People may wonder why Kinsella's masturbatory blog has been sitting for more than a day with a cartoon making fun of Jan Wong. Here's the reason: the column where she made Kinsella into lunch. It came out in the fall of 2001, just after the launch of Kicking Ass in Politics:
Warren Kinsella is "someone that politicians across Canada know, admire, love or loathe . . . and fear." At least, they do according to the press release promoting his new book, Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics .
But mention his name to a non-politician, and the reaction is: Isn't that Evelyn Lau's boyfriend? No, that would be W. P. Kinsella, an aging writer, who several years back had a very litigious breakup with Lau, a youthful writer.
Ask if he's even related to W.P., this Kinsella nearly chokes on his Diet Coke. "Not a [f-word deleted] chance," he says. "He's this Reform Party reptile."
Not that this Kinsella has anything against sharp-toothed animals. For his part, he'd like to be known as "the Liberal Party's resident pit-bull politico." (See same press release, which, by the way, also describes him as the "master of the Liberal war room" and "the architect for the Grit victory.")
He also wouldn't mind being called "Canada's own Prince of Darkness." (See book jacket.)
But perhaps Kinsella, 41, is merely a legend in his own mind. At this lunch at Toronto's Patriot Restaurant, a kick-ass question is put to Kinsella: Are you actually a nobody masquerading as a somebody?
He grimaces, especially when reminded what a reporter at Canada's Other National Newspaper wrote. "Mr. Kinsella was not the 'architect for the Grit victory.' He was not 'the master' of the war room. In private moments, he has even been known to admit as much,' " the reporter, Paul Wells, wrote in the National Post last June.
"I really thought Paul was an [a-word deleted] for doing that," Kinsella says. "I wanted to murder him at first. I mean, to push a theory using information I provided."
But isn't Kinsella supposed to be the master of the spin? So much for kicking ass. At lunch, he orders a lamb burger, fries and a second Diet Coke. He's wearing a charcoal J. P. Crew blazer, crisp white shirt and faded jeans, the dress code for lawyers at McMillan Binch in Toronto. At 6 foot 1, his grey hair is receding, though he goes to rock concerts whenever possible.
Kinsella got into politics as a speechwriter for Jean Chretien, a man who famously can't read a speech. "Part of this guy's appeal is that he's unscripted," Kinsella says diplomatically. In his book, he calls the Prime Minister "a truly remarkable guy."
Currently, Kinsella is a paid lobbyist in Ottawa for Random House, the publisher of his book. In his past, he was an executive assistant to David Dingwall, then federal rninister of public works and government services. He was also a legal adviser to Frank magazine, which he now detests because he's been caught in its satirical cross hairs.
But Kinsella's main claim to fame is that he played "key roles" (see book jacket) in two Chretien election campaigns. The emphasis is on the word "claim." He wasn't the main organizer, someone else ran the "war room," nor was he in charge of opposition research.
But he was usually available to appear on television. His big moment came when he mocked Stockwell Day's beliefs about creationism by flashing a purple plush dinosaur on live TV. Even so, the Barney stunt was someone else's idea.
"I say that in the book," Kinsella says a tad defensively.
Alas, his magic touch didn't work when he ran as a Liberal for Parliament in North Vancouver in 1997.
So much for kicking ass.
"I got clobbered," Kinsella says, modestly adding, "I was also probably too controversial for some people." He's referring to the accusation, by the Reform incumbent, that the Liberals parachuted Kinsella into the riding. He had lived there less than a year when he ran for office.
In his book, Kinsella styles himself after James Carville, the squinty-eyed Democratic operative whose own wife says he looks like an axe murderer. (Okay, she works for the Republicans.) For his part, Kinsella happily points out that his wife, Suzanne, who attended a private girls school in Montreal, once worked for Brian Mulroney and that her father was Mulroney's law partner.
But Kinsella is no Carville. The press kit for Kicking Ass offers an "insider's" list of "dirty tricks." At lunch, we go through the checklist one by one.
Did he monitor an opponent's cellphone conversations? "No." Did he steal documents? "No."
Did he disrupt opponents' events by calling in cancellations to hotels? "No." Did he dumpster-dive for scandalous garbage? "No."
"Random House did that list," he concludes lamely. "You get caught. It's not worth it."
So much for kicking ass.
His lamb burger arrives, oozing grilled peppers, onions and sauce. Kinsella grabs it with both hands and tries to take a bite. He can't quite get his jaw around it. "My mouth isn't big enough," he says. Too late, he realizes he's just uttered a quote for the ages. He stops talking about the food, pushes off the bun and proceeds to eat the burger with a knife and fork.
The son of a doctor at Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital, Kinsella attended the Jesuit-run Loyola High School. At 15, his family moved to Calgary, where he played in a rock band. Later, he took a four-year journalism degree at Carleton University, working summers at the Calgary Herald and the Ottawa Citizen. He studied law at the University of Calgary.
At McMillan Binch colleagues had hoped that he would bring in lots of government-related work. But Kinsella hasn't exactly been a rainmaker: He bills about 1,800 hours a year, average, not fabulous, but not so low he's in danger. Kinsella does appear on television frequently, a feat he touts on his Web site. Within nine hours of the birth of his fourth child, he was flogging his new book on a morning show. The paid announcement in The Globe and Mail began, "As previously announced on Canada AM . . . Warren and Suzanne . . . are delighted to welcome another miracle . . ."
Asked how the birth went, Kinsella takes another bite of burger. "Great this time. You see, we're infertile." Emma, of mixed Inuit and native Indian descent, was adopted in Whitehorse. Ben was the product of in-vitro fertilization. "Sam was an expensive dinner in the Eastern Townships," Kinsella says, adding that Jake, the new baby, was a surprise.
In an e-mail announcing Jake's birth, Kinsella added this promotional twist: "To ensure that Jake et al receive a solid post-secondary education, mother Suzanne . . . insisted that father Warren go ahead with a scheduled book promotion spot Kicking Ass in Canadian Politics available now at bookstore near you) . . . Kinsella, who hopes to run again for public office some day, draws no sharp line between public and private life.