But that doesn't justify the tongue bath that Jeffrey Simpson and the rest of the Globe and Mail are giving him today:
Stéphane is one tough cookie behind those geeky glasses, awkward body language and shy, sly grin. He knows who he is, what he believes in, where he wants to go. And he knows how to get there. He is focused and confident, perhaps to a fault. No one outside Quebec knows how tough he has had to be in that province, where he has been mocked, belittled, satirized, pilloried, scorned. His face has been on every secessionist's dartboard.
What critics missed then, and now, is his fierce determination to improve and succeed. Knock him down. Beat him up. Mr. Dion just keeps going forward, sometimes oblivious to the feelings of others, inadvertently rude, annoyingly convinced of the absolute correctness of his analysis. He's a Presbyterian, politically speaking — unadorned, slightly severe, utterly determined, without pretence, searching for self-improvement, anchored in his convictions.
Almost every former ministerial colleague can recount tales of Mr. Dion's righteous rectitude around the cabinet table. He didn't schmooze, make friends or build alliances. He just mastered his briefs, plowed forward and jack-hammered his arguments against any opposition. Not surprisingly, therefore, very few senior members of those cabinets supported him. His intellect, they respected; his political judgment and personal skills they did not.
The reader can draw the appropriate conclusion: Stephane Dion is the Liberal Party's answer to Stephen Harper, except presumably with a social conscience.
The media hopes that Dion will fit the Harper mould--austere academic written off for dead, only to triumph through perseverance--because having backed the front-runners and lost, he's all they've got left to recoup their credibility.
But you never step into the same election twice. Dion, unlike Harper, has a previous government's record to defend. Also unlike Harper, he has made real enemies in his home province.
And perhaps worst of all, he has to contend with the perception that after for 40 years of practically unbroken governance by prime ministers of Quebec, the country doesn't need another one just now. For all the Central Canadian elites' disdain towards Alberta, the electorate doesn't feel the same way about an Albertan.
Nonetheless, Dion will have an extended honeymoon in the media and elite circles. Even if he wasn't their first choice, he is still one of them, and all will be forgiven because of that.