One is a video, substantive and full of "value" discussion. The other is a still photo of a woman, sitting on a couch, texting. Both were a focus of attention for media consumers this week.
The still photo was of U.S. President Donald Trump’s special assistant Kellyanne Conway, sitting on a couch in the Oval Office with her feet tucked underneath. She was wearing a short skirt and typing on her smartphone. This photo has captured the ire of the anti-Trump/Conway folks.
While Conway was in the foreground, the centre of the photo featured President Trump surrounded by representatives of African-American colleges and universities.
So why did this photo cause ire?
Certainly the casual nature of Conway, particularly her manner of seating, has gained attention. She appeared uber-comfortable, relaxed even, texting away. Some have accused the gamine Conway of being somewhat Bardot-esque with her short skirt and posture.
I'm not sure this is what I read into the photo.
From my perspective, Conway does seem overly comfortable in her surroundings, especially given the fact she is in the Oval Office. After all, this should be among the most formal settings anywhere — at the centre of power in the White House.
With respect, while often disdainful of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, I would not wear cargo shorts to a meeting with him, nor would it be respectful to slap him on the back or suggest a quick game of rock-paper-scissors. One should be deferential to the office particularly if working in it. The Oval Office belongs to all Americans and decorum should be respected.
The Conway photo, and the imbroglio surrounding it, is much ado about nothing compared to the video posted this week by Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch.
Amateurish in the extreme, the video is an odd combination of the worst elements of a political screed — poorly shot, muddled messaging and exclusionary.
If we are worried about being too image-focused in Conway’s case, Leitch’s video features exclusionary content that many moderate Conservatives will find objectionable.
Here’s the thing, folks — if you find President Trump’s messaging intolerant and divisive, and you feel as though people didn’t take him seriously in the U.S. election by staying home, then you have your chance to fight back against the low-rent Canadian version, Dr. Leitch.
It is somewhat cringe-inducing to hear Leitch prattle on about our "shared Canadian values" and "unique identity." Then she employed the broad statistic of "today only nine to 15 per cent of immigrants coming to Canada receive an interview." That’s a big range, Dr. Leitch, and I would expect a leadership candidate to have a better grasp on the facts that she displayed.
Leitch advocates screening immigrants for their acceptance of Canadian values including generosity and tolerance? Huh? Are these code words for something most of us are not supposed to understand but that resonates with Leitch supporters?
It’s understandable that quotidian issues like deficits and prudent fiscal management don’t excite voters, but in this era of divisive, dog whistle politics, can we not find a single Conservative on the national stage who is interested in being inclusive and tolerant, accepting and supportive? I am not looking for Mr. Dressup, but I’m also not looking for the Conservatives to spend the next decade tearing themselves apart a la Trump’s Republicans.
Actually, we have one Conservative here in Manitoba who has reflected our better angels with compassion and tolerance — Premier Brian Pallister. Last week, in a speech, Pallister discussed how our province was welcoming of immigrants, and how we Manitobans were provided our newest neighbours with "provincial health services, and paralegal and legal aid services to assist with claim processes."
This is precisely the type of Canadian values I want to hear about.
Canadians are a tolerant lot, by and large. We have prospered for decades with successive waves of immigrants, many of whom initially faced intolerance. We have grown as a nation and, as such, we generally accept new Canadians. We should not forget the very characteristics that made us great, even when the people coming to Canada don’t necessarily look like immigrants of the past did.