Still obsessed with ‘top dog’ status

Some quirky twists and turns that seem to have constantly bedeviled Trinidad and Tobago’s government of the day (for one, pretending that the continued cabinet presence of a very tainted Jack Warner is perfectly normal) have tended to give Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her crew somewhat of a loose-cannon profile. But, perhaps enviably, no slouch in the realm of freakish behavior among the country’s politicians is the former prime minister, Patrick Manning. As if he hasn’t already done more than enough to humiliate himself, Manning appears determined to leave no doubt he constitutes one rare commingling of hubris and delusion, maybe rivaling anything resident in any political figure anywhere.

Most recently, Manning’s alternate-universe sensibility had him calling a news conference in the wake of an announcement of threats on the life of Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar and others in her government. Threats directed at a prime minister are more or less an occupational hazard, Manning told the assembled media folk, and the incumbent simply has to deal with it. Confoundingly, this was after the leader of Manning’s party and Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Keith Rowley, had been made privy to what occasioned the brouhaha over these alleged threats, and had publicly characterized the whole affair as little more than political manipulation. Manning’s concluding that he needed to be heard from, not by way of response to a press query but through his invitation to reporters to take in his discourse on the matter, only suggests that this man’s loosened grip on reality is, if anything, worse than one had thought.

If history is any guide, though, Manning would maintain that his actions here, as every other time, were totally within the bounds of convention. No different than when, as prime minister, he barged into that radio station to raise hell about something aired which offended him, and then compounded the outrage by saying any other citizen would have done likewise.

A half-baked mea culpa Manning issued sometime ago, while announcing that his current term as a member of Parliament would be his last, offered faint hope that he had come to realize the best he could do in the cause of his possible redemption was keep the lowest of low profiles until that promised sunset walk becomes a fair accompli. Not a chance, apparently. Prior to incomprehensibly deciding that the assassination threat scenario demanded his input, Manning had weighed in on the State of Emergency the government had declared in August and not only questioned its wisdom or effectiveness (as have many others) but in the ultimate “Is he for real?” declaration, he contended that the prime minister ought to call a general election (well shy of two years into the government’s term). The former prime minister’s disconnect level is such that the ludicrousness of any suggestion emanating from him about prematurely going to the polls evidently fails to register…even to a guy who had done precisely that early in 2010, promptly losing the People’s National Movement (PNM) control of the government.

More concerning is Manning’s presumed indifference to what these bizarre utterances of his intimate, both in their appearance of undermining Rowley’s authority and in the adverse effect, overall, on the PNM, recalling as they do the disarray Manning’s harebrained direction authored for the party. That he was able to become a one-man wrecking crew for the party he led has been a sore point since, and even before, Manning demitted office.

One frequently voiced view was that his leadership style and consolidation of power insulated him from removal – a view heretofore dismissed in this space as absolute nonsense. Rather, it was clear that no Rhodes Scholar smarts were necessary to realize that Manning’s train had run off the rails and having him continue in leadership of party and country could have no positive outcome. All of Trinidad and Tobago, it seemed, had so concluded. Although there has never been, to our knowledge, any public admission of culpability on the part of party folk who abdicated their responsibility to act decisively about Manning when this was indicated, it is at their feet that blame must be laid for the shellacking their party took in last year’s election.

In the immediate aftermath of his loss at the polls, Manning appeared to be of a mind to walk softly and carry no big stick. With time has come what might well be a hankering for the hallowed space of yesteryear…which seemingly would speak to a delusional state, if that’s what we have here. But there are those who see in the strange horn blasts from Manning these days nothing but the galloping arrogance readily discernible when he once strode the land, untouchable. Or so, sadly, was he made to feel.

So now Manning summons the media to sound off, where doing so is harmful, including to himself. What’s driving this new spurt for center-stage attention? Does this manifest a late-arriving sense of loss of the mojo that was? Or is the explanation more readily to be found in a top-dog combativeness whose ferocity ranked with the best of them? Whatever, we stand by our previous assessment that the former prime minister could use a friend capable of spewing, without retort, a number of cold truths that Manning has obviously been unable or unwilling, on his own, to process.

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