belated Friday fluff
Find a Conversation
|Sun, 09-05-2010 - 1:21pm|
Exhibit A of the excitement in our politics here :)
photo of PM in his glasses:
front page article on same link:
Is PM's sudden switch to glasses an image makeover?
Sun Sep 05 2010
OTTAWA—There is something different about the way he looks.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been known, on occasion, to retire his contact lenses and don a pair of spectacles in the evenings or near the end of a busy trip.
Suddenly this summer he began wearing them all the time.
One day he was watching the Calgary stampede parade wearing a black cowboy hat, his nose strong and free. The next day there he is in the same hat, his face caught behind a pair of frameless lenses.
The collection of photos on his official website shows it has remained that way ever since.
There are those who brush off the change as not a change at all.
“Not sure I would call it a change since he wears glasses pretty regularly,” his director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, wrote in an email. “I’d probably say he simply wears them more often.”
That could be true behind the scenes — Soudas certainly has far better access to his boss than we do — but the shift in public appearance is obvious, although not necessarily planned or permanent.
It is an unusual direction to take.
No Canadian prime minister going at least as far back as John Diefenbaker — almost as far back as television in this country, which is all that really matters for things like this — has worn glasses all the time.
Other political makeovers have involved going the other way, as both Preston Manning and former Ontario premier David Peterson underwent laser eye surgery to shed their glasses as part of improving their image.
Liberal MP Bob Rae, whose gargantuan glasses were a constant characteristic during his tenure of Ontario premier in the 1990s, said he began wearing them as a kid because he could not see the blackboard. He opted for laser eye surgery as soon as it was widely available.
“My kids continue to point out how nerdy I looked,” said Rae, who now only uses glasses for reading.
Manning wrote candidly and funnily about his much discussed renewal in his memoir, Think Big: Adventures in Life and Democracy (2002), describing how he never much bothered about his high, squeaky voice and other physical flaws until he was convinced that they did actually matter.
“My communications people convinced me by saying that if my personal appearance, bearing and idiosyncrasies actually distracted people and kept them from hearing or seeing what I was trying to communicate, it would be wise to do something at least to minimize the distractions,” Manning wrote.
So what is motivating Harper?
Allergies? Astigmatism? Fatigue? Focus group?
No one could or would answer that question — or even share the make and the model of the glasses, despite a valiant attempt by Harper press secretary Andrew MacDougall, who said he “scoped” them but discovered no brand name.
“I don’t know and I don’t care!” Geoff Norquay, former Harper director of communications, said with incredulous laughter that did not stop until the short conversation was over.
Another former Harper director of communications gave it a shot.
“I doubt the glasses are part of a deliberate strategy. The prime minister isn’t a huge fan of image politics and I can’t see him doing a focus group on two eyes versus four,” said Jim Armour, who was in the job from 2002 to 2004 when Harper was opposition leader. “Most image consultants advise politicians to lose the glasses unless they need to appear to be smarter. Since intelligence is not seen to be a weakness for the Prime Minister, I can only conclude one thing: the glasses help him see better.”
Laura Peck, vice-president of an Ottawa-based crisis management firm, suggested a straightforward theory.
“He’s a practical guy, so it must be a practical purpose,” said Peck, who is also a friend of Laureen Harper. “It could be allergies acting up or asthma acting up, and frankly he has worked all summer.”
Peck said she puts on her glasses when her eyes get tired because contact lenses can feel sticky if they are worn too long.
“He’s not the type to ever miss a minute of work, and so that must be it,” she said.
Conservative strategist Tim Powers said he has noticed the glasses and despite being in the dark about the reason for the change, thinks Harper “looks good and responsible.”
Powers also took some comfort in discussing the new look.
“If we’re focusing on sort of the minutiae of prime ministerial wear and if that is where the focus is, things in other areas must be okay,” Powers said. “Certainly I much prefer glasses to wetsuits.”
(NB the wetsuit reference is re: MP Stockwell Day arriving at his first news conference on a jetski, back in 2000: