Get in the game -

Get in the game


The Boston Globe suggests—despite the cautionary tale—that more academics should do as Michael Ignatieff did.

Ignatieff deserves a measure of praise for doing something few commentators on public affairs ever do: subject his ideas to scrutiny in legislative chambers and at the ballot box … despite Ignatieff’s defeat, more public intellectuals should do what he did. Just as the political debate would benefit from more thinkers, writers would benefit from having to solicit support for their own ideas and put them into practice.


Get in the game

  1. writers would benefit from having to solicit support for their own ideas and put them into practice.”

    And with the remark, Mr. Wherry starts considering his candidacy in the 2015 election.

  2. And Paul Wells should start a jazz band, Stephen Hawking should captain the first manned mission to Mars, Don Cherry should lace up for the Bruins’ next game, and all red-blooded men should be vying for a night with Dr. Ruth.

    One of Iggy’s big problems was that this whole leadership thing felt like a bit of an enrichment field trip. He constantly spoke of politics like one might speak of their time at a vacation dude ranch.

    It’s really okay for the thinkers to keep thinking. I’m not sure anyone benefits from needless forays.

    • “I’m not sure anyone benefits from needless forays.”

      Exactly. Everyone should stick to their knitting and order is maintained. I had impression Iggy decided that he conquered pundit/writer/thinker/academic world and decided he would see what it was like to be PM next. Don’t think Iggy, and Liberals, understood what values/hopes/dreams people see represented in office of Prime Minister. It is much more than just a job.

      • Don’t forget, both the Conservatives and Liberals courted Ignatieff. I’m not so sure I wouldn’t be tempted, in similar circumstances.

        I happen to think he was genuine in his desire to participate (egotistical yes, but that’s part of any politician).

  3. “Ignatieff deserves a measure of praise for doing something few commentators on public affairs ever do: subject his ideas to scrutiny in legislative chambers and at the ballot box ….”

    I am pretty sure that’s why academics quite like it where they are. They don’t want to have their ideas scrutinized.

    • Some yes. But the good ones love to be challenged, relish the benefits of intense critiques, and love the chance to inspire and educate students in the same field.

      There are arrogant and mindless hunks of deadwood in all fields (outside of academia too), but there are many, many genuine folks who happen to love ideas and are lucky enough to make a living at it.

    • They don’t want to have their ideas scrutinized.

      Especially by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. I’m not sure Einstein would care to have his theories be subjected to the scrutiny of Joe Voter: “the time on my watch is bending towards the whosit and the whatnow?”

  4. Yes, we certainly need more thinkers in politics. People who have some context and take the long view. Otherwise it ends up just being a popularity contest and ‘candy’ giveaway.

    Hard to be a politician though, and especially a leader. It requires a double-skill set that most people don’t have.

  5. Was Ignatieff actually “soliciting support for his own ideas”? My impression is that most of his ideas from pre-political life were discarded almost as soon as he put on his “Canadian politician” costume.

    • Excellent point.

    • I was thinking the same thing. His views on the invasion of Iraq come immediately to mind.

  6. The thing is that Ignatieff’s actual area of expertise gave him a head start on approximately zero of the issues that were salient in this campaign. He’s an international human rights, foreign affairs, geopolitical savant. If Quebec was violently seceding or Calgary and Edmonton were embroiled in civil war (go Cowtown!), his background may have been useful and his expertise relevant. I’m not sure his admittedly large brain and penchant for academic nuance is of obvious purchase when it comes to making strategic and tactical decisions based largely on polling, gut instinct and political acumen.

    • Even when Ignatieff was opining on his actual areas of expertise, he wasn’t able to use this to his advantage in his political career. Consider his gaffe during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict, when “all hell immediately broke loose” after he opined that civilian deaths were inevitable because “This is the kind of dirty war you’re in when you have to do this and I’m not losing sleep about that.”

      He apologized the next day and pulled a 180, compounding the gaffe by describing Israel’s actions as a war crime: “I was a professor of human rights and I am also a professor of the laws of war and what happened in Qana was a war crime and I should have said that.”

      Two years later, he apologized for his original apology in a speech at Holy Blossom Temple, saying “it was the most painful experience of my short political career, and it was an error”. He called himself a friend of Israel, citing his father’s UN work and his own book about “liberal Zionist” Isaiah Berlin.

      • Such is the nature of off the cuff responses to developing events being written in stone, and subsequent efforts to correct them in light of political exigencies. I don’t disagree that a more seasoned politician would have figured out a way to say nothing at all while pleasing everyone at once. It’s remarkable how the ability to say nothing and stand strongly behind that vapidity has become the mark of a capable leader.

  7. Thus the phrase “ivory tower”

    noun: A place or state of privileged seclusion, disconnected from practical matters and harsh realities of life.
    The term is often applied to academia for its supposed preoccupation with lofty intellectual pursuits.

    “In a democratic system, the true leaders have to remain constantly in touch with, and reach out to, the people and not remain like a king in an ivory tower.”

    • An old outdated saying.

  8. ARe you still talking about that loud mouth. Give it a rest, he didn’t do nothing for anyone but himself. He came to put a notch on his belt and was kicked out with the bottom end of our boots.
    Wise up. Wise up. Stop talking about a dead horse.