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What Rush (and Others) Could Learn from Rae about Saying Sorry

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Regardless of party affiliation, virtually all politicians profess to deplore dirty campaigning, yet when they have a juicy morsel to embarrass a political foe, they sometimes can't resist plunging into the cesspool.

Maybe that's what motivated the guy who worked in the Liberal party's research bureau to anonymously disseminate personal details about Public Safety Minister Vic Toew's messy divorce proceedings.

Anyway, the guy's since been fired.

What distinguishes this incident is how acting Liberal Leader Bob Rae did the gracious thing, and reversed taking swipes at Toews and the government, apologizing profusely and convincingly in the Commons, and thus gained respect accordingly.

Whatever one thinks of Bob Rae's policies and record, he's a decent man and does not have a reputation of underhand tactics. He's pretty well a stand-up guy.

It may have been difficult for him to acknowledge his party's goof (it was only a goof when it became known), but he also salvaged credibility.

This sort of smear could happen to any political party.

In fact, the Conservatives at first blamed the NDP for the scurrilous leak on Twitter. Foreign Minister John Baird called it a "dirty, sleazy internet game."

When it was discovered it was the Liberals, not the NDP, who were the source of the leak, Baird also did the decent thing and "unequivocally and unconditionally" apologized to the NDP, thus gaining some respect for candor. Rush Limbaugh could learn a lesson about saying sorry from these guys.

Unmentioned, of course, is that the initial suspects for spreading rumours and disreputable information about political opponents were the NDP who, rightly or wrongly, have a reputation for tricky campaigning.

Finally, Vic Toews himself has shown class by recognizing Rae's sincerity and accepting what he called "a heartfelt apology."

Meanwhile accusations continue that during the last federal election, the Tories sought to subvert the system by making robocalls to individuals and giving false information about changes in polling sites, presumably sending voters to false addresses.

That sort of mischief is not uncommon in elections, and often boomerangs. Prime Minister Stephen Harper seems unfazed about the allegations, and rightly urges that complaints be taken to Elections Canada which is used to complaints and usually does very little about them.

Again, what can you do about telephone calls if no one comes forward to confess?

So most participants in the mini-scandal acquitted themselves well, with the arguable exception of Justin Trudeau who was an early and enthusiastic Tweeter about the Toews divorce, and has since rather churlishly says he believes in privacy, etc.

Behind the scenes is Toews' support for Bill C-30 -- internet surveillance, about which Canadians are understandably wary. We all know the internet can be abused, but most of us don't want government being any more Big Brother-ish than it already is.

Police access to catch criminals, and court orders when there are suspect violations, are one thing. But too often, if they get the chance, government agencies tend to snoop and keep track of people.

Maybe the Harper government should put Bill C-30 on hold. The last thing we need at the moment is government spending millions on online spying or on surveillance systems for internet providers, so as to keep an eye on citizens.

If the RCMP needs internet interceptions for security purposes, fine. Let them make their case. Canadian phones can't be tapped with a court order -- maybe this should also apply to the internet.