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Daniel Alexandre Portoraro

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Trudeau Turns Cargo Shorts Into Political Leverage

Posted: 05/07/2013 12:39 pm

Admiral Ackbar says: "It's a trap."

And a beautifully put-together one at that. Of course, I am speaking of the ad everyone is talking about in Canada: Justin Trudeau's quickly thrown-together web clip in which he thanks donors who have gathered a million dollars for the Liberal Party.

In the video, the Liberal leader looks like a college sophomore playing hacky-sack in the quad. He's wearing an evergreen v-neck t-shirt and a despicable pair of tan cargo shorts. If the camera had panned to his feet, we would no doubt have been privy to a pair of those sartorial disasters known as flip-flops. And that's exactly the point.

What Trudeau says in the video is of little import -- as so often is with the aspiring prime minister -- but it's how he presents everything that makes this ad -- initially (and easily) thought to be a joke -- so downright clever.

In late April, following Trudeau's coronation, the Conservatives immediately launched an attack ad mocking the candidate for his "strip-tease" for a charity benefit. They placed too little focus on what he said (or what he fails to say; that is, anything in the House of Commons; a locale as foreign to him as the top of the Kilimanjaro) and instead, on how he presented himself: taking his shirt off.

Needless to say, the ad was a poor one -- a sputtering stink-bomb which reeked of desperation and worry -- that had all the production values of a The Year That Was video montage shown at a high school prom. In fact, following the metaphor of high school, Trudeau's mother even went as so far as calling out the Conservatives for "bullying" her son, and then proceeded to make a fat joke about Harper. But Ms. Trudeau's ridiculous comments raised awareness of the Conservatives' B-level gaffe nonetheless.

So why then would Trudeau do the Conservatives one better? Why would he eschew shirt and jacket in favor of Muskokan outerwear? He's dangling fish bait on the line, hoping Harper and company will bite. Trudeau wants another superficial attack ad. He wants to be told he doesn't look like a prime minister. Already, the governing party drew heavy criticism for attacking the MP from Papineau on such ridiculous grounds; and Trudeau wants them to do it again, and with the only material that he gives them: his appearance.

Furthermore, put the ad in the context of recent politics. In it, Trudeau speaks of receiving over a million dollars in donations. That number is in stark contrast to the $4.5 million that the Conservatives raked in over the first three months of 2013. This amount smells of oil and corporate donors. Polar opposites: Everyday Canadians giving what little they can; big bad business bosses unloading trash trucks of cash.

But there's also another number in the minds of Canadians: the $3.1 billion unaccounted for by the government according to the Auditor General. The Conservatives have "lost" a boatload of money; Trudeau has gained a comparatively insignificant amount. But it comes from everyday Canadians, thus adorning his otherwise-unnecessary announcement with that "grassroots" appeal.

And here's another testament to the brilliance of the ad. It is shot in front of a home. Kelly McParland makes the joke that you can almost hear a child's voice cry out "Daddy, I have to GO!" as the video exudes domesticity.

This is Justin Trudeau, a man at home, kicking about in his cargo shorts who thought, on the spot, "You know, let's thank those good Canadians for giving me money." Again, this presents a strong contrast to the clearly planned timing of the Conservatives when they launched their ad (positive spontaneity; orchestrated negativity.) And to top it off, Trudeau on the Front Lawn is a direct jab at Harper's clearly staged "Day in the Life" photos.

But here's the real kicker. Since this ad looks so downright cheap, Trudeau is quite consciously bringing up another point vis-à-vis the Conservatives. They used taxpayers' dollars to send out attack ad flyers. "I'm not going to use your money for my ads," Trudeau is saying, "But I couldn't possibly comment on what the Conservatives are doing."

All this is bait. It's strategic carelessness like bed hair kept in place with gel. People on social media are already aflutter with attacking the ad. And I bet you a pair of Old Navy shorts that Trudeau knows Conservative supporters will mock the video on Facebook and Twitter, thereby showing unconvinced voters that the followers of Harper do little more than insult the appearance of other candidates, as opposed to their message. This is one of Trudeau's smarter ploys; not having policy to be attacked on forces his opponents to focus on petty matters.

It's a brilliant piece of marketing. But on its own, it serves no purpose other than to let Liberals know that the man who skips Parliament to line his pockets from public speaking engagements, really appreciates the money they've given him. The Conservatives already made a huge faux-pas by launching the first ad. If something is not a threat, you do not strike first. But Harper did, thus telling Canadians that he recognized that Justin Trudeau was a problem. The best thing that Conservatives -- on the Hill or Facebook -- can do now is not respond to the ad. It's bait. It's a trap. It's there for them to make themselves look bad in their reaction.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Coming For MacKay

    Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay (left) is chased by Liberal MP Justin Trudeau in a motorized wheelchair during a wheelchair race relay on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 12, 2010. Twenty-five MPs and senators used a wheelchair for the day in support of the Canadian Paraplegic Association's Spinal Cord Injury and CPA awareness month.

  • Come At Me, Bro

    Justin Trudeau trains at Pan Am Boxing Club in Winnipeg on Friday Feb. 1, 2013.

  • Peekaboo!

    Justin Trudeau & co. making faces.

  • Riiiiip!

    Justin Trudeau splits his pants while pushing the "scrum machine" in support of Prostate Cancer Canada in Toronto Thursday, July 21, 2011.

  • Don't Shoot!

    Justin Trudeau gets his geek on at Montreal Comiccon in September 2012.

  • So Long 'Stache

    Justin Trudeau has his moustache shaved off to raise money for the Judy LaMarsh Fund, that supports female candidates, at the Liberal Party convention in Ottawa on Saturday, January 14, 2012.

  • All For One, One For All

    Justin Trudeau all dressed up for the Montreal Movember Gala in 2010.

  • Get Him!

    Pierre Trudeau's sons, Sacha, left, and Justin, tackle their mother's paperboy in Ottawa in this undated photo.

  • 'Family... And A Cow.'

    'Nuff said.

  • He Can Certainly Take A Punch

    Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau delivers a right hook to his older brother Justin during a play fight in 1980 at Ottawa airport as the boys await a flight with the return of their father, then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.

  • Be Honest With Me, Who's Cuter?

    Justin Trudeau strikes a pose with an adorable baby.

  • A Very Furry Christmas

    Justin Trudeau poses with his family on his 2010 Christmas card.

  • Game On!

    Former Liberal MP Ken Dryden, left, and Justin Trudeau play table hockey as they visit Sun Youth, a community organization, Monday, Jan. 14, 2008 in Montreal.

  • Yanking Their Chain

    Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, left, watches as his 11-year-old son Justin swings on a chain during a tour of an old fort in the Omani town of Nizwa Dec. 2, 1983. Trudeau and Justin spent the day visiting the towns of Jebel and Nizwa 165 kilometres south of Muscat.

  • Rocking Out

    Justin Trudeau in Muskoka, Ont.

  • YeeHaw!

    Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, centre, has his cowbay taken by his son Xavier, 4 years-old, while his wife Sophie Gregoire, second from left, holds daughet Ella-Grace, 3 years-old, while they attend the party's annual Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Saturday, July 7, 2012. This is the 100th anniversary of the Stampede.

  • Like Mother, Like Son

    Eleven-month-old Justin Trudeau, urged on by his mother Margaret Trudeau, crawls up the steps of an aircraft in Ottawa on Dec. 5, 1972 to meet his father, then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau on his return from Britain.

  • Cutting A Rug

    Justin Trudeau dances with wife Sophie Grégoire before his speech at the Liberal showcase on April 6, 2013.

  • Next: What Is Pierre Trudeau Doing?

  • Magician?

    Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, wearing what someone called his "Mandrake the Magician outfit," walks down the grandstand steps to present the Grey Cup trophy to the victorious Montreal Alouettes in this Nov. 28, 1970 photo.

  • Hey, It Was The '70s

    Pierre Trudeau leans over to kiss an unidentified young lady to the seeming surprise of his recent bride Margaret. Trudeau and Margaret spent Saturday March 27, 1971 at maple tree farm here near Montreal at a sugaring out party.

  • Fur Wasn't Always Controversial

    Pierre Trudeau accompanies Margaret Sinclair, at the annual Governor General's skating party for members of Parliament in Ottawa Jan. 14, 1970.

  • Ditto For Seal Hunting

    Pierre Trudeau looks through the scope of his rifle while on a seal hunting trip in Baffin Island's Clear Water Fjord, July 29, 1968.

  • A Leg Up

    Pierre Trudeau shoes off his frisbee catching style while waiting to board his plane in Vancouver May 16, 1979.

  • Calisthenics Were Still Cool

    Pierre Trudeau had no trouble keeping himself occupied during a break from a boat trip down the Northwest Territories, Nahanni River, Monday Aug. 4, 1970.

  • The Outfit...

    Pierre Trudeau takes a wary look at an ice crevice, decides to chance it and makes the leap successfully during a midnight seal- hunting expedition at Clearwater Fjord in Canada's Arctic, July 29, 1968.

  • When in France...

    Pierre Trudeau receives a kiss from his wife Margaret during a tour of St. Pierre, France, Aug. 1971.

  • Running Man

    Pierre Trudeau in Guayana 1974.

  • Friendlier With Reporters Than You Know Who

    Pierre Trudeau sticks his tongue out to Canadian Press Photographer Peter Bregg during the 1972 election campaign. This photo was taken aboard the campaign plane where such antics were considered off the record. The photo was not made available until after the death of the prime minister

  • Disco Stu

    Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau dances in Montreal Oct. 21, 1979.

  • Acting like a Beatle

    Pierre Trudeau sprints away from a crowd of female admirers in Ottawa April 22, 1968. They surrounded him outside the Parliament Buildings on his third day in office.

  • Posing with a Beatle

    John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono, meet with Pierre Trudeau Dec. 24, 1969 in Ottawa.

  • 'I See Cigars And Rum In Our Future'

    Pierre Trudeau looks on as Cuban President Fidel Castro gestures during a visit to a Havana housing project in this Jan. 27, 1976 photo.

  • Acting Out A Tory Fantasy?

    Pierre Trudeau pretending to strangle himself with a tie given to him as he was presented with honorary membership in the National Press Club in Ottawa Sept. 17, 1968.

  • Unfortunate Hat

    Pierre Trudeau amuses a group of people in Fortune while on tour through Newfoundland, Aug. 3, 1971.

  • Oh Captain! My Captain!

    Pierre Trudeau takes a ride on the Bluenose, Aug. 1972.

  • Nice Form Pierre

    Pierre Trudeau works out at an Oshawa health club during a break in his 1968 election campaign.

  • Are The Flowers Too Much?

    Pierre Trudeau, with a garland around his neck and a Hindu greeting symbol in paste on his forhead, rides a camel Jan 12, 1971 in the village of Benares, India, where he dedicated a water well.

  • I Do Love Flowers

    Pierre Trudeau kids around with a carnation while waiting for voting results at the Liberal convention in this April 7, 1968 photo.

  • Indiana Jones Of The Great White North

    Pierre Trudeau tries cracking a dog sled whip while visiting Baker Lake in the Arctic, March 10, 1970.

  • Never Afraid To Dance

    Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Sheik Yamani, left, and Pierre Trudeau, right, dance a traditional Arabian dance while camping out in the desert in Madein Saleh, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 18, 1980.

  • Or Rock A Skirt

    Pierre Trudeau, seen here taking part in Maori ceremonial dance in Wellington, New Zealand May 13, 1970.

  • Got The Moves

    Pierre Trudeau does a dance after his campaign bus broke down in Montreal June 6, 1968.

  • Feather In The Cap

    Wearing a "feather in his cap," Pierre Trudeau attended the official opening May 20, 1983, of an archaeological excavation in Hull, Que.

  • Ballet: Act 1

    Pierre Trudeau, shown performing his famous pirouette during a May 7, 1977, picture session at Buckingham Palace in London, England.

  • Ballet: Act 2

    Pierre Trudeau, in a moment of joy over patriation of Canada's constitution, preformed his now famous pirouette at Uplands Airport on April 18, 1982 following the Queens's departure for London after the 4-day state visit which climaxed with the proclamation of the Constitution Act.

  • He Got It From His Father

    Pierre Trudeau is saluted by RCMP Officer as he carries son Justin to Rideau Hall in 1973.

  • Next: Justin Trudeau Through The Years

  • Prime Minister Trudeau and his then-wife Margaret leave the city's Notre Dame Basilica Sunday afternoon after the christening of their 22-day old infant Justin Pierre James, Jan. 16, 1972. Tasseled shawls kept the baby hidden from photographers and the 10-degree-below-zero weather.

  • March 1979 photo of the Trudeau children: Michel (front), Alexandre (Sacha) and Justin (rear).

  • It was a big day for Dad, but a long day for the three Trudeau children. Left to right, Justin, Michel and Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau attended the swearing in ceremonies of their father Pierre Elliott Trudeau as Prime Minister March 3, 1980 at Government House.


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