The federal payout to Omar Khadr was a big story in some conservative U.S. media outlets Monday, after nearly two weeks in which it had garnered barely a whisper south of the border.
It was the subject of a condemnatory national newspaper column, the top story on the Fox News website, fodder for cable-news chatter on Fox and a huge surge in interest by Americans online.
“This story is repulsive,” said a Fox News host. To which former pizza entrepreneur and presidential candidate Herman Cain replied: “It is a pathetic interpretation of the law. Canada basically rewarded a murderer.”
The burst of attention started with a Wall Street Journal piece by a Canadian opposition MP.
Conservative Peter Kent published a scorching op-ed titled, “A Terrorist’s Big Payday, Courtesy of Trudeau,” that helped the story gain traction elsewhere.
The item began with a description of Khadr killing an American army medic, Christopher Speer, when he was 15 years old and fighting alongside al-Qaida in Afghanistan. It explained how Khadr won a court fight in Canada over how he was treated by Canadian intelligence officials while detained at Guantanamo Bay, was repatriated to Canada, released on bail and sued the Canadian government for $20 million for violating his rights.
The Ontario MP criticized the Trudeau government for settling with Khadr, while the victim’s family got nothing.
By Monday afternoon, the issue was the No. 1 story on the Fox News website.
The political fallout from the Omar Khadr payout has largely been portrayed as a Liberal government vs. Conservative opposition issue – with Conservative leader Andrew Scheer taking a stand against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The NDP has managed to stay largely off the radar, despite being in the midst of a leadership race. Lucky for them.
Lucky because this has become a wedge issue that isn’t as easy for them as you might at first suspect.
It perfectly exemplifies the big split that exists among the rank-and-file of Canada’s left-wing party: the champagne socialists vs. the blue collar types.
The Angus Reid Institute poll on the matter showed 71% of Canadians opposed the government’s settlement deal with Khadr and would have preferred they tough it out and fight it in court.
When broken down by voter intention, the Conservative opposition was highest at 91%.
However 64% of NDP voters also rejected the deal, several points higher than the Liberal opposition, at 61%.
That’s a red flag to the NDP caucus and party grandees that this is one of those common sense issues where they risk upsetting a huge swath of their support if they play it wrong.
But it looks like they already know this.