WHEN TO TALK AND WHEN TO KEEP QUIET

I neither like, nor generally watch, award shows. I like to scan a list of winners and make an effort to see the films or watch an episode of the show and then decide for myself. As a non-fan of the over the top, glitz, format, I am not sure how I feel about award recipients using an acceptance speech as a political soapbox. I suppose if I were a fan of the format, I would disapprove of political speeches, mindful that the broadcasts are already too long and preferring the gala focus on the more important matters of designer gowns and accessories.

I do have an opinion, however, on celebrities who attempt to use their status to confuse their fans regarding some supposed authority to speak intelligibly on controversial matters. Climate change is real but the ecological systems in play in the oil sands near Fort McMurray are complicated. So when Jane Fonda does a guided flyover (guided by Green Peace) and then describes how the experience effected her to her bones, she does herself, and in fact her brand, a disservice. When challenged by a citizen journalist regarding first nation participation in the projects, she was a deer in the headlights and had to be rescued by a handler. Her subsequent press conference in Edmonton had to be “rescheduled” because of her plane, which is powered by fairy dust, was late arriving in Edmonton.

I also have strong feelings about public office holders and those who soon will be, from entering the fray. When Donald Trump took to twitter to describe Meryl Streep as one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood and a “Hillary flunky”, he demonstrated the disposition of a petulant child not of a grounded statesman. Moreover, his participation kept the story in the news for another day (several days if you consider this column)!

On this point, Alberta Opposition Leader and Fort McMurray MLA, Brian Jean, gets a conditional passing grade. Although, Jean defended the energy industry and his home town, while pointing out Ms. Fonda’s lack of authority to speak on Northern Alberta ecosystems, he did not attack her acting ability. Had he, it would have been tantamount to the error that she and Trump committed—expressing an opinion on a matter for which you are not an expert. He came close, however. By releasing on social media, a photo of a smog covered Los Angeles beside a photo of a sunny day in Fort McMurray, he undercut his own argument. One need not critique another town to defend your own.

Meanwhile, the three-ring circus surrounding President Elect Donald Trump continues to perform in Washington. Amid controversial and challenging confirmation hearings on Capital Hill, more leaked security documents suggest that Russia or Russian hackers or somebody associated with Russia has in its possession compromising and embarrassing “stuff” on the President Elect. Seriously?

About a month before America voted, a video surfaced where the then Apprentice star expressly defended his ability to sexually grope women. A video which would have invariably caused any leader of any Canadian political party to dump their candidate (remember the guy who peed in the cup or numerous other candidate indiscretions?) didn’t matter; he won the Electoral College anyway. I cannot even imagine anymore what qualifies as “salacious” or what the (non)consequence might be.

Yesterday morning, the President Elect held his first press availability in close to six months. I say availability rather than briefing or conference because the latter terms imply some purpose or at least structure. In a rambling, unscripted 10-minute opening, Trump’s mind wandered from many unequivocal statements such as he being the “greatest jobs producer that God ever made”, to the auto industry, to the need to fix the pharmaceutical industry and the “very great bands” that will play at the Inauguration.

As with all of his unscripted ramblings, it was replete with odd qualifiers and quantifiers. My cabinet nominees are “very, very qualified”, we will be “tremendous at creating jobs” or “ISIS is number 1 tricky”.

The questions he took centered almost entirely on security, security leaks and Russia. Trump finally acknowledged that it was Russia that was responsible for hacking into DNC computers; but then blamed the Democratic Party for inadequate cyber security.

Apparently, last night via twitter, Trump compared the United States Security Establishment and media co-conspirators to Nazi Germany over leaked and then published documents. He took no questions from CNN Reporters, who he accused of publishing “fake news”.

The Nazi Germany analogy is always the Hail Mary of a debater’s empty arsenal. There are few, if any, modern day atrocities that compare to the Holocaust. Yet a man, who in ten days will occupy the Oval Office, goes there, when a mild rebuke would suffice (assuming that his accusations are even true).

But that is what America and the rest of the world must now contend with. An incoming president without nuance or internal filters. Prone to hyperbole and exaggeration, sparse with facts and actual data, thin skinned, yet with “very, very, tremendous” bravado.

Sadly, Donald Trump shares the policy detail and acumen of Jane Fonda but not the speaking eloquence of Meryl Streep.

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