“The word is, and I checked it out and it’s true, Brian Mulroney is bringing out his own memoirs a year from now,” Newman said.
Newman, who spent 20 years conducting 330 interviews with Mulroney from his early forays in politics right through his time in office and afterwards, decided he had to get his unexpurgated work out first, lest it be lost behind a sanitized “official” account.
Newman’s version portrays a Mulroney who is vain, profane and cutting towards his rivals and perceived enemies. It also lauds the former prime minister’s achievements and a legislative record that saw the country remade by the Free Trade Agreement, the GST and even his failed, but noble attempts at national unity.
Mulroney was propelled into office with 211 seats — more than any other prime minister — and left Ottawa with some of the lowest polling numbers ever recorded. Newman predicts a Mulroney memoir won’t succeed in swaying Canadians to a new appreciation of the man.
“I can’t imagine that he’ll do a good book because he’s always trying to explain himself in a way that didn’t work when he was in office. It’s not going to work now.”
The “secret” part of the title refers to the fact that Newman kept his taped interviews and their insights to himself for decades.
He says he found Mulroney’s tendency to over-dramatize things to be a serious flaw in the man.
“There are people like that,” he said. “They are so convinced that history works on their side and events happened the way they wished they had happened or the way that they should have happened instead of the way they actually happened.
“That’s why it would have been so difficult to write a history based strictly on his interviews, because they didn’t always tally with the facts.”
Much of the book is simply transcripts of Mulroney’s musings about the people, events and issues of his time, interspersed with Newman’s comments and explanations of context.
Mulroney ranges from the thoughtful to the scatological. He is, by turns, jocular, statesman-like and vicious.
He savages journalists and politicians he sees as disloyal. He is brusque in dismissing those he sees as lightweights, although he demonstrates repeatedly his sense of loyalty. “Ya dance with the one that brung ya.”
The book recounts his obsessions with the media and with Pierre Trudeau, who he depicts as a dark and conspiratorial figure working behind the scenes to undermine him.
He said Trudeau’s “contribution was not to build Canada but to destroy it, and I had to come in and save it.”
Mulroney is concerned about his place in history and often compares himself with Sir. John A. Macdonald.