The visit was treated like a fairy tale in the media, reminiscent of the days of JFK. The 'royal' visit by the new Canadian dynasty, Trudeau father to Trudeau son, created a collective sigh of nostalgia and envy among Americans, whose political life looks bleak in comparison. Pierre Trudeau dominated Canadian politics from the late 1960s till the 1980s, and the stage is set for the princely reign of his son in the 2010s and 2020s.
What kind of relationship is in store for the two countries as the equally legendary US president retires this year? Trudeau made no comment about the current primary battles of the Republicans and Democrats, but had much to say of interest to Americans during the crucial primary season. He explained how in his own campaign last summer, he refused to indulge in negative ads, scare tactics or personal attacks, despite the Conservative dirty tricks. Canadians were growing tired of being cynical about politics, he told a student audience.
"That is a perfect narrative for the politics of fear and aggression, and yet it's me sitting here as prime minister of Canada and not Stephen Harper," he said, a subtle warning against Republican scare mongering. "The answer is not to tell people who are angry that they are wrong, but rather to understand the reasons underlying their fears, anger and anxiety and then work together to face challenges." Princely wisdom.
At their joint news conference, Obama recalled that Trudeau--like Obama seven years before--had come to power on a message of hope and change. Obama, who was only 47 years old when he was elected, has emerged as a role model for the 45-year-old Trudeau, just as Justin is starting his own rule.
Trudeau likes the family analogy, toasting the two nations as "siblings" at the White House dinner. "To be able to count on a friend who has lived through many of the things I am about to encounter on the political stage, on the international stage, is a great comfort to me. I'm always pleased to hear from President Obama about how he's dealt with difficult issues of the past because he is a man of both tremendous heart and tremendous intellect."