Think tanks are generally safe places to give speeches. Sure, you may get a rogue audience member asking bizarre questions, or a mildly tense exchange among panelists, but softball questions usually reign. Usually being the operative word.
The US Ambassador to Canada ran into a very awkward situation at a Canadian think tank (hey, aren't Canadians supposed to be friendly to the US?), leaving Think Tank Watch wondering if he will take a "think tank pause" for a few months while he recovers.
The Washington Post column In The Loop has some more details:
Seems it’s been a bit of a rough patch of late for our man in Ottawa, Bruce Heyman, a mega-bundler who formerly was with Goldman Sachs in Chicago. It began last month when the ambassador gave his first big speech at a think-tank dinner.
The speech, judging from the audience applause, went over quite well. But then came a Q&A with Canada’s former ambassador to Washington, Frank McKenna, who said he wanted to ask about some “irritants:” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement; a Detroit area bridge connecting the two countries; and, of course, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline taking oil from Canada down to the Gulf Coast.
That part didn’t go well. Not at all. And it garnered Heyman a blistering attack in the Wall Street Journal and in the Canadian press, calling his comments an “egregious insult” and offensive. An attendee told us he found the remarks “patronizing” and “condescending.” (It should be noted that the Canadians, while unquestionably the nicest people on the planet, are quick to take offense when they perceive they are belittled by their southern neighbor.)
The think tank referenced in the article is Canada 2020, which is based in Ottawa. Canada 2020 considers itself an independent, progressive think tank. You can watch a video of the think tank event here.