Friday, July 9, 2010

VERITAS: TOUCHDOWN - FADDEN REDUX

This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

Now that CSIS Director Richard Fadden has, not at all surprisingly (and least of all to him, I would submit) found himself hauled before a Commons committee about that headline-maker of a CBC-TV interview (with the always skilful Peter Mansbridge) we talked about here two weeks ago, I am going to pronounce the final call on this communications play in his favour. When the controversy first broke, I wrote: “If he was deliberately – and strategically – using the CBC interview to sound an alarm that had been ignored in the halls of power, I would have given Fadden a Touchdown for skillfully using a media interview to have his message heard far and wide.” And based on what we’ve heard this week, I stand by that original bit of musing. Admittedly, I called the whole play a Fumble at the time, because his not-quite-a-retraction-retraction about suggesting some elected officials in this country were potentially under foreign influence left the waters pretty muddy indeed. But based on what we have heard since, I think this is a rather appropriate cloak-and-dagger bit of communications spin in action. Fadden is a veteran bureaucrat, but also one with a history of “shooting from the lip,” as the Globe & Mail’s security expert Colin Freeze says, paraphrasing a six-months-ago speech from Fadden as essentially saying “Look, we spy on people. The court and the media and the public [have] got to understand that. We’re not going to apologize for it.” Shades of former Canadian Forces Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier’s job description of the soldier as sometimes needing to "be able to kill people.” Shocking to some – self-evident to others. As for what Fadden said this week, that too speaks volumes about why he dropped the bombshell in the CBC interview in the first place. Recall that in his interview with Peter Mansbridge, Fadden said “I am making this comment because I think it's a real danger that people are … totally oblivious to this kind of issue." Although admitting regret for having gotten as “granular” in the details as he did, he also told the Commons committee that “the reason I gave the two examples was to try and illustrate the nature of the problem that we have. If I had simply said, ‘There is foreign interference in Canada,’ you, ladies and gentlemen, would be all at your holidays right now.” And there you have it. Richard Fadden wanted to light a fire under his issue, and he used the opportunity of a high profile media interview to strike the match. The argument about whether that was appropriate vis-a-vis his mandate to report to the government and everything else is secondary for our purposes here. I think Fadden achieved exactly the result he desired through a high-stakes strategic media communications play, and on those terms, it warrants a Touchdown.

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