Each one of them, far from lowering my regard for Mulroney, raises it. Compared to other prime ministerial memoirs (Pierre Trudeau's were especially bland and tepid, entirely out of character for him), the Mulroney tapes book will rank far and above them for unvarnished honesty.
Mulroney on Pierre Trudeau:
Mr. Mulroney's absolute conviction that former prime minister Pierre Trudeau was behind the undermining of the Meech Lake constitutional accord, a conspiracy that included then-Newfoundland-premier Clyde Wells -- "nothing has ever compared to the lack of principle of this son of a bitch" -- and lawyer Deborah Coyne, who later had a child with Mr. Trudeau. "Trudeau wound up persuading her," Mr. Mulroney tells Mr. Newman at one point, "and that's when she became pregnant, exactly at that time."
Mr. Trudeau's motivation, according to Mr. Mulroney, was that "He didn't want anybody to succeed where he had failed. Trudeau's contribution was not to build Canada but to destroy it, and I had to come in and save it. Three times I've achieved unanimity. In 16 years, he couldn't do it once, the 'great statesman.' "
Mulroney on the media:
A hatred for the media that verges on paranoia. "Business is booming," the prime minister says at one point, "our jobs are up and everything is going fine. But the Toronto Star says Brian Mulroney is a shit. So I change newspapers. I went to The Globe and Mail, which says I'm a spendthrift and an asshole. So I decided to go to the Sun, a real conservative paper run by Paul Godfrey. I read Claire Hoy's column, and I'm a thief and a murderer."
Outrage that the tainted-tuna scandal of 1985 could ever have reached the heights it did. "You would think that 10,000 people had died because of rancid tuna," Mr. Mulroney says. "No one was even sick. . . . The media gave more publicity to tuna than to the Gulf War."
Mr. Mulroney's hatred of the Ottawa press corps -- "a phony bunch of bastards" -- so visceral that he claims they refused to give him the credit he was due for "brokering" the deal between Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev and then-U.S.-president George Bush that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Only then-German-chancellor Helmut Kohl understood Canada's pivotal role, Mr. Mulroney says, and gave Mr. Mulroney his due credit. Mr. Mulroney claims that then-British-prime-minister Margaret Thatcher once showed then-U.S.-president Ronald Reagan a copy of The Globe and Mail to show "what Brian has to put up with. Look at this disgrace. This is Canadian journalism. Look at this disgraceful, putrid newspaper."
Mulroney on Kim Campbell:
"Throughout the whole goddam thing," he tells Mr. Newman during the 1993 summer campaign, "she's been screwing around with this Russian guy. The guy was sneaking into hotel rooms and the campaign bus. If I'm in an election and you bring Marilyn Monroe and 15 others into my hotel room, I'd throw them out. You have no time for that stuff. If you have 15 minutes, you phone some of your candidates."
I wish we had heard more of this Mulroney during his years in office. He might well have won more respect for telling it like it is. Trudeau, as much of an arrogant jackass that he was, never feared to give the press the finger or tell farmers to go sell their own damn wheat.
There may be similar tapes of Stephen Harper with his guard down. I'd pay good money to hear those too, if only to dispel perceptions of him as a cold, colourless policy wonk.