Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address this week. Here are a few highlights:
- We still need laws that strengthen rather than weaken unions.”
- “We still need … a higher minimum wage.”
- “Free community college is possible.”
- “Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.”
- “Let’s close the loopholes that lead to inequality by allowing the top 1 per cent to avoid paying taxes on their accumulated wealth.”
- “No challenge – no challenge – poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”
Jeffrey Simpson writes:
Could any Canadian imagine Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying such things? If Mr. Harper were a U.S. legislator, he would have been sitting in the House of Representatives chamber with the sullen-looking Republicans. The Republicans might have chosen Senator or Congressman Harper to deliver their critical reply to the President’s address.
The speech made clear just how much distance there is between Harper and Obama. I suspect that Obama really has little use for Harper -- a suspicion that is bolstered by Harper's cancellation of the Three Amigos Conference:
With political optics defining almost everything in Ottawa, the Harper government dreaded a late-February meeting in Canada featuring Mr. Harper, Mr. Obama and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Planning had been proceeding until the Harper government abruptly announced it was pushing back the meeting until some unspecified later date.What Ottawa dreaded was the public airing, on Canadian soil, of disputes over Keystone XL and Canadian visa requirements on Mexicans. This would not have looked good, since it would have underscored how clumsily the Harper government has played both files.
What has sent Canadian-American relations south, Simpson writes, is Harper's "grievance mentality:"
A grievance mentality has settled over the Harper government because of Keystone XL, which Mr. Obama obviously opposes, although no final decision has been rendered.The grievance mentality is deepened by the sense that the Americans have given nothing in return for Canadian participation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the venue Canada provided for the U.S.-Cuba talks. Things have improved a bit, but they got so bad a while ago that the U.S. ambassador to Canada had to get Prime Minister’s Office’s approval for meetings with cabinet ministers.
That grievance mentality, however, does not confine itself to Canadian-American relations. It defines everything Stephen Harper does. It shows through in his dealings with Parliament, with the provinces, with evironmental groups -- with anyone who opposes his agenda.
Harper came into politics with a chip on his shoulder -- a chip which has only grown bigger over the years. The man is the walking definition of "grievance mentality."