Beginning with his caucus meeting today, Stephen Harper will try to wash his hands of The Duffy Matter. But, Andrew Coyne writes in The National Post, this stain will not wash away. To begin with, Nigel Wright's claim that his personal cheque was charity to a friend in need simply does not wash:
It is impossible to believe that Nigel Wright, a man with two law degrees and substantial experience of both politics and business, could have been unaware of the dangers — political and legal, to his party and to himself — involved in such a transaction. Whether in fact it broke any laws, it crosses all sorts of ethical red lines that, as a matter of prudence if nothing else, anyone with any sense would wish to avoid.
Yet, if we are to believe the (latest) story we are being told, in “a moment of weakness,” Wright gave in to Duffy’s pleas — either out of pity for his impoverished state or a desire to spare the taxpayer or both — and wrote him a personal cheque for $90,000. The story, on its own, is preposterous. There is no evidence Duffy was hard up for money, and if he were, there were a dozen other, better, simpler remedies than having Wright pay him out of his own funds.
But, even more than that, there is the Harper government's own record -- beginning with reports that the late Chuck Cadman was offered a one million dollar insurance policy in exchange for his vote to bring down the Martin government. The pattern was set long ago:
People who have made the kinds of compromises, moral and otherwise, that this government has made over the years; who have learned to justify to themselves the kinds of behaviour that are this government’s signature; whose first instinct in this, as in previous episodes, is not to clap their hands to their faces crying “my God, what have we become?” but to think of every possible way to spin and dissemble their way out of it; who have grown so spectacularly deluded as to publicly suggest, in the words of Calgary Centre MP Joan Crockatt, that the current wave of resignations shows how high their ethical standards are — such people are not capable of altering course in the way suggested. That is not who they are.
Who they are has been obvious from the very beginning. From the Cadman Affair, to David Emerson crossing the floor, to the Duffy Matter -- there is nothing new here. What is surprising is that they have gotten away with it for so long.