And the Black Rod is made of chocolate!

Colby Cosh feels sorry for Bob Rae

by Colby Cosh

After some hours trying to decipher Angelo Persichilli’s column about the Château Laurier Conspiracy, I think I’ve found the key. One must disconnect Persichilli’s speculation about What It All Means from his actual reporting. It seems likely he overheard or was given access to audio of some genuine conversation, though the whole account is slathered in enough passive-voice sauce to turn anybody’s stomach. Ignore the carefully placed buttresses to the story’s authority and importance, like “This was not an isolated meeting between a few MPs”, and what you’re left with is… an isolated meeting between a few MPs, who bellyache tipsily while Bob Rae listens politely and encourages frank discussion but strongly insists he is not interested in a coup.

This is exactly what you would expect Bob Rae to do if he were a completely loyal lieutenant with no ambitions of his own whatsoever, intent solely on serving as his leader’s eyes and ears. It is also exactly what you would expect Bob Rae to do if he were planning a lightning coup for the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Most likely, Bob Rae is just what you think he is: an ambitious fellow forced to play a difficult hand, one who may be happy to profit from a regicide but is fully aware that he who draws the dagger rarely survives to wallow in the glory.

Beyond the facts, the column is full of fairly innocuous propositions disguised as dramatic disclosures. Succession to the leadership is a “dominant theme of discussion” in the Liberal Party? Well, sure, that’s what political parties are: machines for ensuring that aligned political interests stick together if something happens to the leader. I promise you that succession to the Conservative leadership is a pretty frequent subject of table-talk when Conservatives get together. (And, in fact, it’s a strength of the Liberal Party, not a weakness, that it has a lot of semi-credible successors around.)

And Persichilli “wouldn’t be surprised” if Ignatieff retreated to his “beloved academic world” at any moment? So who would be? The Liberals imported that danger/hope as part of the package deal when they dragged Ignatieff back from Harvard. Persichilli, I feel, is merely reminding us of the facts of life in a way that makes his eavesdropping seem fraught with urgency and electricity.

The more I concentrated on what is truly knowable and relevant in Persichilli’s story, the more I felt sorry for Bob Rae. Imagine having to stand there, nodding and smiling and nursing a schnapps, while you pretend to take the strategic judgment of Ruby Dhalla and Carolyn “Body Bags” Bennett oh so seriously. To what Christmas fantasy did his mind drift off while Dhalla, an ISO-certifiable ninny, was waxing obnoxious about the party “not doing enough to nurture the next generation of leaders”? Did he dream of being elected Santa Claus, passing in his crimson finery through the gingerbread doors of the Elf Parliament as the Candy-Cane Peace Tower glimmered in the night sky?




Browse

And the Black Rod is made of chocolate!

  1. Well put.

  2. Not so well put.

    "And, in fact, it's a strength of the Liberal Party, not a weakness, that it has a lot of semi-credible successors around."

    Thanks for not naming names here, I was reading this with my morning coffee and your discretion avoided an unfortunate mishap with my computer screen and spewing coffee.

    Chantal Hébert and Angelo Persichilli have both been reporting on the internal rumblings of discontent with Michael Ignatieff within the Liberal Party. They also happen to be two of the best and most credible politcal columnists in Canada. Those who can read French, forget Kady O'Malley, you want to know what's going on – go to "Le Blogue de Chantal Hébert."

    They're not making this up. They're too professional and too connected for that to be the case.

    • Oh, I believe there is discontent all right. But what action can be taken about it, and are those actions plausible? People's bad feelings about Ignatieff, irrespective of the opportunity costs of doing something about them, aren't the point at all.

      • Great Post.

        The use of unnamed sources about "insiders", "high level" bellyachers has been going on forever. If anything good has come of the naming of "bellyachers" is MI can't pretend he does not have his short list for "coal" in the stockings.

        He can follow the advice from Susan like Chretien and punish those "loose lips" or not.

        Have a Merry Christmas.

      • "while you pretend to take the strategic judgment of Ruby Dhalla and Carolyn “Body Bags” Bennett …"

        It's like listening to high school mean girls dissing their nemeses in the 3rd floor girls bathroom.

        Albertans must take courses in this in this some place.

    • I have to assume Chantal and Angelo average out to two of the most credible columnists in Canada. As in, 1.8+0.2 = 2.

      • 1.8+0.2 = 2 but 2/2 = 1 to get an average over two scores. However, math impaired the gibe was, it was still very funny.

  3. One more thing. There's so many reasons why Ignatieff's leadership within the Liberal Party is in peril. One could write a book about it.

    One reason which I think looms large was when he hung Coderre out to dry last September. Coderre was his key ally in Quebec, not without his faults mind you, but a key ally nonetheless. And Iggy threw him under the bus during a skirmish with the Rae/Desmarais/Chretien crowd.

    How do you think Iggy's other loyal troops felt after that one? Iggy in one stroke emoldened the Rae faction and sent the message to his own troops that he wouldn't defend them in a fight.

    Loyalty is the glue of politics. something Iggy apparently doesn't understand, at his own peril, as it were.

    • Coderre easily matches the Persichilli gold standard of credibility.

      • So, um Paul, a few of us were wondering… whaddya think of this Persichelli journalist, anyways? No, no, don't hold back…

    • Coderre "not without his faults"!?, that is as understated as "Jim Jones' kool-aid had a bit of an aftertaste".

    • Like "allies" like Coderre, Ignatieff doesn't need friends. That was definitely addition by subtraction.

  4. A certain Globe & Mail reporter used to write columns about the "Dump Harper" movement building within the Conservative Party. She even had in her possession copies of letters by "top Conservative organizers from the Toronto area", from which she quoted liberally (no pun intended) to back up her claims. It was all hot air. I believe this is too. The Liberals would NOT be so suicidal to attempt a coup so soon after making Ignatieff leader. I'll readily concede that patience isn't what it used to be. John Turn was leader through two election losses and still he hung on for two more years – let's see any party keep a leader around that long today. But this talk of yet another Liberal leadership revolt is bordering on absurd. Discontent? Yes. Impatience? Certainly. Back room meetings discussing how to turn things around? Absolutely. None of this means Ignatieff's job is in jeopardy. That will happen after he loses an election.

    • Turner hung around for so long because no one else had the kajones to take on Mulroney. Chretien, like all other self-serving, opportunistic Liberals, stepped forward when it was obvious that Mulroney's and the PC's fortunes were on the wain. Patience with the leader had little to do with it.

    • Oh, I believe they are aching to make changes and time, truly, is not on their side….but BOB RAE?

    • let's see any party keep a leader around that long today.

      Hello, Mr. or Ms. Ranter? Joan McClintock from the New Democratic Party. Please hold for Mr. Jack Layton…

  5. Gosh, how unusual for a politician to go back to law, teaching or whatever his/her professional life was before politics.

    A far a reporting, this kind of garbage is not reporting. It's opinion only.

    Journalists use this secret source stuff too often. The reader is at the mercy of the writer. The writer can take an insignificant babble or two and blow it all out of proporation, claim secret source, and the reader has no way of knowing how truthful it is.

    It's not like journos haven't been wrong before.

  6. Thanks Colby Cash! Angelo Persichilli is the quintessential 'lazy' reporter/columnist who needs his chain jerked every now and then by his hard working fellow journalists. He is a closet small 'c' conservative who dresses up in old-fashioned liberal garb so he can earn his living at the Star.
    Journalists and their readers have very short and very selective memories. It was not so long ago that the majority of central Canada's journalists, including Pershichilli, were hounding Harper and predicting that his Reform/Alliance/Conservative coalition would go the way of the dodo bird. They forget to remind their readers of this important fact.
    Now most central Canadian journalists, having gambled that PM Harper is here to stay for a while, portray him as a political genius who needs to be pandered to so they can get access to his pearls of wisdom. And, the best way for them to ensure that Harper remains PM is to sow dissension among the ranks of the Liberal party and play up all of the unsubstantiated rumours about the alleged coups against Ignatieff.
    Canadians deserve much better from our 'fifth' estate!! Where is all the hard slogging investigative journalism about the true issues facing Canadians. We will not get it from Persichilli!

    • Sigh. Nobody ever, ever gets those "estates" right. The print media is the FOURTH estate.

      • Colby Cosh, Thanks for the correction! And sorry about misspelling your name!

        Yes, we mere mortals don't want to be seen marginalizing the media – THE FOURTH ESTATE – any more than they have been this past half century.
        Why then does CTV call its program: THE FIFTH ESTATE? Is this to distinguish the electronic media from the traditional print media? Please enlighten us mere mortals.

        • First of all, the Fifth Estate is on the CBC (CTV has W5). And the reason for the fourth (and fifth) estate of course comes from the French Revolution (which also gave us the left/right division in politics – it came from where one was sitting with relation to the Speaker).

          I remember seeing this question being answered many years ago in one of those magazines that used to be included in the weekend newspaper and also had Doug Wright's comic strip.

          As we all remember from Grade 12 History there were the first Three Estates – the Clergy, the Nobility and the Commoners (mainly the Bourgeoisie). The Fourth Estate became a name applied to the press or media and is attributed to either Burke or Carlyle.

          The answer the magazine gave for the Fifth Estate is that perhaps the Television journalists were trying to set themselves apart from the other members of the press gallery.

          Glad to be of service.

          • Thanks CAPS! Yes, you are correct. It is the CBC – shows you that I have not looked at it for quite some time.

            The term is an ancien régime term and does not reflect the demographic and class distinctions that emerged with the industrial revolution. The Commoners are now made up of several 'estates' comprising a hierarchy of socio-economic groups from the lowest to the highest.

        • Fourth Estate, Fifth Column, Sixth Ring Of Hell . Got it.

          • Seven Deadly Sins.

          • Eight is Enough.

  7. Columnists like Persilli that keep peddling the fantasy that Ignatieff could be gone before being tested in an election need to come back to reality. That sort of thing just doesn't happen. Going all the way back to confederation the only leaders of a major federal party that did not get a chance to lead their party into at least one election were the few whose party ceased to exist before it happened.

    • It's standard practice to occasionally have leaders that don't lead their party into elections. They're typically called "interim" leaders.

      We don't have to go all the way back to confederation. How about Bill Graham, Herb Gray and John Lynch-Staunton?

      • Seriously?
        I think it is quite obvious that "interim" implies a temporary solution – ie fill the spot when a leader steps down.

        • I know, I know: It's implied that you weren't talking about interim leaders. I just couldn't help myself.

    • The Liberals can't officially get rid of Iggy until there is an alection loss. Iggy would need ot be convinced to resign if its to happen ahead of time. That requires either a carrot, nice cushy job and all debts paid if you go quietly, a stick, we will make your life hell and ruin your reputation, or both.

    • Mark this day. I agree with Robert, and that is why I think they will dump Ignatieff.

      Derek

  8. I continue to hope it was the phrasing that sucked, not the math. Each of them is a perfectly credible columnist, as long as he gets to fill up with her excess cred. Is that any better? No? Damn.

    • Tryiong hard to uncover your suibtle point but I am guessing your not on Angelo's Christmas card list.

    • If Hebert wrote something, and then you read it again in the surface of your alphabet soup over lunch, you would certainly be powerfully inclined to believe it.

  9. Persichilli and Christine Blatchford should get together and start a humour blog.

  10. Chantal + soup = two hella pundits

    • amen…

  11. Fine column, Colby.

    I'm tired of this kind of crap masquerading as news, about any party.

    • Thanks again, Colby, for confirming my intuition! So the internet is part of the FIFTH ESTATE or does it constitute a new and bolder SIXTH ESTATE?

      By the way, Wells is correct with his math: 1.8 + .2 = 2.

      But, in reality journalists Persichilli and Hébert are not in the same league what-so-ever.
      Their names should not even be in the same sentence except to point out that the former is most often confused and self serving while the later is usually crystal clear in both her facts and her argument.

      • Maybe it is time to rework the "estates". Since the clergy (first estate) and the aristocracy (the second) have largely evaporated as meaningful political and economic forces, we are left with what? The third estate is the rest of us (we area all commoners now – even the Queen is paying her taxes ), so worrying about the fourth, fifth and so on seems a bit redundant.

        How about:

        First Estate – A-list celebs.
        Second Estate – Anyone with more than $100 million in a tax-shelter
        Third Estate – Tax-paying smucks
        Fourth Estate- Anyone with a blog audience of 10 or more (not counting family)

        • Point – the term Estates is now all but obsolete!

          Your list is interesting. Is Tiger ( or is it Liepord or Cheetah?) Woods part of the new 'First Estate'?

          You have reduced all journalists to mere mortals comprising the gazillions of internet blogging zombies!

  12. I think you mean DR. Ruby Dhalla and DR. Carolyn “Body Bags” Bennett.

    • When their "professional" honorific is relevant to the matter at hand it might be useful to use…..whether being a medical practitioner or bone cracker is relevant in this situation is open highly questionable.

      If you insist then in future you can call me Well Learned Sir, since I have a masters.

  13. So we have a conversation between Liberals that probably happened, was subsequently interpreted through the decidedly Conservative lens of Mr. Perischilli (who may have overheard, heard audio, or simply been the recipient of a second hand account), and has now been re-interpreted through the decidedly conservative lens of Mr. Cosh.

    Amazingly, I think the final person in this telephone chain may have come up with the right interpretation.

  14. Sick of Bob Rae, I hear they are turfing Iggy as soon as Christmas, is this the next dud to replace him.

    • It doesn't count if you heard it from the voices in your head.

      • Its in the paper, but the voices help.Dion was turfed last Christmas, this year its iggy.Good riddance to a real lame ducky.

        • Dion was able to be pushed out b/c there was a leadership review coming up that he was going to lose…

          Ignatieff's free and clear till after the next election.

  15. Nice attempt at downplaying the discontent with Ignatieff. Nice attempt to deflect criticism from Bob Rae. Unfortunately, I'm not buying it, and I don't think anyone else with at least half a wit is either.

    Ignatieff back-stabbed Rae to become leader without a contest. The public fully expects him to return the favour.

    The Liberal Party acts much like the Roman Senate at the time of the Caesars. et tu, Bob?

    • Us half wits resent what you are saying. Lot of us believe in whatever any politican says.

      But especially Bob Rae as he cleared up that misunderstanding on Ignatieff and the Liberal party signing the so-called "Coalition Agreement". It was nothing of the sort….. It was just a Winter solstice note to the GG…. Yeh that's it.

      Bob cleared that one up real good.

  16. Enemies I meant to say obviously. Still not registering for Intense Debate!

    • Jarhead again with inanities. Between's heavy sedated sips of the koolaid, swallows some bosco. It's only a brief sobriety away from another kinsella-stalking vision…

      • Is Jarrid registered at Macleans as a gossip columnist i wonder?

  17. Regarding the Liberal party leadership, was wondering if someone could clarify one particular point.
    Do they not have a tradition of alternating between an anglophone and francophone leader?
    Is this actually written in anywhere?

    If memory serves me correct, this was adopted via Blake and Laurier, when the party united Ontario and Quebec Liberals.

    Iggy: anglophone
    Dion: francophone
    Martin: anglophone
    Chretien: francophone
    Turner: anglophone
    Trudeau: francophone
    Pearson: anglophone
    St. Laurent: francophone
    King: anglophone
    Laurier: francophone
    Blake: anglophone

    If this tradition is preserved, wouldn't there have to be a francophone before Rae would get a chance?

    • I think that's just coincidence / fate, like the coincidence / fate that says that Russian rulers must alternate between the hirsute and the bald (which goes back to about 1740, as I recall).

      • Oh no, this is more than a coincidence it is part of Liberal party mythology. It isnt in the consitution, just the culture of the Liberal Party. Jumping to Rae would be breaking with that tradition…..going with young Justin would be within that tradition. I wouldnt underestimate its importance.

        • Trudeau to emgere with the title belt in a 3-man battle royal with Coderre and Cauchon? Not likely….

          A better chance would be LeBlanc but there is a sub section in the Liberal rules that says it has to be a Quebec French guy.

          When Leblanc starts holing up in Hull instead of heading back to NB, then we know he is serious about being Liberal Leader.

          The next Liberal leader is really important ……………….. It might be the last.

          • Throwing in Trudeau this early would be a huge stupid mistake.
            If anything, he is their hope much further down in the future.
            He needs to gain experience, and develop friendships/alliances within the party.
            Without this, he'll just be frowned upon for milking his father's shadow…

      • It is not at all coincidence.
        I believe it is the unwritten rule that has governed the party since Laurier's era.
        I would imagine that breaking this formula would have huge consequences.

        LoL on the Russian leader reference!
        While visiting Russia back in 99, I purchased a Matryoshka doll that depicted political leaders.
        Was always amused by the hirsute to bald alternation!

      • I thought the rotation was between those who merely thought jailing and shooting their own people was the surest way to a classless society and those who thought jailing and shooting other people's citizens deserved equal merit.
        No reason to suppose it couldn't still dovetail with your theory though?

  18. Persichilli did add one useful insight from the Liberal MPs and that was the recommendation that Ralph Goodale may have passed his "best before date". If Ignatieff and Donolo are serious about reviving the party, they will look to replace all of these old timers who keep reminding Canadians to look back rather than look forward.

    On the other hand, as long as the Liberal Party keeps the old guard in place, Harper will have little to worry about.

  19. I respect Colby's perspective here, but lets use the "way back machine" for a second. Let's go back to the LPC convention that brought us M. Dion. If you will recall it was kind of a trident race, with Rae, Kennedy and Dion (from my memory). I don't recall the exact cut and thrust, but i do recall David Orchard putting Dion over the top.

    A reasonable way of interpreting the race would be Montreal money, for Rae, Toronto money for Kennedy et al and everyone else who hated both for whoever was not, "either of the above".

    Those aligments have not changed at all. Iggy was the also the Toronto money's boy, while M. Dion was the choice of the "none of the above crowd", who had votes but no cash. (By the same analysis Mr. Harper represent Calgary/Alberta/Western money).

    It is foolish to try and deny the Desmarais linkages that have manifested themselves from Mulroney to Chretien to Martin and now reside in the "great white haired hope" of Mr. Rae. Notwithstanding the obvious bumps in the road, those forces have been particularily effective in getting "their guy" where he can do the most good for them.

  20. (cont) Sorry to sound so cynical but given recent history, with the guide posts I've highlighted, I wouldn't discount the "sleeping socialist's" chances…."yes my precious, yes." (the ring of power is very addictive).

  21. But wouldn't there be some (unwritten) proviso that says the leader must last at least two years to count? That would mean they're still looking for an anglophone to follow Chretien. Unless Ignatieff lasts, of course.

    • Martin lasted just over two years, so he would qualify (just barely) under that proviso.

    • Possibly, it could be that the "culture" of the Liberal party will be such that they will decide that an english leader hasnt been through an election.

      The alternating thing is an unwritten old rule anyway. Time and tide may have made all of it moot, but it is part of the myths that Liberals tell themselves (all cultures tell myths, families, religons, political parties, companies)

      • IMO, breaking the myth would lead to the final splinter in the party.
        I think Quebec would interpret it as the anglophones reneging from the principles of unity established by Laurier, and this would in turn damage the whole "national party" image/myth.
        I don't think anyone in their right mind would want to be the one who actually breaks the streak.

  22. "… the more I felt sorry for Bob Rae…. To what Christmas fantasy did his mind drift off"

    Maybe he dreamed he saw a PM playing a piano in front of a celebrity audience accompanied by YoYo? Only this time the tune was Beethoven and the clapping wasn't ironic.

  23. I have no idea whether Persichilli is accurate in his reporting. However, it doesn't really matter. The fact that Rae, Pearson and Carolyn Benett are complaining is making more of the story than should be made of it. Hence Canadians who would not normally read the Toronto Star are now aware of the potential "palace coup" ,

    Liberals are protesting too much and therefore with the other media picking up the story they have drawn negative attention to themselves and it will continue to re-inforce in the minds of Canadians that the Liberal party is not fit to govern Canada the next time an election is held.

    • "…and it will continue to re-inforce in the minds of Canadians that the Liberal party is not fit to govern Canada the next time an election is held"

      Right, because Canadin's know that inter party squabbles say so much more about a party than refusing to release relevant uncensored documents to PCs, or attempting to impede military commissions.

      • Yes indeed. What we need is to give the Liberals a majority so that they have time to clear up their internal squabbles.

        Derek

      • Nice try…If you think that this farce is a real issue to Canadians you are in for a rude awakening. The fact is Iffy is a disaster and no matter how the lefties in this country try to make it about detainees it is going over the heads of the regular folk who are busy living their lives and trying to get by. However, if you believe in what you are saying keep doing so and focusing on it as Harper heads for a majority government.

        Inter party squabbles are indicative of real problems and Canadians have proven in the past they do not vote for parties who cannot manage their own internal affairs discretely. Ask the Conservatives they had much experience with assinating the leader in public. Now the Liberals are doing the same thing.

  24. Best comment? At least the Libs have some potential leaders waiting in the wings if and when Mr. Ignatieff steps down (not until after an election, for certain).

    Compare that to Mr. Harper's pit bulls and poodles. Has beens from the failed Harris government. Failed neocons from the Reform and Alliance parties.

    • Yes, Ignatieff's front-bench of failed Dew Democratic premiers is much more impressive…

      • Are you saying the cons wouldn't want someone of the calibre of Rae, notwithstanding different ideaologies of course. And Dosanjh wasn't that bad a BC premier, he was unfortunate to have to pick up after Clark.

        • The Conservative front-bench seems pretty strong now – MacKay, Baird, Prentice and a few others seem to hold their own in Parliament and in their portfolios. Rae's best days seem far behind him, although he often still shines. Other Liberals seem pretty nondescript.

          • The con front bench [apart from Prentice] is a bunch of hacks, thugs and Harris retreads…not that i'm overwhelmed by the libs either.

        • Rae, he's a dipper..No way would he fit in with the conservatives, nor would they, we want him..he's all about spending, and no idea where to get it from.I do hope he leads next, another one to eat up ,& spew out.As for useless Dosanjih, he was an awful premier, we are still paying for his mistakes. There is nobody to to take Iggy's place, maybe try MHF, just for a laugh

          • Ah…do you know what notwithstanding means…or did you miss it? Dosnjh wasn't there long enough to merit awful…but no doubt the tag NDP is all you need.

          • I do admire Dosanjh personally not for anything he did as NDP premier or Liberal MP, but rather prior to that when he stood up to Sikh fundamentalists and literally got beaten up for it. That was tremendously courageous of him, and I will always admire someone who is willing to pay, and pays, a price for speaking out against evil like that

        • Yes. What every party needs is a leader whose resume includes leading their provincial party to the brink of oblivion.

          Derek

  25. "It seems likely he overheard or was given access to audio of some genuine conversation"

    Why is it not likely that someone at this little get together leaked the info to Persichilli? Would it be a great surprise if Rae or Dhalla or Bennett decided to make life uncomfortable for Iggy?

    To me, it sounds like a few disgruntled people got together and blew off some steam. Our media rarely writes about the machinations that take place on daily basis within parties so when someone does write about it, the story gets blown way out of proportion. Unless there is a lot going on within Lib party that msm is not telling us about, I too would be amazed if Iggy quits before he leads party into at least one election.

    • It is hard to imagine anyone less politically substantial than Ruby Dhalla, who was once memorably described as a "wind-up toy" by someone or another. I have the misfortune to be represented by this individual; she would be out of he depth on a school board, and her only qualification is to have an asian background. She is steadily losing support in her own riding to the conservatives and will be lucky to survive the next election.

      • I was thinking Dhalla was the least likely leaker but who knows.

        Between the Krieber letter and now this, there is obvious campaign from progressive wing of Lib party to let their leader know they are not content. I guess Iggy's charm, so apparent on the cocktail circuit, is not working on his progressive caucus. Apparently Libs have been talking about Iggy and his leadership since Krieber letter but msm has not really mentioned it until yesterday.

  26. I admit to straying from my comfort zone in daring to critique math. The beauty of the english language, though, is its ability to convey meaning despite details. I got what you were saying.

    • oh don't get me started on the multiplicity of english meanings… I mean definition… I mean….. drat

  27. One of these things is not like the other/ Which one is diff'rent, do you know…

  28. Red Bob Rae and Ujjal Dosonjh are the two most dangerous men in the Liberal party.They are both very ex left wing NDP premiers.Their intent is to remove the center out of the Liberal movement.they can see that their old pal Taliban Jack is gaining momentum as the party in opposition and they want to have a hammer by attracting the same far left crowd in the next election.Ignatieff is finished because he has not got the energy to fight these two.If Rae claims to be his friend who needs enemies

    • Are you insane?

      Serious question.

  29. Awesome write up.

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