During debate in the House of Assembly on the upcoming referendum, in yet another display of astonishingly mangled syntax, pronunciation and thinking, Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis spoke of “a quagmire of web”.
As is generally the case, Bahamians were left scratching their heads as to what exactly Dr. Minnis meant. His performance last week, perhaps the worst self-inflicted wound of his political career, was monumentally, unfathomably and incomprehensibly bad.
Many willing to offer him the benefit of any more doubt were stunned by one of the worst flip flops seen in parliament since independence, a flip flop reminiscent of Christie and the PLP when they abruptly reneged on supporting the referendum in 2002.
After recently attacking the PLP for that staggering about-face, Dr. Minnis, without seemingly catching his breath, acted similarly, with his already tenuous credibility crashing to the floor of the House.
He has been roundly criticized for his about-face. His backtracking was not a profile in courage as FNM Chairman Darron Cash would have others believe in his comedic damage control statement issued to stem the fallout from Dr. Minnis’ latest mega blunder.
The week before, Dr. Minnis was doing damage control for Cash, who issued a bizarre statement of his own on the referendum. As in past policy debates, the joint performance of the Leader and the Chairman of the FNM has proven amateurish.
It is telling that they have had to rush to each other’s defence over the past fortnight, especially as others in the FNM largely failed to defend either of them.
In a blistering assessment headlined, “Does Minnis Speak for the FNM?”, this journal editorialized: “Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday came across as a student of the Perry Gladstone Christie School of Leadership. The motto of that school being, “Speak first, think later and never plan.”
The editorial was perhaps overly generous to Dr. Minnis who has conclusively demonstrated that he is largely incapable of deep thought on policy matters, whether in the first instance or later. He has proven incapable of thinking for himself.
One reason that Dr. Minnis flip flops on issue after issue is his lack of core convictions. Because he is generally an empty vessel when it comes to political philosophy he is easily led by others, often down a primrose path strewn with nettles.
Even worse, he is simply incapable of understanding the complexities and nuances of public policy, so he swings wildly like a weather vane partly detached from its mount in the middle of a storm.
Dr. Minnis is a profile in capitulation because most policy discussions elude him. He often is incapable of grasping the issues at hand.
He fails to get the policy correct in the first place because he does not appreciate the implications of his statements or the contours of the debate. With this latest mega flip flop Dr. Minnis has done irrevocable damage to himself.
Dr. Minnis does not now, nor will he ever possess the capacity to serve as head of government, especially in light of the stark reality that he does not possess, nor will he ever, the ability to serve effectively as Leader of the Opposition.
He has dragged the FNM to its lowest ebb since the split in the late 1970s. With his largely non-collegial, non-consultative and highly autocratic style of leadership, he is overwhelmingly responsible for the disarray in his party.
He often fails to brief or to adequately consult his caucus, taking unilateral decisions which blow up in his face, with collateral damage to the FNM.
Recall any number of disasters directly related to his propensity to keep much of his caucus in the dark, most especially the matter of proposed salary increases for parliamentarians.
If he is this much of a disaster as opposition leader, imagine how disastrous would be his performance as prime minister. He is liable to make Christie seem like a paragon of competence.
Still, for Dr. Minnis to be compared to Christie is damning. It speaks to the deficit of leadership and irredeemable incompetence of both men.
Despite Dr. Minnis’ mangling, there is a web of confusion and a possible quagmire in the making, mostly the fault of the Christie administration.
Whether the various referendum questions pass or fail, this is a watershed moment for the country in terms of gender equality, the leadership aspirations of a number of politicians, and the reputations and influence of various political, civic and religious leaders.
For its part the PLP has dissolved into a carnival with all manner of sideshows. There was the sideshow of Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller who claims he initially spoke out of ignorance. No surprise there. Still, he has climbed aboard the equality train, whether out of late conviction or quick convenience.
Labour Minister Shane Gibson claimed that he hadn’t seen the referendum questions and must not have been paying attention in the House when they were read. What might one glean from this of his interest in gender equality?
Then there was the onslaught by PLP backbenchers, with Fort Charlotte MP Dr. Andre Rollins, Marco City MP Greg Moss and Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells at open war with their party.
The internecine warfare in the PLP at times pitted cabinet members against backbenchers, with Moss and Gibson respectively, and Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damien Gomez trading barbs with Dr. Rollins.
The lead photo in this journal the day after Dr. Minnis’ flip flop was of Christie, head bent, eyes shut, with locked hands pressed against his forehead. What was running through his mind? Was he remembering how he abandoned Bahamian women and pulled the rug from under the FNM in 2002?
Despite having a well-earned black belt in flip flopping, Christie seemed stunned as Dr. Minnis’ demonstrated why he so quickly earned his black belt in the same art.
In stark contrast to the disastrous performance of Christie and Minnis, Long Island MP and FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler Turner has demonstrated leadership on this issue. She has been clear, calm and consistent.
In her contribution to the House debate and in the media she has proven articulate and passionate, demonstrating a complex of leadership skills Dr. Minnis lacks and which Christie has failed to show.
While Christie and Minnis often seem prone to following certain public opinion, Butler Turner appears to be the type of leader who is prepared to take on the task of moulding and shaping public opinion in pursuit of a desirable goal.
She articulated early and cogently the principles at stake:
“What we are debating is this: whether to allow all Bahamian parent-citizens, regardless of race, creed or sex, to pass on -- as a fundamental right -- citizenship to all of their children regardless of the circumstances of their birth.”
Butler Turner understands the politics and policy involved in the debate, seeking to forge consensus in various quarters while not losing sight of the end goal.
She has demonstrated good judgment and competence, proving that she has the mettle and leadership skills necessary to serve as Leader of the Opposition and as Prime Minister.
Butler Turner also spoke of the “cowardice and gross opportunism” displayed by Christie in 2002. Christie is now seeing some of that same opportunism displayed by some of his opponents, but not by Butler Turner.
Sir Milo Butler’s granddaughter is demonstrating courage and conviction forged in steel. While the spine and brains of some appear not to be connected, Butler Turner is demonstrating that she has a strong mind connected to an equally strong backbone.
She can be fiercely partisan in a contest of ideas and leadership, a necessary feature of our political system, but she can also be bipartisan when required in the best interest of the nation.
While Christie and Minnis have faltered terribly, Butler Turner is winning praise across the political spectrum and throughout the country for her leadership and astuteness.
An editorial in The Tribune and a letter to the editor in that journal on Monday past noted Butler Turner’s leadership.
The letter writer praised:
“I salute Loretta Butler-Turner for having the courage to stand by her convictions and not to capitulate to political pressure on the question of equal rights for women.
“Mrs. Butler Turner’s decision to rise above the political fray and to work with the government and the Constitutional Commission to iron out any anomalies in the Bills before the House took guts.
“She is to be commended for displaying a level of political maturity not often seen in the country.”
If the referendum passes, it will be in large measure because of the leadership of Butler Turner. If it fails, it will be due in part to Dr. Minnis’ blundering, incoherent and unfocused leadership.
The main architect of a failure to pass the amendments will be that of Christie who, by what he did in 2002 and by his performance today, may end up being written into history as one of the greatest barriers to gender equality in an independent Bahamas.