President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Harper at the G20 Summit in Mexico, June 19, 2012.
Credits: Reuters/JASON REED
A few of my American friends have been asking lately if they can trade Barack Obama for Stephen Harper. Given polling on Obama’s popularity in Canada, most Canucks would likely take the deal but we’d be fools for doing so.
From his reaction on the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa to his handling of the economy, Stephen Harper simply outshines Barack Obama whether Canadians realize it or not.
In an interview that aired on my television show Byline on Thursday night, Prime Minister Stephen Harper discussed issues with a calm maturity that Americans must hope Obama develops before he drives them and their economy over the cliff.
Canadians have never felt all warm and fuzzy about Stephen Harper to the same degree and in as great a number as they do about Barack Obama. Obama is cool, Harper is cold. Obama is slick, Harper is not. Obama is a soaring orator, Harper can give a good speech, but he’s never claimed he could heal the planet.
Yet for all of Obama’s coolness he is hardly a man of substance and that is where Harper has the anointed one beat, hands down.
Where Obama talks about fixing the U.S. economy, Harper has actually taken steps to strengthen Canada’s. The Canadian employment rate is 7.3% right now compared to 8.1% in the U.S., although as Harper himself and several economists have noted, if the Americans measured unemployment the same way we do they would be in the double digits.
I still argue the Harper government spends too much and should balance the budget sooner, a point on which Harper disagreed with me. “Our first objective is not balancing the budget, our first objective is to make sure the Canadian economy keeps growing,” Harper said.
Fair enough, that’s a point we could debate. What can’t be debated is that for all of Canada’s economic problems, the U.S. is much worse off. The U.S. federal government debt is worth more than the entire U.S. economy and neither Obama nor his allies in the Senate, which the Democrats control, have passed a budget in three years.
That’s not serious stuff.
Harper is also outshining Obama when it comes to foreign policy.
The Obama administration’s first reaction to the attack on their embassy in Cairo was to apologize for any hurt feelings Muslims may have had to a made-in-California movie with a negative portrayal of Mohammed.
Even after the White House backed away from that, Obama gave the idea that the riots sweeping the region are driven by a YouTube video few had seen, and he did so as he read a statement on the death of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
Obama has been effusive about the so-called Arab Spring from the get-go and thought his good wishes could sweep away dictators and bring about liberal democracies in a region that has never experienced that form of government.
“One should be very cautious about our expectations,” Harper said Thursday. “Mob rule is not democracy and just because there is a popular overthrow of a dictator does not mean the next regime will be based on democratic norms.”
Comparing the two men based on their actions and not their words can only lead to the conclusion that when Harper and Obama meet, Harper is the adult in the room.
Trading Harper for Obama wouldn’t be good for Canada, but it might be good for the rest of the world.