You can call Jean Charest a lot of bad things, but even his enemies understand that his political instincts are unrivalled in this province.
Given the pressure to call an inquiry into corruption, Charest understands that doing so would not only spell the end of his government, but would likely hurt the party for years to come.
So he has decided to do nothing. For him and the party it's the only logical decision, even in the face of overwhelming pressure.
One only has to look back to the Paul Martin government and the foolish decision to launch an inquiry into the sponsorship scandal.
Martin felt he was on solid ground, he wasn't responsible for the mess and felt that the public would understand. It was better to clear the air. In his autobiography Martin wrote;
"I wanted to make it clear that we had nothing to hide and would not sweep anything under the rug"Proof positive that even Prime Ministers can be fools.
How badly he overestimated the public. How badly he underestimated the political fallout.
Did he honestly believe that nobody would be made to pay?
Jean Chretien, the last great political operator on the federal scene, summed it up succinctly when he commented that Martin was indeed better off sweeping the whole thing under the rug, because no matter how big the bump underneath, the alternative was worse.
That my friends is politics. Chretien and Charest are consummate pros, while Martin an amateur.
So, dear reader, are you outraged? You think Martin showed courage?
In life nice guys finish last, in politics nice guys don't even finish the race.
Again, if you are angry with this point of view, remember, it was the public that destroyed the Martin government, over a Jean Chretien affair.
And so in spite of all, Jean Charest maintains his control over his caucus while bungling Steven Harper is losing control of his.
Considering the positions of the two leaders, it's quite an achievement.
So what is Jean Charest thinking and what is he telling his caucus?
First, he's told them to forget about an inquiry. It will never happen under his watch. He's reminding them that it would destroy them all.
Then he's telling them that things are not as bad as portrayed in the press. The polls are actually quite close and all the negative publicity is brewed by a separatist press.
If he pulls off a by-election win next week, (and it's likely he will) it will be a stunning reversal of fortune. The press will have to admit that he is far from dead. The caucus will eat it up.
Never mind that it took a two billion dollar pork project to seal the deal.
But the real gamble is this.
Charest is placing all his money on the police investigations into corruption turning something up. The rumours are saying that there will be arrests. If this happens next year it will be a game changer.
If the arrests happen and people are hauled into court Charest will crow that his course of action was solid.
Under the best case scenario, the crooks will take a deal, plead guilty and admit they were fixing construction prices without bleeding over the government.
The public will be somewhat satisfied. Not the pequistes, but the Liberal base and that's what counts.
It all comes down to a gamble, but when you are down by a lot of goals in a hockey game, it's time to take risks.
Can he pull it off?
Time will tell.