31

Liberal leadership: a few notes


 

Andrew Steele says Gerard Kennedy is thinking of running again. That matches what I’ve heard, including the lack of certainty: he’s not out, but he’s not all the way in yet.

And on that note, a few notes about how this corner will handle YALLR, or Yet Another Liberal Leaderhip Race.

First: I won’t follow every single permutation, endorsement, rumour and gaffe with breathless excitement, although I believe I will probably follow some permutations, endorsements, rumours and gaffes with breathless excitement, the flesh being, as it is, weak. The Liberals are getting a bit repetitive with these leadership intrigues, and especially between now and Christmas I hope to mostly leave them to their own devices.

Second: You should know that, of all the likely candidates, I see none who would qualify as an early Inkless favourite, nor any who Must Be Stopped. Michael Ignatieff, who sometimes qualified in the latter category last time for his intemperate and simply weird positions on a bunch of issues, has earned the right to a fresh look.

Third: One thing that will make me hesitant to write much about this new leadership round is the royal pain that so many supporters of so many candidates were, last time. I wish, but don’t dare hope, that the tinfoil-hat brigades who line up behind every candidate in a leadership race would take a Calm-Down Pill when reading the coverage and commentary that lies ahead, not just from me but from everyone.

Folks: If somebody prints news that is unflattering to your candidate, this is not Proof of a Vendetta. If somebody says another candidate made a good show at the last debate, it is not Proof They’re In The Tank. The Toronto Star is not campaigning for Rae, or LeBlanc, or whoever. Maclean’s has no corporate preference for any candidate, but neither will we feel the slightest obligation to cover boring candidates as thoroughly as interesting ones. We gave Ignatieff a lot of space in the magazine last time. I’m not sure it helped, quite the contrary. But Ignatieff, at least, had things to say, and led the field from the start. That’s the sort of thing that will drive coverage decisions.

And that’s all I have to say for a while.


 
Filed under:

Liberal leadership: a few notes

  1. “You should know that, of all the likely candidates, I see none who would qualify as an early Inkless favourite”

    This surprises me. Thought you would be a Rae fan for certain.

    And what has Iggy done to make himself worthy of second look? I am ideological voter, so when Iggy started renouncing ideas/policies he’s believed for ages in order to appease Liberals that said to me that he cares more about winning than doing what’s right. That’s typical Liberal behaviour tho, so he’ll fit perfectly.

  2. Anyone who wants anti-Kennedy material need only watch the Rick Mercer Report. His “you gave us Dion” stuff has been full-on – for instance:

    “for the Liberals to go with Kennedy at this point, that’s a bit like necking with the guy at the office Christmas party that gave you the cold sore — twice.”

    I doubt he’s run out of alternative ways to say that yet.

  3. ” I wish, but don’t dare hope, that the tinfoil-hat brigades who line up behind every candidate in a leadership race would take a Calm-Down Pill when reading the coverage and commentary that lies ahead, not just from me but from everyone.”

    From your keyboard to God’s ears…

  4. Although it’s early days, I reiterate my prediction that neither Iggy nor Bob will win.

    I find it frankly amazing that Bob Rae has the temerity to run for the leadership of the federal Liberal party — on the eve of what will be a recession at least as bad as the one he brutally mismanaged in the early nineties.

    And as for Michael Ignatieff, he didn’t lose the last campaign because of inexperience — he lost because he’s a pretentious ass. Granted, you can be an ass in politics, but to do so you need the common touch, which Ignatieff doesn’t and will never have. Harvard hangs around his neck like an albatross.

  5. Wow, JWL, the way you described Ignatieff he sounded just like Harper. Maybe Iggy’s in the wrong party?

  6. “Wow, JWL, the way you described Ignatieff he sounded just like Harper. Maybe Iggy’s in the wrong party?”

    Agree with first sentence but think Harper is in the wrong party, not Iggy. The Liberals have long history of ditching their beliefs for power. What FR Scott wrote about MacKenzie King can be applied to most Lib leaders and now Harper:

    “We had no shape
    Because he never took sides,
    And no sides
    Because he never allowed them to take shape…

    He seemed to be in the centre
    Because we had no centre,
    No vision
    To pierce the smoke-screen of his politics…

    Let us raise up a temple
    To the cult of mediocrity,
    Do nothing by halves
    Which can be done by quarters”

  7. Sorry, jwl, has the Conservative Party ever had a leader that was sufficiently Reform-minded to satisfy you? If not, it would seem to me that Harper’s in the right party and all those populist-libertarian-Republican grassroots are in the wrong party . . . or the wrong country.

  8. Paul, to be honest, you seem to be a little too concerned about the calibre of your comments. I mean, I like getting into arguments with people here as much as anybody, but if it’s causing you enough concern that you have to specifically ask people to not be jerks, maybe shutting them off wasn’t such a bad idea. Or even leave them in a state of near-uncontrolled anarchy: it works for the Globe and Mail, kinda. :P

  9. So talking of the Liberal leadership campaign, why doesn’t the liberal party put a meaningful spending limit on their candidates?

    I mean, do they NEED an expensive, long campaign. Why not just give every party member (as of today) a vote. Have a few webcasted debates – I am sure they could even find a network to broadcast them. Let them each put out a policy platform, give a few speeches (one in each province?), then have a vote. Skip the convention, because does it really help? Or just have a small scale convention without the need to fly delegates in from across the country.

  10. question…and this is not just in refernece to Iggy but is perhaps addressed more at those who report or at least feel a need to comment publicly…why is it that, once in politics No One is allowed to reconsider their opinions or positions on any issue…the sober second thought, so to speak…just curious and trying to understand why political pundits still think why everything any politician thought/spoke/wrote is chiseled in granite and must not/can not be changed…for fear of being accused of pandering…

  11. thistle, I appreciate your point but I think the hostility to changes in position is stronger in the States than it is chez nous. Cf. Harper’s recent volte-face on deficits, which no one seems to mind particularly.

    For my part, what bothers me about Ignatieff’s position on Iraq was that it was so effortlessly attuned to the (British-American) Zeitgeist. It calls into question whether he is capable of taking an unpopular stand on a moral issue; thus whether his whole moral approach to world politics (on which he built his career) meant anything; and also whether he considered himself at the time a Canadian (his regular practice was to use “we” when referring to American and British policy).

    To me – though perhaps not to most Canadians – these are major sins. But I would happily absolve a penitent Ignatieff who engaged in some serious self-critique. What did we get instead? The single most self-serving, self-adoringmea culpa” of the young 21st Century. Wrong and humble? No problem. Wrong and smug? Thanks but no thanks, Iggy.

  12. “I find it frankly amazing that Bob Rae has the temerity to run for the leadership of the federal Liberal party”

    I agree. Not only that, it’s hard to believe that the prior leader of a provincial NDP party would be accepted by the federal Libs, when it’s obvious he switched because the federal NDP have no chance at winning.

  13. I couldn’t agree more with your approach, Paul. Since we are not going to have an election for three years, I think the Liberals should just sit back, work on paying down debts and delay the whole mess for a full year. That would make more sense than everyone getting hyperventilated for the next six months.

  14. Libs need a FRESH start. Iggy, Rae, or even Manley are retreads.

    They need someone who can INSPIRE liberal voters to get engaged again.

    And they need someone who is devoid of BAGGAGE. Having experience is actually a bad thing in modern politics.

    Now, if they can find someone like that, all their other problems will go away. Look at the Democrats in the US – only four years ago, they had been written off, and now they’re poised to make a clean sweep.

    Okay, Bush helped with his mind numbing incompetence, but still.

  15. A very smart move on your part, Paul. It is, of course, too much to hope for, but I wonder just exactly what various and sundry organisers in the Liberal Party would do if, leak after leak and tip after tip, no coverage resulted and the whole leadership story was treated in the media as the internal matter (i.e. seldom if ever NEWS) that it is.

  16. Jack’s bile towards Ignatieff and his updated opinion on Iraq and his prior beliefs seems comedic, considering those who have received a free ride on the issue.
    Ignatieff’s framing of the Iraq question came from a whole other place than Harper’s, who was merely interested in following America. Ignatieff’s own trips to the country, along with his career in sizing up the conflagerated minefield of human rights, led him to his original support. Only a fool would not come around after seeing the s**tfield it has become; but that roundly describes those who timidly hide behind ‘nuance’ and disingenuity like Harper. But he has much better paid and volunteer (msm) salesmen to help him erase his pitch.
    It’s the same on the left: Layton’s argument against Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan pretends that there are no human rights issues at stake. He’d hollusbollus hand over freedoms that women and children have gained during the years since the Taliban were overthrown; but then, it’s like Jack’s ghost policy on the environment. He successfully teamed with Harper to paint a broad shift in income taxes to pollution as a ‘heavy burden on the poor and consumers’. Not once was he asked to say how much his plan would cost the country, the environment and his own supporters (including the poor and middle class consumers) because there would be a downloading of cap-n-trade costs to consumers, yet there’d be no tax relief. In fact, the years that it would take to negotiate and implement a cap-n-trade system, with a slow-footed America as your enabler, will essentially lock us in bad habits and growing GhG emissions.
    Sounds like the tinfoilers aren’t all about leadership, anyways.

  17. afraid i didn’t find, Ignatieff’s mea culpa smug…but genuinely believe that he has just rather quickly fallen down the steps from his ivory tower and become what?…a little more pragmatic perhaps…an intellectual discovering the real world is not so blk & wh…

    nor do i think he was simply falling in step w/ American positions…a la’ Harper, who must be one of the few people in the world who doesn’t realize Cheney is the devil incarnate…i think he genuinely believed in the human rights issues as motivation for the invasion of Iraq…what a rude awakening he’s been forced into axknowledging…

    and i have to say, more than a new Liberal leader, we need a Liberal party that gets over themselves and starts to work together again, instead of shooting themselves in their collective feet with all the bullshit that is currently driving the inner circles…all the leadership hopefuls bring something to the table…they just need to remember their kindergarten lessons and play nice together, instead of acting like power hungry mean girls…we need a big red machine to get rid of the Stephen Harper Party…who gives a rat’s ass who is at the head of it, it’s a Par-Tee, not a dictatorship…

    and that’s my ivory tower speech for the evening…

  18. “To me – though perhaps not to most Canadians – these are major sins. But I would happily absolve a penitent Ignatieff who engaged in some serious self-critique. What did we get instead? The single most self-serving, self-adoring “mea culpa” of the young 21st Century. Wrong and humble? No problem. Wrong and smug? Thanks but no thanks, Iggy.”

    Yeah, really, a little grovelling was in order. No offense, but it’s exactly this type of attitude towards Ignatieff that lead to Dion being chosen. Ideological purity above all.

  19. “No offense, but it’s exactly this type of attitude towards Ignatieff that lead to Dion being chosen. Ideological purity above all.”

    As per my post, for me it’s a character issue. 2002-2003 was the “global test,” and Iggy fell flat on his face. Admitting you were outrageously wrong about the most important issue of the decade isn’t grovelling, it’s showing basic intellectual decency. Iggy has now failed that test too.

    If Iggy is the best the Liberals can come up with, they should stick with Dion.

  20. I hate constant speculation – I’d rather wait to see for sure who IS running.

    Until that time, it’s a waste of time.

  21. Maybe the Libeals should use the Bahai method of choosing leaders. Everyone votes. No campaign, no candidacies, no discussion among themselves. Cheaper and less divisive. They pick leaders who aren’t necessarily interested in the job, and who are empowered to follow the dictates of their conscience rather than some attempt to follow the wishes of the electorate. Of course what would the media speculate about then?

  22. Sandi wrote,

    “I hate constant speculation – I’d rather wait to see for sure who IS running.

    Until that time, it’s a waste of time.”

    It might be even after you know who is running.

  23. A view from ouside the Liberal bubble.

    The Liberals need to sweep out the backroom. Too much power back there, it creates a perpetual power struggle between the different camps. They need to update the party constitution to put the power in the hands of the leaders (contenders)Not the backroom boys. Start there, then come up with a unified 3 or 5 point plan to rebuild the party. Update constitution, rebuild fund raising, come up with a coherent platform, etc. Stop the quest for power and create a party that is for Canadaians, not just card carrying Liberals.

    My two cents.

    Bob

  24. “For my part, what bothers me about Ignatieff’s position on Iraq was that it was so effortlessly attuned to the (British-American) Zeitgeist.”

    That’s because you probably thought of Iggy as a moderate, Jack Mitchell. While Iggy is not where near as rightwing as Harper, he’s definitely NOT a moderate.

  25. “Ignatieff’s framing of the Iraq question came from a whole other place than Harper’s, who was merely interested in following America. ”

    Yeah? And what about his statements on torture, Dan? Where did those come from exactly?

  26. What I am interested in learning is why is Iggy so popular in Quebec. Reading articles the past few days makes it seem that Iggy has pretty much got Quebec locked up. But when you look at Iggy’s ideas/policies they aren’t obviously vote winners in Quebec, so I am curious to know why he’s so popular.

    Sincere question, no snark.

  27. jwl, not so. The only thing that Iggy has got locked up in Quebec is the Quebec wing of the LPC. Iggy won’t have to worry about people sabotaging his operations in that part of the country. As for the Quebec vote, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but no one can lay claim to that constituency yet.

    I, for one, do not believe that Iggy’s past on Iraq and position on torture will go down well with Quebecers. I know that the press decided that Harper lost that province because of his cuts to the arts. What I do know is that he lost because Quebecers finally realized that Harper is not the moderate he pretends to be.

    Iggy also runs the risk of having his right of center personality exposed during a campaign. Quebecers would turn on him too.

  28. Boudica

    OK, thanks for explanation. Why do you think Iggy has got Quebec wing of the LPC locked up? Are they attracted to Iggy’s policies or are they convinced he’s a winner and don’t care about his ideas. From what little I know about Quebec, Rae seems a more comfortable fit for Que Libs.

  29. jwl, who knows? My guess is that Coderre was his lieutenant at the time and because of his quick embrace of Harper’s “Quebec as a nation” nonsense.

  30. I’m not a Quebecer, but from what I remember of the 2006 convention and what was written on it (including what Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells wrote) it seemed that a disproportionate number of Quebec Liberals (at least MPs) supported Ignatieff and were not pleased when Dion was elected. I’d submit that it has something to do with the fact that Ignatieff proposed recognizing the “Quebec nation” in the Constitution, although I’m sure other factors contributed as well.

Sign in to comment.