Don Martin: The knight in shining armour falls hard from his high horse
Roughly ten years ago, I had lunch with then-backbench MP Justin Trudeau to pitch him on a warts-and-all biography.
The way I figured it, he was five years away from being Liberal leader and eight from being prime minister so a book could introduce him to voters without sugarcoating.
He listened politely before shrugging off the idea, saying he'd never be prime minister. He had too many secrets.
That quip loomed large this week with the three-pack of images showing a younger Justin wearing brown and blackface in various costumes. It makes you wonder if he was referring to those damning photos tucked away in yearbooks somewhere waiting to detonate at the most inopportune time.
If so, it says a lot that an MP eyeing the nation’s top office was hoping his images as a racist would stay buried in time.
Trudeau now insists it was mortified embarrassment at his behavior as a 29-year-old teacher which kept him from disclosing it earlier. Maybe so. More likely it was fear for his political future and the current apology tour is more an act of survival than heartfelt contrition.
It's now up to voters to decide if a global laughingstock just 30 days from a referendum on his performance is worth re-electing.
But this adds a new line of demarcation in an already severely-polarized campaign.
There are many, including Conservatives, who believe this is no big deal, a hazy Halloween costume from another era that is irrelevant to the current campaign. And there are those, including Liberals, who believe this exposes a preachy, virtue-signaling, new-way politician as a hypocritical, old-school fraud.
For what it's worth, I suspect this controversy will linger as a memorable moment but stop short of being a defining vote-shifter by election day. After all, if there's one certainty in politics in the Trump era, it's that even the juiciest scandal needs fresh oxygen to have long legs. A daily apology from Trudeau is not enough to arm his opponents with unrelenting outrage.
Even so, all sides have to agree this has turned the white knight in shining armour who triumphantly rode on Parliament Hill in 2015 into a credibility-bleeding body mired in a muddy battlefield, gasping for forgiveness.
The smart money would bet Justin Trudeau will ride again and might even win. Unless, that is, those secrets he described as career-limiting weren’t about brownface photos – and have yet to be spilled.
That's the Last Word.