The view from Canada | Bleader

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The view from Canada

Posted By on 05.24.07 at 12:19 PM

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After David Radler finished his eight days on the witness stand I went online to find out what they’re saying about him now in Canada. Radler was supposed to be the ballgame. The thunderbolt passing through the Dirksen Building May 10, halfway through his testimony, that Eddie Vrdolyak had just been indicted was enough to remind most of the local reporters there how little the Conrad Black trial actually matters to them. (The ones who used to work for him are a separate case.) But where Black and Radler come from, it remains the talk of the nation.

How Radler fared depends on who you read. If that’s Peter Worthington in the Toronto Sun, you're reading that "such self-immolation of a star witness" had never before been seen by veteran court observers. You’re reading it's unlikely there's anyone following the trial “who thinks Radler is capable of not lying.” (You’re also reading that "no one gives a damn about the other [three] co-defendants," and there’s no disputing that.) But if  syndicated columnist Allan Fotheringham is your choice, you're being told it's Worthington not to trust. "The Canadian journalism treatment of this trial has been a disgrace," says Fotheringham. "Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun, Mark Steyn for Maclean’s, Christy Blatchford for the Globe and Mail--all of whom have worked for Black at one stage or are friends--have been so vicious of Radler and fawning of their hero as to be embarrassing to their trade."

If Steyn's your man, you find him sneering that Radler cut a bargain with the U.S. attorney's office "that reduces what would have been a multi-decade deal to six months of golf and community theatre in a BC country club." And there's Blatchford measuring the star witness with contempt from her press pew and concluding, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, let alone for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, than it is to get a straight answer out of David Radler."

Early in the trial, Steyn had an exchange with blogger and radio host Hugh Hewitt. Steyn said, "The people who ran Hollinger had a strange board. In other words, it had mainly Canadian executives, and then its independent directors were all these big-shot Americans like Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle and Jim Thompson. . . . And basically, the  government's case in this trial is that these--this sinister cabal of Canadians came down from north of the board, the badlands north of the 49th Parallel, and cunningly pulled the wool over the eyes of these-- "

Hewitt broke in, laughing. "Over Richard Perle's eyes?"

Steyn went on, "Yes, naive, innocent, unworldly types like Henry Kissinger and Richard Perle. . . . I mean, this is a characterization of Kissinger and Perle nobody has ever attempted in human history."

In other words, you can't sucker the unsuckerable--a defense I’d say was shot out of the water when Thompson, who held down the big shot position of chairman of the audit committee, conceded in court he'd been barely paying attention. The mystery at the core of the trial, so far as the Canadian press is concerned, is the jury-- what are those people thinking? Steyn frets that "a Chicago jury is weighing the merits of a Canadian tax benefit to a British lord. . . . . A white-collar case is one thing, but an ermine-collared one is quite another." Steyn accuses the prosecution of "naked class prejudice," of sending the jury the message that "this guy’s rich and he's arrogant, and if that ain't a crime it oughta be."

For Blatchford's impression of the jury, as previously reported in this blog, click here.

Fotheringham doesn't see eye to eye with Steyn and Blatchford on much, but like them he informs his readers the jurors are the wrong sort. "The jury, one must understand,"  he writes, "for their sins is composed, out of the 12 jurors, eight--not to put too fine a point on it--middle-aged, rather plump women, rather plump--and rather uninterested in the whole mess." As the lawyers argue, Fotheringham reports, the jurors "chew gum and nod off." The Toronto Star's Rick Westhead, composing an article on the pros and cons of Black taking the stand in his own defense, allows for the possibility "that the blue-collar Chicago jury--two male jurors appeared in court yesterday wearing Hawaiian-print shirts while one female juror has scribbled notes in recent days with a pen topped with a marabou feather--might not warm to the British lord." I had to ask someone at the office what the hell a marabou feather is and what it signifies. "Cheap luxury . . . delusions of grandeur . . . Blanche DuBois . . . little girls' beauty pageants," a cultural maven replied. Before the trial, the court gave prospective jurors a 45-page questionaire to fill out. Feather preferences were neglected. Grounds for appeal?

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