Last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie was engaged in a whirlwind of speechifying. On Saturday, he addressed the United Nations General Assembly at which he renewed the country’s pledge to help make the world more peaceful and to work “for the good of all humankind”.
He continued: “But we need to ensure that such pledges are not just so many catchy phrases. We need to not only talk the talk but walk the walk.”
Given his indulgence in catchy phrases and more talking than walking when it comes to fulfilling promises, his advice to the world body was noted by many with considerable amusement.
On Thursday, prior to his UN appearance, he was addressing a seminar, when a funny thing happened at that forum, calling to mind Stephen Sondheim’s musical cum farce, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”.
On the way to the forum, Christie must have grown boiling mad. Barely into his prepared remarks, he abruptly abandoned the text, launching an odd and rambling tirade against former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, the FNM and elements of the media. This columnist also received unfavorable mention.
In seeking to redirect attention from his failures and that of his government, Christie upended the dictum U.S. President Harry S. Truman kept on his desk in the Oval Office at the White House.
Truman pledged, “The buck stops here!” The sign on Christie’s desk at the Office of the Prime Minister should read: “Pass the buck.”
The great irony of last week is not Christie’s advice to the UN on the importance of keeping pledges.
The greater irony is that in ditching his prepared remarks, no less in front of an audience which included international participants, the prime minister demonstrated precisely why perhaps the majority of Bahamians now view his administration as the blah, blah, blah government.
Even as the country needs serious talk about jobs and planning, the head of government railed, ranted and raged against his domestic opponents, leaving a junior minister to complete his prepared remarks.
Recall, soon after the PLP’s re-election in 2012 when asked a critical question about the pending national budget, of which he should have known the answer, Christie re-directed the question to the minister of state for finance.
Today, Christie continues to concoct a catalogue of excuses for his government’s inaction and bumbling incompetence.
Of the touted mortgage relief plan that was supposed to rescue scores of homeowners, yet proved an abysmal failure, Christie became upset with his officials for not making it happen. Pass the buck.
Of National Health Insurance, it’s still on the way more than a decade after Christie made it his most solemn promise during the 2002 general election.
When, in the House of Assembly, Long Island MP Loretta Butler-Turner challenged Christie on his promise to double the national investment in education, he challenged her statement.
She later responded by tabling a copy of a nationally televised address he delivered on crime, specifically promising to double the national investment in education.
In last week’s Guardian National Review in this journal, the writer noted: “Christie recently told reporters he wants to have ‘all of the facts’ on NHI before the anniversary of his second year in office so the government can determine if the plan is feasible.”
Such an excuse would be laughable if the lack of health insurance was not such a serious concern for tens of thousands of Bahamians. The PLP told the country it had a plan. Incoming Health Minister Perry Gomez promised quick action.
Now, Christie is waiting for “all the facts” to determine if what he solemnly promised is even feasible? Prime minister: Stop taking us for fools and insulting our common sense.
And, the nation’s leader wonders why he has developed a credibility gap as deep as the Tongue of the Ocean and as wide as the U.S. Grand Canyon?
A primary school student adding up the costs of NHI and doubling the national investment in education would easily conclude that Christie was talking, “blah, blah, blah!”
After campaigning hard in 2002 to defeat a constitutional amendment that would have enabled certain Bahamian women to pass on a right of citizenship to their children, the PLP promised to right this historic wrong were they elected in 2002. They failed to do so from 2002 to 2007.
Back in office in 2012, the first referendum Christie pushed was on gambling. Christie vowed that there would be a referendum on the citizenship question in November 2013. As with many of his deadlines, this one has slipped away, the second referendum for which Christie’s government is incorrigibly late again.
The prime minister is now saying how urgent is such a referendum, that the country should be unified on the question, and that the present state of affairs cannot continue and would be an embarrassment to the country.
Yes, dear reader, pinch yourself hard, rub your eyes, cotton-swab your ears and pick your jaw up from the floor: This is the same Perry Christie who blocked the passage of such an amendment and later said that the lack of an amendment was not that much of a big deal for Bahamian women.
Cue laughter: At the UN last week, it is a miracle that the nation’s leader didn’t stumble over words he offered in relation to The Bahamas moving to ratify the “United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Disabled”, and which could be equally applied to the constitutional amendment in question.
He righteously proclaimed: “This is an important step forward that we have taken, marrying our rhetoric to our actions and syncing our domestic agenda to our international obligations.” These are stunning words coming from Christie.
Back to the farce at the forum. So overwrought was Christie, he concluded his rant with these shockingly un-prime-ministerial remarks:
“And to those who invite me to gatherings such as this, where learned people are being assembled, this is what you ga get from me every time I have the opportunity to speak on occasions such as this.”
These comments and his behavior at the forum were uncharacteristically rude and bumptious. Sadly, it is becoming a habit for the prime minister. It is a pattern that has formed because the loquacious Christie seemingly lacks the discipline of preparing for and adhering to a text.
At one event, he launched an attack on certain individuals at Baha Mar. At an independence luncheon honoring young Bahamians he launched an attack on the leader of the opposition over stem cell legislation.
In criticizing this writer, the prime minister borrowed a nickname from a nursery rhyme, which was somewhat delightful and endearing, though quite unoriginal.
In the study of logic, there is a classic list of logical fallacies used in argumentation, one of which is an ad hominem insult, which the prime minister applied to this columnist.
What disappoints is not the application of the nickname. What disappoints is that the prime minister did not engage the substance of the opinion piece and the broader contest of ideas.
Still, as Christie appears to delight in literary allusions, he might recall the example of Dr. Pangloss from Voltaire’s Candide. Dr. Pangloss (note “pangloss” can be translated as all talk) is someone who prefers talk over action.
When Candide, the satire’s central character, is at the verge of death, Pangloss talks, instead of getting him some water. Following the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 Pangloss comforts people by – talking.
“Pangloss is so busy blabbing that he is unable to take good advice when it slams him in the face, namely the dervish telling him to hold his tongue.”
Perry Christie is a man with a good heart who loves his country. He is our prime minister. The country desperately needs the prime minister to succeed.
For the sake of us all, even his greatest admirers would wish him to talk much less and to do considerably more.
Correction: Last week’s column referred to the “do-nothing years of 2007 to 2012”. That should have read 2002 to 2007 as it was a reference to the first Christie administration.