Mulroney’s Awful After Party


Convivium, 21 March 2019

As the former PM becomes an octogenarian, Editor-in-Chief Father Raymond de Souza notes his years leading Canada showed courage but his after-office shenanigans were unbearably shabby.

Brian Mulroney turned 80 yesterday, a decade past his three-score-and-ten Biblical allotment. So, it is time for the draft obituaries to run.

Our publisher Peter Stockland was out of the gate on Monday. Far be it from me to accuse one Irish Montrealer of being smitten by another Irish Montrealer, but our esteemed publisher appeared to get goosebumps over Mulroney’s performance for St. Patrick’s Day last week. In fairness, Mulroney has always been a great performer, ever since he sang Danny Boy for his father’s employers back in his Baie Comeau childhood. He has never stopped performing since.

And with Mulroney there is no pretense. He does expect you to think him sincere. He does not expect it of himself. It is a great show, and he enjoys it as much as his audience does. No Irish Montrealer was ever more thoroughly seduced by another Irish Montrealer than Brian Mulroney seducing himself.

The show never gets turned off. Some years back, at the Oliphant inquiry investigating his shady post-premiership dealings, Mulroney said, full of faux-wounded amour propre (the amour propre was never faux with Mulroney), he testified under oath, “I have never in my life knowingly done anything wrong.”

Of course, you were not to believe that, or even to think that Mulroney himself believed that. But the man in the dock faced a dramatic moment and was in need of a fitting flourish to conclude his testimony. Perhaps a bit of impossibly vain hyperbole would do the trick? Why not? The audience may enjoy it. Even they didn’t, Mulroney himself would.

Anne Kingston of Maclean’s had her pre-obituary in last month, putting Mulroney on the well-worn path of the unpopular pol who left office much hated, but is now an esteemed elder statesman basking in the kind glow of a more favourable accounting from history. Aside from Hitler and Stalin, there is no former leader, should he live long enough, who does not get this treatment.

Kingston noted that his “stirring eulogy for another U.S. president, George H.W. Bush, won plaudits and made Canadians proud.” Perhaps. It certainly made Mulroney proud.

After he got through the usual not-to-be-taken-seriously hyperbole about Americans being God’s almost-chosen people, and George Bush the Elder being more principled than, say, Abraham Lincoln, Mulroney got down to serious business: Mulroney.

He concluded his panegyric – for himself and for Bush – with a verbatim anecdote about him visiting George and Barbara at Kennebunkport. At a moment pregnant with history, he took the former president aside and deftly summarized the Bushes’ entire life, their current station, their place in history and their outlook in the face of mortality. After digesting this private rhetorical tour-de-force, the old man responded as was only fitting. Let Mulroney describe the moment: “At that, George, who had tears in his eyes as I spoke, said: ‘Brian, you’ve got us pegged just right’.”

Of course, Mulroney got it just right. Bush thought so. And if you need confirmation, just ask Mulroney himself.

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