It’s not easy knocking The Duff off the front pages.
After all, Senator Mike Duffy yes, he still has the title, and he still has the pay cheque, although that may soon change is an expert. He has spent much of life in front of TV cameras. They’re home. And he’s a consummate performer.
Only the train wreck known as the mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, managed to elbow aside P.E.I.’s most famous member of the chamber of sober second thought this week.
Ford did it Thursday by first acting like a crazed bull trapped in the middle of a Spanish bull ring, veering from one reporter with a camera to the next, ordering them out of his driveway. It was must-watch TV.
Turns out, it was the just the warmup. Shortly after came the main event. You don’t see headlines like the one the Toronto Star ran every day - Toronto Police have video apparently showing mayor smoking crack.
Wow. That’s a tough act to follow.
But no worries. If anyone can do it, Duffy can. After all, he has spent the last week batting Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s credibility around like a piñata.
And that’s saying something for a senator who was caught claiming questionable expenses like a drunken sailor, all the while assuring us he was a resident of the Island, even when his summer home was snowed in for the winter and clearly unoccupied.
Harper wanted Duffy and two other misbehaving senators out fast. He wanted to stand in front of the party faithful this weekend at the Conservatives national chin-wag in Calgary and say the controversy is behind him.
Ha! said Duffy.
Actually, he said much more. After all, why say a few words when a whole bunch will soak up far more time in front of a microphone.
He didn’t get a $90,000 cheque from the prime minister’s right hand man, Nigel Wright, thundered Duffy, using his best broadcaster’s voice to ensure people from coast to coast to coast in Canada could hear him.
No sir. He also got a cheque for $13,560 to cover legal costs.
“That’s right Senators, not one payment, but two,” said Duffy to his colleagues in the Red Chamber. “It was all part of his strategy negotiated by (Harper’s) lawyers to make a political situation embarrassing to his base go away.”
A quick glance would have confirmed the reporters, who had been hanging on his every word, were now scribbling and texting furiously.
“He (Harper) had my legal bills fully paid. Why would he do that?” asked Duffy, an answer waiting in the wings. “He would never do that if he believed my expense claims were improper. He did this because, as I’ve said from the start, this was all part of his strategy, negotiated by his lawyers and the Conservative party’s lawyers, to make a political situation embarrassing to his base go away.”
Harper didn’t hesitate. He jumped right into the mud and started slinging. And bailing out. And blaming.
It wasn’t me, he wailed. It was my top aide. That Wright guy. He done me wrong. He snuck behind my back.
“On our side there is one person responsible for this deception and that person is Mr. Wright. It is Mr. Wright by his own admission,” the prime minister said in Question Period.
That’s why he “dismissed” him, Harper said, contradicting what he’d said months early when he suggested he’d accepted Wright’s resignation with regret.
Duffy must have been smiling from ear to ear, knowing there are more headlines yet to come.
- Rick MacLean is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown