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October 11, 2007

The Prime Minister of Canada

This was to be the big gotcha against Fred Thompson. That he didn't know who the Prime Minister of Canada was. Except, in the debate, he got it right. Stephen Harper. But who cares? It's not like the President doesn't have advisors who can clue him in on the guy's name before a major summit, or the moment he has to think about some issue relating to North American relations. The question is whether he has any coherent ideas as to North American trade and American-Canadian relation. But since that's a long question, with a possibly complicated answer, not only does nobody care to ask it, but no one would care to parse whether he got it right. Instead we get stupid gotchas like this, which probably lead to presidential candidates spending a lot of time with World Leader flash cards when they should be boning up on actual policy matters.

October 11, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Dead-on analysis.

(It's a good thing the press in 1999 and 2000 really pressed Bush on that sort of policy talk, to show that beneath his ignorance of names, he also didn't know policy. Oh, wait.)

Posted by: Batocchio | Oct 11, 2007 1:09:37 PM

Chris Matthews was pretty awful I thought. More awful than usual. He was acting like this was just great fun, getting to rub elbows and crack jokes with the big boys. He has no grasp of policy, or desire to understand policy. The only things he cares about are horserace politics, and his contributions to that debate are pretty worthless.

Posted by: DrexelDem | Oct 11, 2007 1:14:59 PM

Tweety tried to be way too clever on that, and it meant that his follow-up was screwed up. He made a very decent point: that relations with Canada are taken for granted, and only become an issue for cheap points or when a Canadian PM is feeling feisty.

It was all very well that Matthews explained himself after the debate was over, but his desire for the gotcha got the better of him.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Oct 11, 2007 1:16:40 PM

Oh, I don't know, Ezra... granted that it is an insufficient substitute for more searching policy questions, still, had Thompson (or anyone) not known the answer, wouldn't that be revealing? I mean, this isn't like knowing who the President of Kyrgyzstan is. Anyone who is as seriously engaged with US politics as one would hope the next President would be, would know Stephen Harper.

Posted by: Glenn | Oct 11, 2007 1:28:47 PM

No offense intended to President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, of course. (And yes, I had to look it up.)

Posted by: Glenn | Oct 11, 2007 1:33:50 PM

That's actually one of our media's finer moments. Headline News did a segment today on Hillary Clinton's Minnetonka Mocassins and the effect of footwear on political campaigns. I suppose if a candidate intends to place his or her foot in mouth regularly, having fine footwear would be an asset, otherwise WTF?

Posted by: Charles | Oct 11, 2007 1:40:39 PM

Batocchio, I actually think the press did an OK job on that one? The fact that Bush flunked the reporter-administered test was itself widely reported, to the point that you can refer to it casually and we all know what you're talking about. I don't really know what else the press was supposed to do here.

You can lead an electorate to incompetence, but you can't make 'em care.

Posted by: Daniel Munz | Oct 11, 2007 1:47:28 PM

I don't think knowing the name of Canada's Prime Minister counts as trivia, they're our largest trading partner. Anyone who wants to be President should have at least a rudimentary idea of what politics are like north of the border.

Posted by: Steve | Oct 11, 2007 2:00:47 PM

You know what would have been entertaining, getting Tommy Boy to comment on current controversies in US-Canadian relations, like softwood lumber (yep it's starting up again)

Here's a good one, seems the US is asking Canadian Airlines to submit passenger lists to homeland security on flights that simply fly over the continental USA. Yep, flights from Toronto to San Paulo direct now need to submit passenger lists to the American government.

http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2007/10/11/uscanada-flights.html

Posted by: Northern Observer | Oct 11, 2007 2:32:55 PM

Well at least Thompson has a leg up on Bush. In 2000, Candidate Bush didn't know from Chretien, and thought his counterpart was Prime Minister Poutine.

But Bush didn't know who the heads of state were for most of the world so why harp on that? By the time of the debate kabuki for the '04 re-installment, ABC News was fawning that Bush's pronunciation of some the names had improved.

Improved for gawd's sake. This blithering idiot should have been hooted off any ballot, twice, and wasn't. I'm going to move oceanside so that at times like these I can drop everything and walk into it deliberately and with disgust.

Posted by: Ellie | Oct 11, 2007 2:45:43 PM

Yep, flights from Toronto to San Paulo direct now need to submit passenger lists to the American government.

That's just a side effect of the desire to know who's flying from Toronto to Havana.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Oct 11, 2007 2:46:38 PM

Instead we get stupid gotchas like this, which probably lead to presidential candidates spending a lot of time with World Leader flash cards when they should be boning up on actual policy matters.

Put another way, Chris Matthews was his usual smug, braying-jackass self.

Have fun chatting with him this evening.

Posted by: Uncle Kvetch | Oct 11, 2007 4:05:28 PM

I'm a Canadian, and last month, *I* forgot the name of our prime minister. Complete mind blank. Ehh, it's a minority government, and there have been a flurry of leadership races. There are Stephens and Stéphanes. I let myself off the hook.

Posted by: Tim | Oct 11, 2007 4:26:10 PM

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