In an attempt to put Nigel Wright's resignation in perspective, Paul Wells returns to a passage he and John Geddes wrote two years ago:
Someone who was there paraphrased Harper’s message to his ministers at his first cabinet meeting in 2006: “I am the kingpin. So whatever you do around me, you have to know that I am sacrosanct.” Harper was telling his ministers that they were expendable but that he wasn’t. If they had to go so that his credibility and his ability to get things done were protected, so be it.
It wasn’t personal,” this source said. “It was his office.”
If you work for Stephen Harper you're expected to take the blame. That's what Nigel Wright did yesterday. The talking points will be: "This was Nigel's mistake. He paid the price. Case closed."
But this is Stephen Harper. We know the man well enough by now to understand that the $90.000 cheque was not just Wright's idea. His statement yesterday hints that there was more going on behind the scenes:
“I did not advise the Prime Minister of the means by which Sen. Duffy’s expenses were repaid, either before or after the fact.”
Harper didn't know the means. He didn't want to know. But who hatched the plan? And why? Surely the answer must have something to do with information Harper wanted to bury. That's not surprising. Stephen Harper works hard to make sure information he does not approve goes down the memory hole. Wells writes:
It’s really sweet that Stephen Harper believes he cannot win a fair fight of full information in the light of day, but as an operating principle it is getting tired. The desire to bring every debate to a screaming halt rather than engage the debate is one of this prime minister’s two or three most obvious defining characteristics. It’s obvious even where scandal is not involved. As one example among many, the Supreme Court reference on Senate reform this autumn will hear three days of public arguments the Harper government did everything to avoid, first by stalling for years on the very notion of a reference, and then by asking the Court, pathetically, to bypass public argument and go straight to delivering an opinion.
We will see more of that in the days ahead. It is easy to predict, based on long observation of this prime minister, that any question about what this government did, what this prime minister’s Senate appointees did, how Harper’s office handled it, and what will be done to fix these attitudes in the future will be answered with, “Nigel Wright gave up his job. Isn’t that enough? It’s time to move on.”
Wright's resignation is supposed to put an end to the matter. It's all very Nixonian. But, as that president discovered, the cover up is worse than the crime.