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Pierre Elliott Trudeau:

'Aggressively, un-Canadianly immodest'

Friday, September 29, 2000

World leaders remembered former prime minister Pierre Trudeau as someone who made a mark in international affairs.

U.S. President Bill Clinton said Mr. Trudeau opened "a dynamic new era" in Canada.

"As prime minister for nearly a generation, Pierre Trudeau opened a dynamic new era in Canadian politics and helped establish Canada's unique imprint on the global stage," Mr. Clinton said in a written statement.

Mr. Clinton said he was "deeply saddened" to learn of Mr. Trudeau's death and he offered condolences on behalf of the American people. "I know his passing will be felt by all Canadians," Mr. Clinton said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair offered his condolences on Mr. Trudeau's death in a note yesterday to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

"He was a prime minister with vision, political courage and great personal style. We mourn his passing," Mr. Blair said. "He will be remembered with affection by his many friends in this country.

An obituary in today's New York Times noted that "Trudeau was propelled into power in June, 1968, by an enthusiastic electoral surge that came to be known as Trudeaumania, a political equivalent to the paroxysms evoked by the rise of the Beatles."

(The ex-Beatle John Lennon once said, "If all politicians were like Mr. Trudeau, there would be world peace.")

The New York Times also wrote that "long after he left office, Canadian politics were still being pursued within the national agenda he had shaped."

The Times said, "Trudeau supervised the process by which the country replaced its ties to Britain with a constitution of its own. He fostered economic and cultural nationalism that often put him and his country at odds with the leadership of Canada's only neighbour."

On the world stage, the Times noted, "Trudeau recognized Communist China long before the United States did. He led sometimes quixotic campaigns for world peace and nuclear disarmament while allying himself closely with such Socialist leaders as Olof Palme of Sweden, Willy Brandt of Germany and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania."

The obituary added, "In his heyday, Pierre Trudeau ran his country with a panache that was aggressively and un-Canadianly immodest. He wore rakish hats, drove sports cars, flaunted his learning and his wit, dated celebrities like Barbra Streisand, toured the discos, married a former flower child much younger than himself and once, in an act of apparent insouciance, was photographed as he pirouetted alone in Buckingham Palace while other guests walked off to meet Queen Elizabeth.

"In a country so devoted to understatement, Trudeau's ascendancy marked a radical departure. His success was compared to the transformation of presidential style and leadership that took place eight years earlier in Washington when John F. Kennedy was elected president."

The obituary in The Boston Globe described Mr. Trudeau as "easily the most famous and controversial Canadian leader of this century." It added a postscript perhaps not shared in this country, that Mr. Trudeau's legacy "like that of John F. Kennedy, the American president to whom he was most frequently compared, is more one of style than substance."

The Boston newspaper also said: "Most of Trudeau's major policies, from massive deficit spending on ambitious federal social projects to disengagement from the United States, have largely been reversed since he stepped down from the leadership for the last time in 1984. His rather haughty anti-Americanism never sat too well even with his supporters, and the free-trade policies embraced by his successors have moved the country ever closer into the American economic embrace from which he sought to lead the country.

"Trudeau once told an American audience: "Living next to you is like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered the beast, one is affected by every twitch and grunt."

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