On Friday, Gerry Caplan wondered whether the Conservative faithful, meeting in Calgary, would experience a dark night of the soul. They faced at least two significant questions:
Which is true: when Mr. Harper said that no one in his office except Nigel Wright knew about the deal with Senator Mike Duffy, or when he now says “a few people” knew? (The number 13 is used by many.) Do you find it credible that his chief of staff, senior aides in his office, the party’s chief fundraiser, the party’s top lawyer, and several close allies in the Senate may have all hid from the Boss Man the money they were giving Mr. Duffy?
And, of course, there was that other question:
Which is true: when the Prime Minister announced he had accepted “with great regret” Mr. Wright’s resignation for giving $90,000 to Mr. Duffy, or when he said this week that Mr. Wright had been dismissed for his “deception”? Had someone else fired Mr. Harper’s chief of staff and informed him only days ago?
Mr. Harper -- as is his custom -- provided no answers to any questions . Yet Laura Payton reported that the faithful left the convention happy:
Delegates say they trust the prime minister and that the media is blowing the situation out of proportion. They argue Duffy's $90,000 in questionable expenses were repaid, which is better than the Liberal Party did during the sponsorship scandal of 10 years ago.
They also argue that Nigel Wright, Harper's former chief of staff who wrote the cheque that covered Duffy's expenses, was concerned about taxpayers when he offered the money. That Duffy didn't have to repay the money out of his own pocket is beside the point, some said, because in the end it didn't cost Canadians.
Matt Altheim, a delegate from Edmonton, called Harper "squeaky clean."
"We have one staffer wanting to pay back the public purse $90,000.... a staffer decided to do that," he said.
"I think it's an issue to be aware of and to be concerned [about] ... but I think people here, the issues for them are good governance, the economy and some of the crime legislation that's coming forward. The things that are going to change this country," Altheim said.
And, so, their faith in Mr. Harper remains unshaken. John Stuart Mill's observation remains as true today as it did one hundred and forty years ago. "Conservatives are not necessarily stupid," he wrote, "but most stupid people are conservatives."
Behold the Conservative base.