Does Justin Trudeau have a little meter in his pocket that tells him which way to tack on issues of the day? Does he pull it out and the needle tells him “Slightly Left” or “Slightly Right”?
Of course he does. It was passed down to him by the previous leader of the Liberal Party, who got it from the one before, etc. Political equivocation and opportunism, mixed to perfection, are the secret sauce of the Liberal Party, and may just return them to power next year, along with Mr. Trudeau’s hair. Thus when Thomas Mulcair said today that the shooting of a soldier outside Parliament last week was “criminal” but not “a terrorist act in the sense that we would understand it,” Mr. Trudeau glanced down at the meter cupped in the palm of his hand and replied, “The RCMP was clear, these were acts of terrorism, (so) these were acts of terrorism.”
Only the needle must have been pointing all the way to the right, because that’s the sort of response we’d expect from Stephen Harper or Peter MacKay or, you know, the County Clerk in Ward 6, Arkansas, than from the leader of the Liberal Party. “Whut the poh-leece sez is good enuff for me,” was the sub-text to Trudeau’s response. Oh, wait, no, that’s what he actually said.
But let’s look at what RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said in a statement released on Sunday:
The RCMP’s investigation of the October 22, 2014, terrorist attack in Ottawa is advancing and has revealed a great deal about Zehaf-Bibeau’s movements and actions prior to the attack.
The RCMP has identified persuasive evidence that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s attack was driven by ideological and political motives. Zehaf-Bibeau had prepared a video recording of himself just prior to conducting this attack. The RCMP is conducting a detailed analysis of the video for evidence and intelligence. You must understand that we cannot release this video at this time and I would ask for your patience in this regard.”
In other words, we’d have to trust him for now. The Commissioner later told a Senate committee he hoped the video would be released “someday,” before adding to reporters outside, gnomically: “Our belief is that it has not gone anywhere else, but it may have gone elsewhere.” Whether he was referring to the video, the camera it was shot on, or certain politicians’ common sense was not immediately clear.
The Commissioner’s remarks are fine. We’ll wait. We’ll be patient. But in the meantime, could Mr. Trudeau refrain from acting like a child at the knee of his favourite teacher? Did he learn this deference to authority from his patrician father? Or does he just believe everything he’s told?
And even if it does turn out the RCMP really do have a video, and it really does show Zehaf-Bibeau saying “he will act in the name of Allah in response to Canada’s foreign policy,” as an unnamed source told the Canadian Press, it no more makes him a terrorist than if he claimed he were acting on behalf of Spectral Beings from the Fifth Dimension. That’s what Mulcair’s getting at: that we typically use “terrorist” to mean someone attached to a network of like-minded ideologues with the means to help one another sow havoc. In the absence of any evidence linking Zehaf-Bibeau to such a network — and over a week later, there is none — what we have here is not a terrorist but the desperate, unstable drifter his mother says he was, probably as intent on committing suicide that day as he was on callously killing with a bullet to the back a soldier he didn’t know.
Perhaps other evidence will emerge. Perhaps it will harden us. But meantime, let’s hope the RCMP don’t announce that “the terrorist” was actually working for Spectral Beings from the Fifth Dimension. Because then Mr. Trudeau would have to believe it.