Was Stephen Harper justified in attacking Justin Trudeau?

·Politics Reporter

It could very well be Justin Trudeau's first gaffe as leader of the Liberal Party.

Over the last couple days, the prime minister and Trudeau have been exchanging barbs about the latter's comments with regard to the Boston Marathon bombings.

Here's the exchange:

Trudeau, on Monday, only hours after the bombing:

"We have to look at the root causes. Now, we don’t know now if it was terrorism or a single crazy or a domestic issue or a foreign issue. But there is no question that this happened because there is someone who feels completely excluded. Completely at war with innocents. At war with a society. And our approach has to be, okay, where do those tensions come from?"

Harper about Trudeau's comments:

"When you see this type of violent act, you do not sit around trying to rationalize it or make excuses for it or figure out its root causes. You condemn it categorically, and to the extent you can deal with the perpetrators, you deal with them as harshly as possible."

Interestingly, Trudeau's spiel is not dissimilar to former Prime Minsister Jean Chretien's short rant after 9-11. In 2002, As explained by the Globe and Mail, Chretien seemed to suggest that the West must shoulder some of the responsibility for the horrific attacks in New York and Washington.

In a CBC interview taped in July and aired last night, Mr. Chrétien suggested the root causes of last year's Sept. 11 attacks were global poverty and an over-bearing American foreign policy.

"It's always the problem when you read history — everybody doesn't know when to stop. There's a moment when you have to stop, there's a moment when you are very powerful," he said.

Immediately following Sept. 11, Canadian politicians rejected the "root causes" argument, saying the attacks were the work of irrational fanatics that had nothing to do with legitimate grievances.

But Mr. Chrétien told CBC, religious fanatics are using the anger and resentment of the world's poor to fuel their terrorism.

"I do think that the Western world is getting too rich in relations to the poor world," he said.

"And necessarily, we're looked upon as being arrogant, self-satisfied, greedy and with no limits. And the 11th of September is an occasion for me to realize it even more."

What's old is new again.

Essentially Trudeau has given Stephen Harper and the Conservatives a new — but old — talking point: 'the Liberals are weak on crime and weak on terrorists.'

[ Related: Did the Liberals make the right choice in electing Justin Trudeau as their new leader? ]

It also, according to political analyst Gerry Nicholls, reinforces the other Conservative message of this week: 'Trudeau is in over his head.'

"Trudeau’s comments on the Boston bombing, revealed his chief weakness: he lacks political savvy," Nicholls told Yahoo! Canada News in an email exchange.

"When a violent attack occurs, voters don’t want a leader who will seek out the “root causes”, they want a leader who will get the bad guys."

Nicholls adds that Harper played the political advantage.

"Why shouldn’t Harper pounce on that mistake and amplify it and spin it for all it’s worth," he said.

"He’d be crazy not to."

[ Related: Do we need more security at public sporting events? ]

So, what do you think? Was Stephen Harper justified in attacking Justin Trudeau? Have your say in the comments area below.

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