For a while now most of Kevin Tobin's cartoons featuring the premier show him wearing a bow-tie. I thought it was saucy and cute. Let's face it, can anyone in this province see a bow-tie and not think of Joey? Very satirical, Kevin!
Yesterday, Kevin's editorial cartoon ratcheted up the dictator image by portraying the Premier and Muammar Gadhafi together at a Dictators Anonymous convention. It was over the top and disturbing. As someone who has been rightfully called out for using terms like "quisling" and "traitor" to describe political opponents, I acknowledge that I have at times crossed the line in a moment of verbal indiscretion. This cartoon, however, was published in our province's largest daily newspaper. The publisher must now clarify his paper's editorial position. Yes, The Telegram has been engaged in a war for public access to information against a government that flaunts the rules, but giving in to the temptation presented by a dictator's visit to make a point reflects poorly on the paper's journalistic integrity.
No matter how controlling and manipulative the Premier's approach might be considered, he is the head of a democratically elected government.
As a young army officer Gadhafi seized power in a 1969 coup. He is president for life. His 40-year history as Libya's despotic leader reads like a resume of terror and revolutionary causes. He supported various unsavory Palestinian factions and the IRA. He has accepted blame for the 1988 bombing of an airliner over Lockerbie as well as the 1989 bombing of a French aircraft. He has had dissidents in his country hunted and shot. He ordered the killing of 1200 political prisoners in an AbuSleem Prison uprising demanding fair trials and improvement to living miserable conditions. Just this year, two visable opponents from opposite spectrums of dissent died in prison. He defends the hijackers who have been involved in a record surge of piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden by saying,"It is not a piracy, it is self defence" and "it is defending the Somalia children's food."
Okay, so we have a Premier who is perceived to be a one-man show. The P.C. bone yard is littered with political hits - Fabian Manning, Tom Rideout, Loyola Sullivan, Elizabeth Marshall, and Tom Osborne to name a few. The premier has been known to intimidate and run roughshod over the media when the message is not to his liking - David Cochrane, Ryan Cleary and most notably Craig Westcott, to name a few, have been on the receiving end of his fury. He flouts the laws of the land sometimes and without a doubt he is in control. Some compare him to Joey Smallwood, others go further and call him a benevolent dictator. A Premier with a strong majority can pretty much do anything he wants with the legislature during his or her term in office. In no way can this kind of power be equated with despotic presidency for life.
Yesterday's grotesque cartoon was repugnant. Kevin Tobin has gone too far. This cartoon crossed the line from acceptable political critique to unacceptable personal attack, character assassination and vilification.
The Telegram owes this province and our premier an apology.