Lou Dobbs and the Canadian Menace

CNN host bores in on the BC drug tunnel and more threats.

By Steve Burgess 4 Aug 2005 |

Steve Burgess is a freelance writer and the author of Who Killed Mom?, published in 2011 by Greystone Books.

Born in Norwalk Ohio, home of the famous virus, Steve was raised in Regina, SK, and Brandon, MB. He writes a regular column for The Tyee, often reviewing films but also, sometimes, detailing his hilarious world travels for Tyee readers. Steve is a former CBC Radio host and has won two National Magazine Awards. He has also won three Western Magazine Awards.

Reporting Beat: Travel, pop culture, politics, cobbling, knife sharpening, furnace repair.

Twitter: @steveburgess1

Website: Steve Burgess

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Start digging in the dirt and who knows where you’ll end up? Our little underground border tunnel led us straight to the waiting arms of CNN’s Lou Dobbs.

That ingenious little drug conduit, dug from a Langley house to one in Lynden, Washington and recently busted by RCMP, has gained the kind of US media attention that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman can only envy. Even Jon Stewart’s Daily Show joked about it. Softwood lumber disputes, mad-cow border closings—they get nada in the US press, and suddenly one little backyard project gets the media spotlight squarely on Canada. We should have dug cross-border tunnels to smuggle lumber and cattle—maybe then we could have merited some attention.

But this story is different. For once, Canadians are messing with national security. And that attracts the gimlet eye of Lou Dobbs.

‘Pompous protectionist?’

For Dobbs, host of CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight, the threat level from America’s enemies is always red hot. Those enemies do not merely include terrorists—Dobbs wages an endless battle against all external threats to America’s well-being, chiefly illegal immigrants from Mexico and young Indians working in Mumbai call centres. Dobbs is habitually outraged by any transfer of jobs to other countries. His regular feature Exporting America (now a best-selling book!) bemoans globalization from the opposite end of the spectrum occupied by WTO protesters. American companies, he feels, should create jobs for American workers. Outsourcing is tantamount to theft. Whether Dobbs feels equal outrage when Toyota or Hyundai build plants in America—thereby presumably stealing jobs from Japanese and Korean workers—is hard to say. He never complains about that. To Lou Dobbs, apparently, every job should be an American job.

Dobbs has his critics among US economists. His constant attacks on China earned a recent rebuke from Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Andrew Cassel, who called Dobbs “pompous” and “protectionist.”

The Lou Dobbs Tonight program usually attempts to cover the major news stories of the day. Eventually though, Dobbs will turn his attention to some feature investigation. Predicting the theme of these investigations is about as difficult as guessing the outcome of a Harlequin romance. There will be foreigners involved—usually sneaking into the country to steal coveted laundry-room or fruit-picking jobs while Americans go hungry. His ongoing series “Broken Borders” regularly points the finger at lax security and creeping invasion.

Plain scary

Watching Lou Dobbs Tonight is a bit like reading the Plain Truth magazine. That publication, the official organ of the late Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, purports to be a newsmagazine and features cover stories about world events. Casual observers might notice, however, that cover stories in the Plain Truth frequently involve the European Common Market. A quick read reveals that the activities of the EU represent the inexorable rise of one world government and the coming of the Anti-Christ. Hence the Plain Truth’s understandable fixation on the topic.

Dobbs is fixated, too. Thus it was no surprise when he recently re-discovered Canada, via the drug tunnel. Gravely he intoned his message, while images of the subterranean Abbotsford passageway played behind him. Canada, so long under the radar, had finally emerged into the floodlit glare of American security concerns.

The recent sentencing of Ahmed Ressam, busted while attempting to cross into Washington State to execute a murderous bombing plot, underscores the fact that American security concerns are often genuine. And a drug-smuggling tunnel is certainly a sufficient novelty to attract the attention of restless media sensation-seekers. But with all our legitimate cross-border concerns, it is a sad little joke to see what it takes to put Canada in the US news these days.

Maybe our ambassador Frank McKenna should get himself a shovel.

Watching CNN is part of Steve Burgess’s job as at-large critic for The Tyee.  [Tyee]

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