It's not that the B.C. Liberals are always attacking NDP leader Adrian Dix.
It's that they are so fantastically bad at it. Going negative and smearing your opponent is the easiest thing in the world for most politicians. That's why so many of them resort to the tactic. But the Liberals can't even get that right.
Liberal MLA Harry Bloy's spiteful series of swipes at Dix on Monday morning is the latest in a series of attempts by the party to launch direct personal attacks on Dix. And like some of the others, it blew up in their faces.
There were two aspects to Bloy's nasty little performance to ponder. One is the remarks themselves, which were so far out of bounds by parliamentary standards that a colleague sitting behind him (Joan McIntyre) was captured on Hansard TV looking completely dumbfounded.
Bloy's train of thought ran off the rails when he lurched from smart meters to Dix defrauding consumers, a reference to his failure to produce a SkyTrain ticket last month. (Dix said he bought one, but lost it.)
Bloy was cautioned by the deputy Speaker, but pressed on, wondering about "stealing from the public, fraud."
Then he went past the point of no return, questioning "how he proposed to his wife. Is he like his good friend, Svend Robinson?"
Former NDP MP Robinson gained nationwide notoriety eight years ago by stealing an engagement ring from an auction eight years ago, then later turning himself in.
The remarks set a new modern-day benchmark for venom in the legislature.
But the other aspect of it is how clumsy he was in executing whatever he had in mind. The segue from smart meters to Dix was awkward. The remarks don't make any logical sense. The dogged determination to fling himself past the standard of parliamentary decorum even after a warning showed him to be a rare breed in the legislature - a genuine boor.
And it will take more than the personal apology he phoned to Dix and his wife late Monday night to alter that judgment. Dix accepted it Tuesday and wanted to move past it. But it's very hard to erase Blunder Bloy's calculated assault on the premise that a few hours later he decided he was sorry.
If it was a one-off performance, you'd just shake your head.
But it's the latest in a series of personal attacks on Dix that wind up going sideways.
The Liberal geniuses running the no-hope byelection campaign in Port Moody-Coquitlam circulated a pamphlet calling Dix a fare-evader, based on the missing ticket incident.
And it was just last month that Premier Christy Clark got up to defend Bloy for resigning after he passed a reporter's email inquiry on to the company that was the subject of the question.
Clark said he was right to quit. But then she went further, noting that at least he "didn't forge any documents."
The reference, of course, was to the black mark on Dix's record as former premier Glen Clark's chief of staff. He faked a memo in an effort to protect Clark during the casino scandal and was caught out by the later RCMP investigation.
She continued the futile shots for an entire series of questions. "He's not going to come back and run for leader [like Dix did] - It was not information that was concocted - It was not created out of thin air - ."
That moment followed an equally clumsy "Risky Dix" ad campaign last year partially devoted to the same theme.
Before that, there was the attack ad on their other big problem - B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins.
That included a radio spot that dragged his children into an objection to him taking a federal MP's pension. It made people cringe.
Clark's first political instinct is to go on the offence. And there's a place for adroit attacks that raise legitimate questions about opponents. But the Liberals keep missing the mark and embarrassing themselves.
There she was on Tuesday forced back on the defensive, concurring with Bloy's apology, thanking "Adrian" for being so gracious in accepting it, and saying Bloy was wrong to say what he did.
His remarks don't reflect anything her government is trying to do, she said.
Actually, his inclination to attack and execute it badly seems to be her government's defining characteristic.
© Copyright 2013