Stephen Harper has a simple strategy to win the next election: Pile on Justin Trudeau. Keep insisting that he's a kid in short pants who lacks the judgment to run the country.
The great thing about this plan is that frequently, all the Conservatives have to do is stand aside and watch. Justin is perfectly capable of doing the job himself.
What was Mr. Trudeau thinking when he welcomed Eve Adams into the bosom of the Liberal Party this week? I can't imagine. Normally, floor-crossers are supposed to offer some advantage to the party they're crossing to. When Belinda Stronach defected from the Conservatives to the Liberals in 2005, she saved them from defeat in a crucial non-confidence vote. David Emerson, recruited from the Liberals to the Conservatives in 2006, was a valued cabinet minister from Vancouver and a talented trade negotiator.
Then there's Ms. Adams, who is mainly known as trouble. She throws hissy fits to get her way. She once refused to pay for a car wash because her car wasn't clean enough. Last year, she was disciplined by her own party for misconduct in a nasty nomination fight. Last month, Mr. Harper told her she was through. The party would not support her nomination, anywhere.
Nobody can understand why Mr. Trudeau would embrace a trouble-making reject that the Tories are obviously glad to get rid of. "Huh?"said my liberal-leaning friends incredulously. As Jason Kenney was quoted as saying, "I think that she and Mr. Trudeau may perhaps deserve each other."
Behind the scenes, many Liberal politicians are beside themselves. When Ms. Adams said she wants to run in the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, local MPP Mike Colle declared to anyone in sight that she would get the nomination "over my dead body."
Ms. Adams is more than just another opportunist. She has the whiff of an old-time femme fatale. Those eyes! That hair! She's almost as smoulderingly cute as Mr. Trudeau. Which brings us to the saga of Ms. Adams and her besotted boyfriend, Dimitri Soudas. He used to be a big-time Conservative operative. Perhaps it was purely her passion for politics that captured his heart. Whatever it was, his devotion to Ms. Adams got the better of his judgment. Eventually, it cost him his career with the Conservatives. He was kicked out as the party's executive director after allegedly meddling in her disastrous nomination battle.
Now Mr. Soudas has declared that whither she goest, he shall go – i.e., into the arms of the eager Liberals. So, naturally, people are speculating that the real prize is him, not her. Perhaps Mr. Soudas has a briefcase full of sizzling party secrets to spill. Perhaps he'll reveal that Mr. Harper has a mistress he visits on a motorcycle in the night. We should be so lucky.
But Mr. Trudeau's really awful taste in floor-crossers isn't his worst mistake of the week. It's his blatant self-exposure as just another cynical hack. As he introduced his newest protégé at a press conference on Monday, he didn't even have the decency to blush. As Ms. Adams explained it, her astonishing conversion was completely unconnected with the fact that her party had just kicked her out. Au contraire. Hers was a spiritual awakening that had been coming "for many, many years."
"I can no longer support mean-spirited leadership that divides people," she solemnly declared. "I want to work with someone who inspires, not with fear-mongers and bullies." You could practically hear the reporters jeering derisively under their breaths.
As she spouted this transparent hooey, Mr. Trudeau looked on gravely. Asked why he invited Ms. Adams to fall into the Liberals' arms, he said, "One of the things I've been very, very excited about in the team that I'm building across this country is we have a lot of people who've come from the municipal level … Eve has a long and serious history as a very effective municipal councillor … At the same time, she has demonstrated strength and ability at a tremendous level within the Conservative government." Asked about Mr. Soudas, both he and Ms. Adams did their best to pretend that he does not exist.
One job requirement of the modern politician is to appear frequently in public and make preposterous claims that neither you nor anybody else believes. This is why decent people don't want to go into politics, and why the political class is regarded with such contempt.
Mr. Trudeau promised that he wouldn't be that kind of politician. "When you start to compromise your principles, you're through," he said, not so long ago. A lot of people wanted to believe him, but with this, he has shown that he didn't mean it after all.
Mr. Trudeau's main appeal, and it is not a small thing, is a kind of sunny idealism that cuts through the cynicism corroding politics today. He makes for a refreshing contrast to the nasty, mean-spirited, dictatorial, spiteful, controlling leader whose government has grown a bit too long in the tooth.
A lot of people are sick of Mr. Harper, and desperate for an alternative. But Mr. Trudeau's catastrophic judgment – and now his crassly naked opportunism – is driving them away. As one person who's having second thoughts about Mr. Trudeau told me, "If I've got to choose between two equally unpalatable candidates, I'll probably pick the steady one."
Or, as a disillusioned Liberal put it: "We should have gone with the astronaut."