Bastiat fait relâche cette semaine pour cet excellent texte publié dans le National Post:
"For Canadians, Trudeaumania was a magic elixir that blotted out the troubles of the modern world. Barack Obama is now selling the United States the same poisonous political opium."
Pierre Elliott Obama
Lionel Chetwynd, Special to the National Post
MSNBC talk-show host Chris Matthews tells us that Barack Obama's victory speech on Super Tuesday sent "a thrill up his leg." Frothing on, he compares the candidate to JFK. On FOX News, Britt Hume isolates an audience member at that same event enjoying what can only be called an orgasmic reaction. Again, someone mumbles the sainted Kennedy name. The candidate stirs reactions almost sexual. Yet those who were there in 1960 do not recall John Kennedy evoking the clamour or deep, deep visceral response Mr. Obama seems to summon at will. The infection being loosed upon the land is far more rare than anything seen in 1960, more scarce even than the false memories of the revisionist hawkers of Camelot.
But I have seen this virus before; it devastated a country I loved, a place that nurtured me and raised me up.
In that Canadian day, we called it "Trudeaumania," the suggestion of "Beatlemania" pop idol glitter being no accident. Even those of us in his Liberal party were powerless to stop the mad embrace millions of Canadians threw around Pierre Elliott Trudeau with his promise of reconciliation of the two founding peoples, a happy era when the English (more correctly, Scottish) heritage would join hands with the French legacy and take us forward into a brave new age. And he'd reforge our relationship with "The Elephant to our South."
That he was completely non-specific, avoiding policy questions in favour of depending entirely on his style and panache (and goodness knows, he had a surfeit of both) would surely undo him — or so those of us who believed him to be a hard line leftist (because we'd read his essays in Cite Libre and studied his record) reassured ourselves.
Of course, we were wrong; his very lack of specificity was his strength. A brilliant orator, he spun webs around huge crowds, proposing big ideas in obscure terms, making it possible for the listener to impose any dream they wished upon his smiling, Savile Row-suited tabula rasa. He was all things to all people. In service to "party loyalty" and civility, we held our tongues.
And, in the meantime, the delighted English-language media, at last faced with a French-speaking Canadian they could love, dubbed him "Canada's JFK." By the time he and they were done, the damage would be staggering, even two generations later.
In the 1960s, Canada still basked in the glory of the extraordinary achievements of its own Greatest Generation. She had raised the largest army in the world, per capita, to fight Hitler (1.4 million out of a population of 11 million) and had emerged from the Second World War as the world's second-largest industrial power, devoting a vast part of this treasure to financing the Colombo Plan, "the Marshall Plan of Asia." To this day, much of the infrastructure of Pakistan, India and South Asia was paid for by Canadians. Those Canadians had scarcely any quotas or laws against American popular culture; indeed, they generally viewed the United States with affection, some even with admiration. True, many harboured a residual anger at America's over-two-year delay in entering the war, but it was a family squabble that could be put aside. The greatest bloom of that Canada was 1967, the summer of Expo.
The following year, Pierre Elliott Trudeau become prime minister, overwhelming more experienced candidates for the party leadership with his amazing style — and I grant, it was amazing. Once in power, he led Canada down a radical new path, de-emphasizing the clarity of its history and Scottish-French roots in favour of a more ambiguous European model. This new Canadian identity –ardently embraced in the rush of the early years — was equivocal, stressing multi-rather than bi-culturalism, extolling diversity and very clearly seeing the Southern neighbour as a potentially dangerous influence. This convulsive revolution would remake post Second World War Canada into something its pre-war self would hardly recognize; a people once proud of the clarity of their identity would be weaned from that history and remade.
In retrospect, one can't really say Trudeau lied about where he was headed. Well, not exactly.
How were such strong and self-reliant people so easily led astray? Trudeaumania. Look no further than Chris Matthews to understand the blind, uncritical devotion he summoned forth. He tapped into a basic fear stalking the land: Nationalism in Quebec was taking on large dimensions. De Gaulle, during a visit to Expo '67, had stood on the balcony at Montreal's City Hall and proclaimed to a huge throng, "Vive le Quebec! Vive le Quebec libre," the separatist battle cry. It seemed Canada's singular voice in the international arena was weakening and even the sitting prime minister, Lester Pearson (who had received a Nobel Prize 12 years earlier for selling the UN on the Emergency Force that produced the truce ending the Mideast War) was unable to stop it. America was preoccupied in Southeast Asia. The world was becoming increasingly difficult and now required more thoughtfulness than ever to craft policy solutions. And the "old" politics sounded so 1950s.
What to do, what to do?
Put your troubles away, said "St-Pierre." (The CBC and most of the anglophone media virtually canonized him.) And Canadians dutifully followed, never really understanding where he intended to lead. Trudeaumania was the magic elixir that blotted out the modern world. It was political opium.
It was also, by any intelligent measure, a disaster, one Canadians are only now beginning to understand.
Rather than reconcile the two founding cultures, Trudeau so alienated Quebec that there were soon troops in the streets of Montreal, where he had declared martial law. The de facto leader of the francophones, Rene Levesque routinely called him "Elliott," (his mother's name; she was an anglophone). The division became so bitter that, in time, a separatist party would go on to become the official opposition in Ottawa.
Trudeau also devastated a once friendly relationship with the United States. His pet project, the repatriation of the Canadian Constitution, handed the courts sway over virtually every aspect of Canadian life. The trickle of U.S. draft evaders became a torrent as he publicly welcomed them and eased restrictions. (That policy would soon apply to all would-be entrants to Canada.) Even when he was finally replaced by Brian Mulroney (after John Turner's brief stewardship), Trudeau was able to scuttle that man's attempt to alter this original Trudeau formula.
In short, he remade the country in his own image, destroying the history that had proceeded him, leaving a deluge after him.
To many Canadians, especially that huge number now on the left, everything I write here is heresy. But it is history –a sad one.
While it is too late for Canadians to avoid the wreckage of the Trudeau years, it is not too late for Americans to learn from this cautionary tale. It falls to John McCain to be the vaccine against Obamamania.
Lionel Chetwynd, formerly president regional, la federation de jeunes liberaux du Quebec, is an Oscar-and Emmy-nominated filmmaker and documentarian. This article first appeared in the March 3 edition of The Weekly Standard.