So the Prime Minister is no longer giving interviews to the national press corps since he has problems with them. "Unfortunately the press gallery has taken the view they are going to be the opposition to the government," he's reported as saying.
This happened after about two dozen reporters walked out on a press conference after refusing to submit a list of who wanted to ask questions, so that the PM's staff could decide who gets to ask questions.
The PM also feels the press is out to get him.
Well, of course they're bloody well out to get you. It's the national press gallery. Sometimes it's not being paranoid when you think a group of people are out to get you. It's merely stating the really obvious.
Harper's problem is in thinking they're after him personally. And they're not. The reporters who cover Parliament Hill hounded Prime Minister Martin and did it quite effectively. You may notice he's no longer prime minister. They went after Prime Minister Chretien. They almost didn't need to go after Prime Minister Campbell. And God only knows they threw everything at Prime Minister Mulroney. Bullets, heavy artillery, knives, stakes, crosses, silver, whatever it took. If the Ottawa press corps couldn't come up with something to tag on Mulroney at least once week, I'm sure many of them felt they were falling down on the job.
They're not after Harper. They're chasing after the Prime Minister. It's the position, not the person. If Martin was still PM, they would still be trying to make his life miserable. There's a difference. I can understand why Harper might have a problem recognizing it, but he's going to have to and he's going to have to deal with the national press.
I've met a few Parliament Hill reporters over the years. Nice enough people, but they are all clearly alpha personalities. They are determined and will seriously consider slitting the throat of an otherwise good friend, just because he works for a competing media outlet working on the same story. Trying to keep these people on a leash and make them civilized is not something Harper is going to have that much luck with.
The thing that surprises me out of all of this isn't the racket over Harper trying to control who asks questions and the press not going for it. The thing that surprises me is that a dozen of them agreed on something and walked out of a press conference.
That's the real news because I never thought I would see a Parliament Hill reporter turn his back on a story and let a competitor get it, let alone two dozen of them.
Some sort of balance will eventually be reached. Yes, the media need access to the prime minister. But Harper is going to want to get reelected at some point. Good luck with the whole "not talking to the national press" strategy come election time. It's an awfully quick way to end up back in the opposition benches.
Harper is proving to be a vexing prime minister. Yes, I admire the lack of waffling that was endemic with Martin. The idea of making a decision and then doing something about it is novel after years of Chretien and Martin. Focus. It's kind of refreshing.
But I wonder how long people are going to find that attitude refreshing and after awhile just plain arrogant and aggravating. Harper is getting the same honeymoon that Chretien did in '93. There was no one in opposition ready to step forward and be the next prime minister. And as long as that remains the case, Harper is going to remain prime minister and have deceptively popular poll numbers.
But if (and it's a big if) the Liberals get their act together and elect someone who could step up to the job, then the honeymoon might be over. I hear that some Tories want to engineer an election in the hopes of getting a majority. Becareful what you wish for...