"Why do you want to be prime minister?" - Macleans.ca

“Why do you want to be prime minister?”

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff struggles to define his vision


In his year-end sit-down with Radio-Canada reporter Emmanuelle Latraverse, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was asked point-blank, “Why do you want to be prime minister?” After hesitating for a moment, Ignatieff began by saying his vision is “moderate, centrist, [and] practical.” Based on the rest of his answer, it’s arguably ill-defined as well. After briefly musing about the “jobs of tomorrow,” Canada’s competitiveness, and the country’s economic relationship with China and India, Ignatieff finally settled on insisting the Liberals “are the party of the future.” Conservatives are already circulating the clip (posted below) and eagerly comparing it to Ted Kennedy’s non-answer to the question, “Why do you want to be president?” which interviewer Roger Mudd devastatingly described as “stilted” and “elliptical.”

[wpvideo hJywFZV2]



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“Why do you want to be prime minister?”

  1. There's something wrong with the video… :P

  2. I want to be prime minister so I can pick up chicks : P

    • Arguably, there are simpler and less stressful ways of achieving that particular goal.

  3. Don't speak French but …I have a feeling that Ron Graham may have nailed Ignatieff. In a sense the man is acting at why he wants to be PM. It's not that he doesn't know what he "thinks" he should do when he gets there…it's that he doesn't actually know..almost as if he has no convictions of his own – a meaningless distinction perhaps?
    I don't particularly wish Ignatieff any ill, it just seems to make sense to me that one should know what one wants to do before you occupy sussex drive…not merely say what you think you should do or stand for…or worse what others think might be right.
    Perhaps Ignatieff just overthinks things? Being PM isn't a role you play MI; it's a chance to act on what you know or sense is right or needs to be done – preferrably after a prolonged period of thought, study.

  4. Just throwing it out there but hasn't Harper been slammed for having a hidden agenda for giving vague answers to the press?
    Given the the Opposition Leaders tendency to wave a pointed finger without giving alternatives, I'm more inclined to agree with the line of thought that he's clueless.
    Maybe he could be a manager but he'd never be an entrepreneur.

  5. He wants to be PM because it will make a nice chapter in his memoirs.

    If he's not sure why he wants to be PM, how are we supposed to know we want him?

  6. Well I do speak French and there's nothing wrong with his response. I mean, seriously, what do people expect him to say: "I want to be Primie Minister so I can adjust the lowest tax bracket by such and such a percentage starting in 2012…" How else is he supposed to answer such a broad question?

    Or are they waiting for some kind of Holloywood-scripted stirring address? Not everyone is Obama you know. Not even Obama is Obama most of the time.

    How do you suppose that Stephen Harper would answer this question (if, you know, he actually sat down with Canadian journalists)? Also some vague response probably about steering the economy through the recovery and helping families, blah blah blah.

    Everyone keeps looking for some hidden motive for why a guy like Ignatieff came back to Canada to much around in our politics. Maybe he just wants to serve? To give something back? To prevent Harper from tilting Canada any more in a neo-con direction.

    • To prevent Harper from tilting Canada any more in a neo-con direction.

      You have read Iggy's books, haven't you Anon Liberal?

      ~Plain Old Anon

      • Yep. Have you? Because I suspect you may be mistaking a belief in a muscular Liberalism (think of Lloyd Axworthy's "Responsibility to Protect") with Neo-Conservatism.

        • Admittedly I'm not a fan of the guy and I do lean to the right, but I have to agree with your first post A.L. How is he supposed to answer that? In his second language mind you. I speak French as a second language, and I would have hesitated at that one too. I think the answer was honest and subdued. I'd bet he could have gone on for 20 minutes if the time were allotted.

        • Ask him in English and I'd be willing to bet he'd give a better answer.

          • Is this the opposite of Dion when he was interviewed by CTV in English and after several takes, he just could not answer the question?

            I thought you Liberals are promoting Iggy as a world renowned intellectual & scholar, yet he cannot answer basic questions in an interview. Martin was very similar, he wanted the "THRONE" so badly, yet once there he was clueless.
            At least you liberals are consistent in one aspect of your politics-YOU ARE DEFINITELY CLUELESS.

        • Muscular liberalism is exactly what the neoconservative global agenda is. R2P is about eschewing peacekeeping in favour of peacemaking within international institutions. Neoconservatism has always had liberal goals – namely, spreading freedom and democracy. Like R2P, neocons have the same means – force. It reflects a long-standing crusader mentality in American politics – like that which drove Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush (though Bush didn't campaign as a neocon in 2000, so in that sense Ignatieff can say he came to the party earlier).

          Many people mistake neoconservatives for realists, which is an entirely different approach to international relations. Realists (eg. Richard Nixon, Bush Sr.), like neocons, are okay with the use of force to attain goals. However, their goals differ from idealistic neoconservatives (note that many modern neocons were once Marxists). Realists are primarily concerned with security, rather than the spread of freedom by force. They prefer limited wars and indirect involvement if possible. The threats they tend to address are those of regional hegemony, out of the fear that once a state achieves domination within its home region it can then turn its attention to challenging the US.

          • Yes but you're overlooking some of the key differences between…let's call them liberal interventionists and Neocons, namely:

            (1) liberal interventionists believe in working through multilateral institutions such as the United Nations;

            (2) liberal interventionists are motivated by a belief in the importance of human rights. They propose intervening in situations where people are at risk of being harmed by their own governments (think breakup of Yugoslavia or the calls to intervene in Darfur)

            (3) Neocons, on the other hand, believe in U.S. exceptionalism and are generally hostile towards multilateral institutions.

            (4) Neocons are interested in the spread of what they see as American values: "freedom", yes, but also free markets (and not always in that order). Conveniently this often seems to dovetail with U.S. interests (ex. securing access to oil)

            (5) Neoconservatism as it actually manifested itself in the U.S. through the Republican party was also wedded with the born again Christian movement. This gave it a very moralistic quality (think of George W. Bush's war-on-terror rhetoric).

            Some people seem to lump in Ignatieff with the Neocons because he was supportive of the Iraqi invasion initially. But they fail to recognize that he was coming at it from a different angle. What interested him was the plight of the Kurdish people. He felt we had a duty to protect them. It's the same reason, for instance, that Christopher Hitchens supported the invasion (and Hitchens is not a Neocon either).

            Also important to recognize is that Ignatieff learned some lessons from the Iraq Invasion. In particular it appears to have made him more sensitive to the limits of power, in this case the power to intervene, and reminded him of the importance of working through multilateral institutions.

    • Agreed. It didn't sound hesitant or indirect in french.


  7. Ooooh touchy aren't we. He can't answer because his ass would be kicked out of the country if he actually gave the honest and correct reply. Fred from Brandon is closest so far. The rest of the answer would include words like ego, family history, boards of directors, etc. etc.

    • Yeah right, let's go from lack of experience or defining ideaology straight to unscrupulous, ego centric, just in it for himself garbage…everytime i criciticize Ignatieff i can't help but wonder why bother, it just give cover to those whose only interest is to malign the man, and call into question his motives…how the hell could you be so sure what motivates him or any one else for that matter?

  8. First, it's something of a no-win question for any candidate We like our pols to be self-effacing, but it's almost impossible to answer without letting some ego leak out – particularly when you're fighting an "in it for himself" image.

    That said, I cannot believe he didn't have a better non-answer in his pocket. I don't much care that he's spent time outside the country, but I do think his lack of political experience keeps showing. And that's a concern, to say the least.

  9. i think the Liberals got Paul Martin redux ! I think he wants to be Prime Minster as a Harvard class project.

  10. Why does anyone want to become Prime Minister other than to forward their ego and their class interest?

    • I know that's what motivated that egomaniac Lester Pearson.

      • The most recent example that could counter my statement was someone who was Prime Minister before about half the citizens in this country were born.

        In the modern context, why does anyone want to become Prime Minister other than to forward their ego and their class interest?

        • Stage time with Yo Yo Ma.

          • Touché!

  11. there's no passion to his answer. no conviction, no fire. he wants to be PM because it would crown his career off nicely.

  12. And for the record, I think a good non-answer would run something like:

    "…because this vibrant party and its talented MPs have put their faith in me to lead this great country. It's an honour and responsibility that energizes and focusses me in our shared goals of…."

  13. I think the real reason hew wants to bed PM is thazt Bobby R. wants the job! Iggy and Bobby have been trying to upstage each other ever since they bunked in together at boys school!

  14. C'est evident que le gen qui a écrit cette ne comprend pas français. Le reponse de M. Ignatieff était assez clair pour quelqu'un en train de parler son deuxième langue.

    It's evident that whoever wrote this blog post doesn't understand french. Iggy's answer is pretty clear and direct, even if you don't take into account it's his second language.

  15. Harper has a masters in economics, he probably wanted to be prime minister to cut taxes, cut government and keep interest rates low