"Mulroney will triumph in the court of public opinion because he's up against Karlheinz Schrieber. If he were up against no one, he would lose."
--John Ivison, Nat Post, Dec 14 '07
I'm not so sure. A Breakfast Television poll may give early indication, and it was running better than 75% against Mulroney. I doubt Karlheinz Schrieber would have come out better in a poll answered by the same people, but see here's the thing: people do not necessarily and invariably choose sides in an adversarial contest. Sometimes they say 'a plague on both your houses'. They're particularly likely to despise, more or less equally, two adversaries who've had a bitter falling out, but were questionably allied for an uncomfortable length of time. As Ivison points out at the top of this article, Mulroney began by calling Schrieber's allegations 100% false and ended by citing the man as a character witness: "[Schrieber] told the Toronto Sun that accusations of bribery against Brian Mulroney were as much a hoax as the Hitler Diaries." Not a word-for-word quote I suspect, since it lacks that curious Karlheinz broken English flare: but it's syntactically and referentially challenged enough; 'twil serve.
(Incidentally years ago I saw an interview on television with one of the people who exposed those diaries as a fake, and he said they were written in ballpoint pen. With camouflage that cunning it's hardly a surprise they fooled so many of the world's major news bureaux for so long.)
Then again in his opening remarks Mulroney only said Schrieber's allegations in the affidavit that led to the inquiry were "completely false". Perhaps Schrieber has superstitions against lying to reputable newsmen? no wait, this was the Toronto Sun, he'd have to have reservations against lying to journalists of any kind. But I imagine the three envelopes of cash were cited in the affidavit, and Mulroney contests only the amount--75,000, not one hundred thousand. That allegation, then, is at least 75% true.
And there's a difficulty with Mulroney's claim. The amount he declared for tax purposes, six years later than he ought to have filed, was three hundred thousand. This was the amount admitted to by Mulroney and his press liaison, and I've never heard them contest it since. If he was given 75,000 a pop along with the coffee which was all he admitted to at the time of the airbus lawsuit, he met Schrieber four times. In which case it's a coin toss whose account is nearer the truth.
(Or was this the amount the Mulroney team admitted to at the beginning of all this pother? Commentators are already taking Mulroney's revision as read, which means either my memory is cloudy or theirs is convenient. I was pretty sure that's what I'd read though, and that I'd read it in statements from the Mulroney team as well as Schrieber. Did Mulroney take the totals Schrieber initially gave on faith, until he'd counted the amounts still left in the safety deposit boxes and checked them against expenditures?)
This is a problem likely to persist throughout Mulroney's testimony. Given the number of half truths, quarter truths and evasions both have insisted on as the whole truth and nothing but, is he or Karlheinz Schrieber more to be believed? At best you could give a shade or a shaving to one or the other on this point or that. And you'd be speculating at that. Give Mulroney maximum benefit of the doubt at every point and what do you come up with? Maybe not as dishonest as Karlheinz Schrieber. There's an accolade. Add in that your first known association with Karlheinz Schrieber was in 1983, when he spearheaded a team backing your successful bid for the Conservative Party leadership, which led to a ten year term in the PMO, during all which time you insist there was never any payback to a man who doesn't do favours withot expecting payback--well, I'd say the old legacy's pretty much built.
C 2007 Martin Heavisides