Hours later, Andrew Scheer said the things he should have said the first time.
Responding to the horrific massacre of Muslims at prayer in New Zealand, the Conservative leader issued a statement Friday afternoon expressing his “profound condemnation of this cowardly and hateful attack on the Muslim community” along with “the type of extreme and vile hatred that motivated this despicable act of evil.” He added: “To the Muslim community around the world and here at home in Canada, we stand with you.”
It was spot on: straightforward, fitting and right. It was also about 15 hours too late, coming as it did only after Scheer had come under intense criticism for the inadequacy of his first response, which spoke vaguely of an attack on “freedom” and unspecified “worshippers.” The appositeness of the second only highlighted the strange, withholding coldness of the first.
Freedom has come under attack in New Zealand as peaceful worshippers are targeted in a despicable act of evil. All people must be able to practice their faith freely and without fear. 1/2
— Andrew Scheer (@AndrewScheer) March 15, 2019
We cannot know exactly what explains that initial, catastrophic choice of words. But neither is Scheer automatically entitled to the benefit of the doubt. Politicians are in the business of being politic, of saying the right thing at the right time, and nothing goes out over their name without a great deal of thought, not to say calculation.
Other party leaders managed to name the victims — Muslims — and the beliefs — white supremacism, Islamophobia, the familiar, toxic mix of racism, xenophobia and hatred that so often finds Muslims as its target — involved in what was self-evidently an act of terrorism. Why on earth couldn’t Scheer?
The suspicion that this was no accident is not unreasonable, given Scheer’s past statements and actions. Perhaps he truly did not hear the questioner at a recent town hall who invoked “pizzagate,” the lunatic conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was connected to a child sex ring supposedly operating out of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.
But nothing required him to speak at last month’s “United We Roll” rally on Parliament Hill, whose stated purpose — to protest federal environmental policies on behalf of unemployed workers in the oil industry — may have been legitimate, but which had clearly been infiltrated by anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant elements. At the very least, he might have taken the opportunity …read more