Monday, April 06, 2009

A hint of empathy

I think I'm experiencing the rare emotion of....compassion? And for a politician, of all things. I'm trying to quash it, but it's still lingering a bit.

So there's this story coming out of Newfoundland today about Ed Byrne. Now, he is many things to many people. He was a former leader of the opposition, a former powerful cabinet minister, a potential successor to Premier Danny Williams and still the subject of my all-time favourite political photo.

Note to all public relations is always a bad idea to leave your clients under TV camera lights in a small room with no air conditioning for 45 minutes while waiting for the news broadcast to go live.

Anyway, what Byrne will forever be know for now is his attempt to defraud the people of Newfoundland and Labrador of nearly half a million dollars. He's going to be the very public face of political corruption in the province for years. His public image could eventually be rehabilitated, but I wouldn't want to be the PR professional that gets stuck with that job.

From the sounds of it, he doesn't have many friends left. His old political allies avoid him like he was an especially toxic form of Kryptonite and, from a Globe and Mail story, it sounds like he's estranged from his wife and children.

So, to sum up - probably broke from lawyer's fees and paying back what he stole, reviled by the public, avoided by his former colleagues and possibly has lost his family.

I'm not going to pretend I know or have any special insight into Ed Byrne. I interviewed him probably a dozen times over the years on different things. I thought he was a bit of a pompous ass at time, but that's hardly a unique personality trait for a politician. But I do remember being shocked when I heard what happened. I never would have pegged Byrne for this type of thing. And I can't help but wonder what was going on in his head at that time. There's a book, or at the very least a really good magazine feature to be written about what on Earth he was thinking.

I'm not saying Byrne shouldn't go to jail. I think he probably should. I don't need an opinion poll to know that people want him to go to jail. Hell, I suspect the majority will think he's going to get off too light if he gets the two years less a day sentence the Crown is pushing for. So yes, he deserves punishment.

But somewhere in there, reading all of this and reading about a man who could have had everything, who could have been the next premier of the province and his now reduced to this, it's hard not to feel a touch sorry for the man.

Last Five
1. Runnin' with the devil - Van Halen
2. Bangs - They Might be Giants
3. Suede - Tori Amos
4. The air near my fingers - The White Stripes
5. I can't make you love me - Bonnie Raitt*

1 comment:

Ron said...

Byrne can pull off pompous quite well. People I know more deeply integrated into the Party than I am would regularly call him a slimebag. All I have against him is that he helped to get Lynne Verge ousted as leader in the early 90's. No sympathy from me - he played with fire and got caught - "Tough jab Ed - Maybe you'll think twice the next time".