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Martin gets his photo op

I've been looking for a story on Paul Martin's visit to Sri Lanka that takes the more cynical view. His personal, visible involvement in every aspect of Canada's aid to the tsunami victims is the most transparent posturing I've seen in a politician in a long time. But no, the Canadian press dutifully behaved just as Martin wanted them to, published the photos he wanted them to, and wrote the soft, squishy stories he wanted them to. There really is no mystery why so many Canadian journalists wind up with cushy government jobs later in their careers.

But today's Ottawa Sun has a story by documentary filmmaker Garth Pritchard, who works with the Canadian Military, that tells what really happened to get Paul his pictures. Unfortunately, it's not available online, but let me quote the relevant sections:

His people from Ottawa, including the RCMP, were pushing people out of the way, grabbing at cameras, and trampling over graves on the beach in order to photograph the PM.

An RCMP guy tried to interfere with my camera, but one of our soldiers intervened.

A couple of women from the PM's office were running around yelling at people.

It got out of hand. It was crazy.

The whole visit was a photo opportunity -- with cameras set-up for the PM in designated spots: Martin on the each looking into the sea, Martin amid the wreckage, Martin with a homeless kid, Martin taking a token drink of water produced by the DART water purifier.

He met with the Canadian commander, Lt. Col. Mike Voith and a small medical team, but didn't visit the camp of the 200 Canadian military people here for tsunami victims.

Martin's handlers wanted no one but their people taking photos. The padre was even shoved out of the way.

And then he was gone -- helicoptered out. Maybe 90 minutes in the area. Embarrassing. I'm in Sri Lanka with the DART men and women and, as Canadian soldiers always do, they're working miracles -- but the PM didn't have time to visit them.

Pritchard goes on to relate how the DART team has found plenty of useful work to keep them busy, despite being late for the immediate critical disaster relief.

It's frightening to think of, but the most important consideration on any government action is how it will play to the press, and to those special interests that influence the press. Not how much it will cost, whether it will work, what other consequences the action will have -- just what it will look like. What the spin will be. What it will say about what the government values are. It's how we've allowed an ineffective and massively inefficient gun registry to be established, and it's why we're unable to look at market-based solutions to our crumbling health-care system. And we've gotten so used to it in this country that seeing our Prime Minister cynically inserting himself into a devastating tragedy is somehow not seen as being crass.

UPDATE: Spin Killer finds Pritchard's complete article on the web.

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