Justin Trudeau is ever-present, on the cover of popular magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire and numerous other like-minded publications. His endless selfies, the shirtless encounters with hikers in the backwoods and his eternal jogging across the background of wedding photographs, birthdays and prom celebrations, might tempt one to look at all photographs to find his image, as a child endeavours at “Finding Waldo.”
Trudeau has now reached pop star immanence having a Rolling Stone cover story in the August issue of the magazine.
The story, however, is not political journalism but celebrity reporting, the kind of fawning profile that Trudeau is always prepared to accommodate.
Rolling Stone may have lost much of its pop culture cachet but it still has prestige and a readership in the right age and activist demographic to provided Trudeau another platform to preach to an enthralled choir.
The story is superficial, taking Trudeau largely at face value and the writer Stephen Rodrick, falls for the practiced charm of the experienced publicity hound.
The story also goes easy on Trudeau by offering simplistic comparisons between the prime minister, his government and Trump’s chaotic White House. Nobody, especially Trudeau, could lose when given those kinds of odds.
Justin Trudeau is no less vain than Trump but he is smarter, more urbane and on the progressive side of popular issues.
Besides, Trudeau doesn’t really play the odds; he is calculating, studies the form and puts a lot of forethought into appearing spontaneous.
One dark revelation in the Rolling Stone story is Trudeau’s admission that the boxing match five years ago with Senator Patrick Brazeau was a cynical, calculated strategy.
“It wasn’t random,” Trudeau tells Rolling Stone. “I wanted someone who would be a good foil and we stumbled upon the scrappy tough-guy senator from an indigenous community. He fit the bill, and it was a very nice counterpoint. I saw it as the right kind of narrative, the right story to tell.”
This version of what led up to the boxing match with Brazeau is unsettling: The white bird that grew up in a gilded cage would engage in a cockfight with a “scrappy” aboriginal senator, and being almost sure to prevail, the white bird would accrue some much needed street-cred.
Apart from this admission running contrary to the Prime Minister’s promise to bridge the divide with First Nations people, it also paints the picture of a man remarkably un-sportsman like, who, like Trump, prefers to challenge less formidable opponents.
Following an overwhelming backlash, accusations of elitism and engaging in First Nations stereotyping, predictably the Prime Minister expressed regret but in a convoluted way that seemed anything but contrite, saying on CBC Radio:
“I regret the way it’s been taken; I regret the choice of language that I made. The way I’ve framed it doesn’t contribute to the positive spirit of reconciliation that I’d like to think I know my government stands for. So, I regret those comments and the way it was characterized.”
This sounds more like a disclaimer than an apology. He didn’t say he was sorry for those comments, only that he regretted making them.
To draw one more comparison with Trump, just because Trudeau knows how to win, does not mean he knows how to lead.
Trudeau is intelligent and holds an enlightened position on many current concerns but he needs to get over himself and realize that being Prime Minister calls for much more than cultivating his celebrity.