Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Delightful Dismemberment of the Liberal Hopescape Part 1

I have been reticent to comment on the Liberal leadership. It is not that I don't have a horse in the race, I do and I will explain my choice in this series of blog posts. However, the rhetoric that is surrounding this race in the blogosphere is ridiculous. Valid criticisms of leadership candidates have been decried as disloyal to the party or unfair. There are valid reasons for supporting any of the three hopefuls for leadership. There are also valid criticisms to be made of all three candidates. One of the lessons that we should have learned from M. Dion's tenure, is that we must be prepared to counter the Tory spin that is going to come our way. Given our limited resources, there is only so much spin we can counter. Without any further ado, my thoughts on the leadership candidates. This post will focus on Mr. Ignatieff. My posts on Mr. Rae and Mr. Leblanc will follow shortly. I am dividing this so that this post isn't ridiculously long.

Michael Ignatieff: Iggy, as he is known, is at it again. The American flag appears to have mostly disappeared from around his shoulders and with the war in Iraq slightly less of a bloody disaster than it was two years ago, Mr. Ignatieff is hoping that he can waltz into Strornoway without so much as a fight. I am not buying the Iggy spin that he is somehow an inevitable leader. We have no way of knowing how much support a given candidate has until the vote of the party membership in March. If you recall last time around Mr. Ignatieff's supporters thought they were going to come out super weekend with 40% of the delegates. They emerged with less than 30% and didn't reach 40% until the final ballot. Ask Hillary Clinton how inevitability worked out for her. There is a race to run and a decision to be made. An examination of each of the candidates is required. First the positives.

Mr. Ignatieff is a man of significant intelligence. He has studied the world for his entire life and would be comfortable governing in a globalized world. He has assembled an impressive team behind him. He has done an admirable job in the thankless task of opposition. He certainly knows the value of an attacking soundbite and under his leadership, the party would likely do well in question period. However, this is not enough.

I simply do not trust Mr. Ignatieff's judgment. On the issue of foreign policy, the issue that he is supposed to be most familiar he made a blunder of epic proportions two years ago and one that simply cannot be ignored. His contradictory statements on the bombing in Qana showed a man without political tact. He managed to offend both Muslims and Jews not by taking a classically Liberal position but by attempting to take two contradictory extreme positions. There are a lot of reasons why Jews have begun to leave the Liberal party. The Conservatives certainly deserve some credit. However, when Mr. Ignatieff accused Israel of war crimes in the middle of the last leadership it confirmed for many people of my faith what they already erroneously believed: the Liberal Party is anti-Israel. It is a myth. We have been a party that is pro-peace, an honest broker. What the Qana crisis demonstrates is Mr. Ignatieff's inability to think through, politically, his words. As an academic, which is what Mr. Ignatieff has been most of his life, his comments on Qana were fairly mundane, even reconcilable. As a politician, they were disastrous.

The lack of judgment continues today. Mr. Ignatieff has called for a policy conference after the leadership convention. This is unbelievably stupid. There will be of course a policy conference in Vancouver concurrent with the leadership convention. It will be the culmination of two years of policy efforts made by local and provincial Liberal associations. If Mr. Ignatieff wants ideas for his platform, he should take from that forum and encourage his supporters to dedicate some of their seemingless boundless energy for the policy proces as it already exists. Not only would a second policy conference be redundant it would be expensive and divisive. We are not a rich party as we once were. We cannot afford to be holding superfluous conferences when we should be worried about fundraising and building our party in parts of the country where it has fallen off the map. We also are a party with wide ranging views. There are few issues where Liberals actually agree. That is why all three leadership candidates have been decidedly vague in their platforms. We are not a party with a uniting ideology and as such we often have legitimate disagreements over policy. This wouldn't change after the leadership. In fact, it would be an excellent forum for rival camps to continue the bloodletting of leadership. It is the last thing the party needs.

Finally, we must consider what the optics will be, if we elect Mr. Ignatieff. The voters say to us we don't want an academic, with no political judgment who supports a carbon tax and what do we give them? An academic, with no political judgment who supported a carbon tax. I have heard the argument that all three men are learned and therefore academics. This misses the point. Mr. Rae and Mr. Leblanc are politicians. They have spent the majority of their professional lives in politics, either elected or in the backroom. Mr. Ignatieff was, for most of his career, an academic. As was M. Dion. To quote Joe Biden "That's not change, that's more of the same."


Anonymous said...

Though I don't agree with some of the above, I agree that people, including Liberals should be able to voice concern or criticism of the candidates.

I foresee certain Ignatieff supporters rebuking you.


Anonymous said...

Catchy title, interesting perspective, awaiting further installments.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the scott ross. Piling onto the Ignatieff campaign because he looks like the "winner" is a shortcut that doesn't work. We need to start over, analyse all the candidates, the strengths and weaknesses. Baggage is still baggage and permanent baggage does not go away. Just because some Liberals will ignore baggage because someone may have the lead, does not mean Conservatives or the Canadian public will ignore the baggage. Liberals need to be better prepared than this and scrutinize all the candidates properly.

Andrea said...

Ignatieff's proposed "policy conference" is a waste of time. Over the past two years, grassroots Liberals across this country have worked hard to develop policy. THEIR opinions should be valued most by the coming leader. Understandably, the leadership candidates will be working for their own purposes at the convention. I would hope proper time is taken, by all three candidates, to speak with the policy authors and stakeholders. Then, when a leader is chosen and policy is passed it will be a reflection of the hard work done by Liberal volunteers.

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