By Frank Moher
It’s hard not to sympathize with the Yanks who are upset with Heather Mallick. The former Globe and Mailer, now writing for cbc.ca, is so resolutely humourless, even when she’s trying to be funny, and so intransigently snooty (she wears white pearls in her website photo, for cripe’s sake), that I too feel, when I read her, that I have been sent to the principal’s office.
So it’s not surprising that Mallick set off a new iteration of the Pig War when she wrote dismissively of the Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Sarah Fey. Er, Tina Palin. Sorry, Sarah Palin. Her takedown, a fine example of the “Ewww, she’s so lame” school of teen journalism, was noticed by Fox News, which in turn alerted the right-wing blogosphere. As of this writing, that has led to some 1423 comments on the CBC website, many from outraged Americans, many of them amazed to discover that you can get the internet in an igloo, as well as to Fox host Greta Van Susteren referring to Ms. Mallick as a “pig.” All very edifying. Throw in some mud and a few halter tops and you could sell tickets to it.
But here’s the thing, Americans. We have been through this before up here, and we are only trying to warn you, however clumsily we go about it. We have had our own Sarah Palin. And while the similarity has not been much remarked on, except by this numerologist, I believe it accounts for the alarmed reactions of many Canadians to your new would-be VP.
Her name was Kim Campbell. Like Palin, she was young, bright, attractive. Like Palin, she was groomed for high office by a desperate, older male politician of right-wing stripe. And like Palin, she started out great guns.
However, by the time Ms. Campbell finished running for Prime Minister in 1993, she had not only squandered her early popularity, but also largely destroyed the fortunes of her party. Think I’m exaggerating? Consider this: the Progressive Conservatives, for whom she ran, no longer exist; they were replaced by the Conservative Party, which may sound like the same thing, but — as another of our put-out-to-pasture politicians, Joe Clark, will tell you — isn’t at all.
She was not entirely our version of your Ms. Feylin — sorry, Palin. She had been to the London School of Economics, and not just on a tour. She did not present, nor present herself, as a hockey mom. She had actually already been the Prime Minister for a few months, through a quirk of parliamentary democracy of which I’ll spare you the details. Still, as we like to say here in B.C., and as they say up in Wasilla, Alaska, close enough for horseshoes.
So when we suggest your Republican war hero candidate made a big mistake in picking Ms. Palin as his running mate, we’re only trying to let you know that your two-party system may be at risk. You may be about to usher in an indefinite period of liberal rule, as happened here (and up here we actually call our liberals Liberals). Why Heather Mallick, who styles herself as something of a socialist, would want to keep that from happening, I don’t know, except that she pretty much hates all of you and may figure that you deserve John McCain. But understand: the rest of us do it out of neighbourly concern. And because we’re a simple folk, and that Palin/Fey thing is freaking us out.
Which is not to say you should stop haranguing Heather Mallick. Anyone who can suggest, as she did at the end of this Globe and Mail article, that Americans are mad at her because they’re not used to hard-hitting commentary, deserves all the haranguing she gets. But perhaps you’d like to move on to another of her pieces — say, this one in The Guardian, in which she refers to Alaska as “a frontier state full of drunks and crazy people” and observes that “our Yukon territory forms a blessed buffer zone.”
Gee — rancour, insularity, and smug patriotism all in paragraph. Maybe Heather Mallick has more in common with Sarah Palin than she realizes.
Afternote: Mallick’s column has been removed from the CBC website. The link above is to the copy on her personal website.