The prime minister's story, Andrew Coyne writes, hangs by a thread:
The Prime Minister has hung onto that single thread even as every other part of his story has fallen apart: as “acted alone” became “very few,” as “full confidence” turned to “acted honourably” turned to “deceived,” as “resigned” turned to “dismissed.” So long as it could not be proven that he knew what he denied knowing, he could not be caught in a lie; and so long as the whole issue was framed as “did the Prime Minister flat-out lie to Parliament,” the multiple lies told by everyone around him, before, during and after the whole sordid affair might be made to recede into the background.
If the convention of ministerial responsibility meant anything at all, Stephen Harper would have resigned long ago. But he has steadfastly claimed that he is not responsible for the people who work for him -- because he didn't know what they were doing. But, as things unravel, it's increasingly clear that Harper did know what was going on:
The go-ahead. Speak to the PM. We are good to go. It is hard to read that as anything but an indication that the Prime Minister not only knew, but approved of the deal.
The orginal deal was that the party would cover Duffy's expenses. Documents seem to indicate that Harper knew of the plan. But, when the party balked, Nigel Wright cut Duffy a personal cheque. Coyne writes:
Suppose that had remained the deal. It is not clear to me why it would be any more lawful to make a secret payment to a sitting legislator from the party’s bank account than from Wright’s.
More important, it does not seem to be clear to the RCMP. It is that agreement, to make Duffy “whole,” the investigating officer attests — or to use the language of the Criminal Code, to “give and exchange money in exchange for something to be done or omitted to be done” — that “constitutes the bribery offence” he believes occurred.
Mr. Harper's story is a matter of Clintonian parsing. Whether the party wrote the cheque or Nigel Wright wrote it, money was offered in exchange for something to be done. Yet Harper keeps dodging, claiming he is not responsible for what happened.
This time, The Artful Dodger has been cornered.