me once put it, “immersing yourself in the French language for more than five minutes can be fatal.”

At any rate, another quality a perfect Conservative leader would need in my opinion is the ability to brawl.

After all, politics is a blood sport and if you can’t duke it out in the political arena, odds are good, you’re going to lose.

Just ask Andrew Scheer or Erin O’Toole.

That’s why my perfect Conservative leader would also be imbued with former US President Donald Trump’s willingness to give as good as he got.

As a matter of fact, Trump is a master at concocting what American cartoonist Scott Adams called “linguistic kill shots.”

For example, in 2016 Trump brilliantly dubbed his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton as “Crooked Hillary”.

Sure, it’s not exactly Disraelian-style rhetoric, but it’s effective.

And finally, my perfect Conservative leader would also have a strong commitment to a true conservative ideology, that’s to say a doctrine that stood for “more freedom”, “less government” and “free market” economics.

For this, he (or she) would have to be blessed with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s personal courage and steely determination.

Recall, for example, how in 1980, when she was being urged by powerful voices to abandon her pro-free market agenda, Thatcher famously declared, “To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catchphrase, the ‘U-turn’, I have only one thing to say: You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning!”

In other words, just like the “Iron lady”, a perfect Conservative leader would bravely stick by his (or her) principles even if the political situation got rough.

So, there it is, that’s my recipe for a perfect Conservative leader.

Mind you, I’m under no illusions that the media would share my view.

In fact, if my perfect Conservative leader actually existed in reality, I’m certain the Canadian media would hate him (or her) with a red-hot intensity.

But then again, unlike the people who currently run the Conservative Party, pandering to the media’s prejudices is not my top priority.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.



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