Michael Ignatieff goes home

Paul Wells on the return of Harvard’s most illustrious Liberal

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail/CP

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail/CP

William F. Buckley once said he’d rather be governed by the first 400 people in the Boston telephone directory than by the faculty at Harvard University. In 2011, the people of Canada made a similar choice, and Michael Ignatieff has been rootless since then. Today, it’s reported that Ignatieff will stop living part-time in Toronto and return full-time to Harvard, where he was teaching when this whole strange adventure began.

“Doomed enterprises,” Cormac McCarthy wrote, “divide lives forever into the then and the now.” Not always forever. It’s harder to blame Ignatieff for returning to Harvard than it is, in retrospect, to blame him for leaving it in the first place. I get Buckley’s point, but any entity governed by the Harvard faculty would at least have more interesting CPAC than we do. Its president is the historian Drew Gilpin Faust and its faculty includes Henry Louis Gates, Ryuichi Abe, Philippe Aghion, Stephen Greenblatt, Jill Lepore and Steven Pinker. I bet nobody reads his questions from cue cards during question period down there. When Alan Dershowitz does “The Jackal,” watch out.

Why did he ever “leave” Harvard for politics? I read Ignatieff’s most recent book on his political adventures, I swear I did, but it’s still not clear. What’s clear is that the selling proposition that was put to him by three Liberal emissaries from Toronto was that he would return to Canada with the goal of becoming prime minister. That was the point of their recruiting campaign, stated baldly at their first meeting with Ignatieff (at Harvard, natch). His denials between 2004 and 2006 were disingenuous. His adventure in high Liberalism after Paul Martin’s defeat featured one genuine insight — the late-2008 coalition offer put forward by Stéphane Dion was an idea that would not have worn well, even if it had succeeded past the first week — and not a lot of success.

He is free to return to Harvard and to the United States, where even his book about Canadian politics won more generous reviews than it did here. “The best book about what it feels like to be a politician since Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes,” David Brooks wrote in the New York Times. Some claims are so audacious, one can only congratulate the guy at the receiving end of them.

“In academic life, false ideas are merely false and useless ones can be fun to play with,” Ignatieff once wrote in a widely noticed mea culpa, but not as much as everyone else should be culpa on Iraq. One wishes him plenty of fun.


Michael Ignatieff goes home

  1. If you haven’t seen Alan do the jackal, you haven’t seen Shakespeare the way it was meant to be performed.

  2. “If I am not elected, I imagine that I will ask Harvard to let me back…I love teaching here, and I hope I’ll be back in some shape or form.” http://t.co/Lqqb0JC0vy

    Boy, those “Just Visiting” ads sure missed the mark eh?

    • Or maybe people tend to go where they’re appreciated.

      • or maybe when the going gets tough…..

        After all, MANY do not appreciate you here, Emilyone and yet, you are STILL HERE….

        • LOL

    • Yeah. The fact they were objectionable for others reasons can now be safely swept under the carpet with some if the outright lies, absence of context and general viscous gutter ball choice by the CPC to make him appear a bad man, not merely a man unsuited to politics.
      Jeez you guys are shameless. Even now you think everything used against the man was justified by the result.

      • All’s fair in love, war and politics… particularly in politics…

        • Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s above judgement. The means affect the ends. That’s my rule of ethics in politics even if it isnt popular among most partisans and party operatives. Regardless of the suitability of Ignatieff the tactics used against him also revealed the true character of Harper as well as making clear Ignatieff was a dud as a national leader.

      • No one ever said that Count Iggy was bad. We said that he was just visiting.
        And Michael Ignatieff is a very good guy that was conned into running.
        He is far closer to Tea Party politics than most people realize.

        • Obviously you haven’t been keeping up with your Wells. CPC operatives did admit that in the 2011 election. It was an explicit choice to make MI appear a bad( I believe they even said evil) man. Check out Wells’ story at the time.

  3. When Bill Buckley stated his preference at being governed by the first 400 names in the Boston phone book, he would turn the city over to the Jews, the Finns and the Norwegians. Who else has names beginning with “AA”? Maybe not a bad idea…Norway, Israel and Finland are good and functioning democracies.

  4. Well,
    maybe if that disturbed-jawless-Trudeau-wannabe, Chretien, had NOT been so jealous and liberally suicidal against the great Paul Martin, then maybe the Liberals would not have had to scrape the bottom-of-the-barrel, for a Mr. Ignacious ?

    Sorry, but no quarter given, and none taken.

    • A trilingual world-travelled PhD is the ‘bottom of the barrel’??

      No wonder the man left Canada

      • …but even even PhD’s don’t mean much, in Ontario, when they’re getting replaced by TFW’s.

        • Except they’re not.

      • Having a PhD doesn’t mean much in politics. That’s not what being a leader is about. It’s about whether you have a plan and a personality that appeals to voters and that tells them what you want to achieve for your country on their behalf. Having a degree from Harvard actually hurts a candidate if they come across as an out-of-touch snob. It’s about resonating with the average Joe that’s important.

        • Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.

          • Wow! Another teacher hater who’s never even been close to a class room.

  5. The jealous, mean spirited, resentment of Canadians who make it big in the US, UK, or elsewhere, by less successful Canadian journalists, artists, or academics who stay behind, seems locked in our DNA.
    Just couldn’t resist a few parting cheap shots eh Ottawa?
    Best of luck Michael. I appreciate and admire what you tried to do, but in hindsight it was hopeless.

    • Frankly if Michel would have wanted to make Canada his home, he would have been at home in Canada when the Liberal party came recruiting. It isn’t that Canadians look down upon people who live these country for more lucrative jobs but it is that for years, Canadians have been passed over for jobs in THIS country in favor of people trained in other countries as though they were superior when in fact, a desire to live in this country is a very important criteria for thriving in a job here. Do you really believe that people like Peter Mansbridge, etc. have not been offered better paying jobs, more prestige jobs in the US? There is nothing wrong with living away but it indicates that living Canada is not one top priorities and if we Canadians are picking a PM certainly one who makes living in Canada a top priority should be important to us.

      • i would indeed be surprised if Canadian national newspersonalties were being courted for similar positions in the United States, who would have enough candidates within their own borders.

        Furthermore, the kind of work Ignatieff did just can’t be done from Canada. I’m sure he could have been a fine academic and broadcaster on Canadian issues, but he was more of a world events type, which in the English speaking world is based pretty much exclusively in New York and London. It speaks poorly of us as a country that we faulted him for it.

    • Oh, knock it off. His platform didn’t resonate with Canadians. His personality didn’t resonate with Canadians.

      Just because people refuse to vote Liberal doesn’t mean that voters are “jealous, mean-spirited” or resentful of those who make it big abroad. Your arrogant attitude is exactly the reason why Liberals have found themselves in third place in the House.

      • Actually the Libs and Cons have been changing places for 150 years. And they’ll continue to do so.

        I was talking about our resentment of anyone [not just Ignatieff] who makes it big in a wider world.

      • And now the Liberals have dredged up their ace-in-the-hole leader-in-training… thespian Justin “Chippendale” Trudeau …. the self-proclaimed “Son of Quebec” (and renounced his Ottawa, Ontario, Canada birthplace) who claims the “best PMs” came from Quebec… and that he would work for an independent Quebec rather than live in a Harper Canada.

        Iggnatief returns to his Harvard home and Justin prefers his Quebec home …. go figure!!

        • Your comments about Trudeau read like spin from the CPC office. Justin did not renounce his ‘Ottawa’ birthplace. He was born in Ottawa, yes, but that’s because that’s where his father was working at the time, you know? Justin has spent most of his life in Quebec because that’s where he moved to live permanently once his father retired from Ottawa. And to claim Justin is a separatist is nonsense. Tell that to the separatists! They sure don’t consider him on their team.

          • But, Rebecca… Justin is on record saying that he would work for an independent Quebec rather than living in a Harper Canada. Also he has incriminated himself as a Quebec French supremacist stating on Quebec French TV that PMs from Quebec are superior and that Canada belongs to Quebec. How do you rationalize away such racist supremacist comments by your beloved cher Justin?

            The CPC has already used some of Justin’s supremacist comments in a truth attack ad and you can bet there will be more during an election… because the Liberal Media refuses to hold their Justin to account for his blunders.

  6. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  7. Canadians are jealous of success. In the US they celebrate it. That’s probably why we’ve never gotten anywhere.

    • A generalization from Emilyone.

      • An accurate one.

    • Yes; because if Canadians refuse to vote Liberal, then clearly the problem is with voters and their petty reasons (in this case, jealousy), and not with the Liberal party or its leader. Exactly the kind of thinking that led the Liberals to third place in the last election.

      • Libs and Cons trade places all the time. It has nothing to do with your partisan reasoning.

  8. The Liberal Party is one strange brew.

    Invite a highly intelligent ex-pat to return to Canada with the promise of becoming the Prime Minister, and then ditching him after failing.


    Choose the highly incompetent, foot-in-mouth offspring of a former PM with nice hair with the same promise, without the expectation that brains are required for the gig.

    Guess it really is all about winning.

    • No. It’s all about hope.

      • Hope:

        Yeah…heard that one before down South.

        How’s that working out for them?

        • Pretty good. They have a new medicare program and the economy, unlike ours, is on the upswing.

    • Ignatieff was the former, parachuted in so Harvard had a hold on Canada, like Carney….and both know when to leave as Canada’s debt and tax greed is going to sink Canada like Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Iceland….

      Our turn is coming.

      • Ignatieff and Carney are Canadian.

    • No, it’s Harper & the CPC who seem obsessed about winning. So much so that they have broken all the ethical pledges they made when they came to power. They break all the rules and are enormously corrupt. I agree that Ignatieff was a failure. He forgot that voters are not interested in an intellectual – that doesn’t make you superior. What they are interested in is someone who connects with voters and who understands them, and that is something Justin Trudeau is good at.

      • But Justin is corrupt too because he has revealed himself as a Quebec French supremacist with his racist views which are on the public record. How can you ignore Justin’s supremacist racist political views, unless you are besotted with the boy?!

  9. Lower taxes, larger wages, and USD that is woth 10% more than CAD.

    Besides, a Harvard free mason failed to take control of Canada. But he tried.

    I can’t blame him, if USA had retirement visa for Canadians, I too would be gone. I did my income taxes this year as if I lived in USA/Arizona, and I would be financially better off, and with no winter snow I would live longer as being disabled I can’t travel through snow or 17 hours of dark.

    Can’t say I blame him. Like Carney, he knows when to leave.

  10. Back to the safety of academe where what you think, say or do has no consequence. Good for him, he was in over his head in politics.

    • A PhD French medalist wasn’t good enough for you.

      A PhD, famous and trilingual, wasn’t good enough for you.

      Yer gonna love Justin.

      • Yes!!!! The 18-28 y.o. voters plus the besotted women will vote en mass to make their Justin-Boy the PM of all of Canada… and then watch out..!!!!

        • Actually, a lot of Justin’s support comes from older & middle-aged voters – not young voters. The young voters are mainly supporting the NDP, actually.

          • Older voters? You mean the older women who had the hots for his papa Pierre when they were 70’s flower children making love and not war? Are you one of those PET groupies, Rebecca… and now you are besotted with son Justin? Tsk tsk…

  11. Financially its a no brainer. Move to USA he gets paid more, taxed less and lower cost of living as the USA doesn’t have $45 billion in hidden taxes and more in protectionism. No GST either.

    Like Carney, he knows when to get out.

    My USA and foreign holdings massively outperform anything in Canada. All our governments do is tax-price-protectionism inflate the economy, so people need uncompetitive wages and jobs get lost. Then they can tax us more, so to pretend to fix the problem while we have less to spend on each others jobs.

    Give me a retirement visa for full time residency in the USA, and our house goes for sale the same day.

    We are well brainwashed in Canada. I have been to 30+ countries, lived in 4, and Canada sucks. Even Williams goes to Florida, Carney to UK, self proclaimed Ignatius to masonic Harvard, and more to come.

    I would be happy to get a visa in USA, Costa Rica or Panama……wife only wants USA…please let Canadian retired live and pay taxes in USA…..we need this immigration category…..

    • I think that the USA has already arranged that….quietly changing the rules that govern how long a Canadian can stay each winter in the US BUT not changing the IRS rules of taxation. Longer than 183 days calculated, days in 1st year + 50% days in 2nd year + 25% days in 3rd year- then you get to be deemed resident for tax purposes on your worldwide income + estate.
      Bon Voyage.

  12. Good riddance. During a long period while we were living the day-to-day realities of post-Trudeau Canada (tax growth, economic stagnation, rampant corruption within the federal government, federally driven growth of national political division), Ignatieff was out of the country. While we were doing the heavy lifting of building and supporting a nation, he was in Boston. Then, having spent most of his adult life out of the country, specifically not working for the country, he wanders back to Ottawa and proclaims a desire to “lead” us. He was the living, breathing example of the old saw about the guy demanding to know where his people are, which direction they are travelling, and where they are going so that he can lead them.
    Yeah, go back to Haah-vehd.

  13. Home.
    So he is not allowed to call Canada home because he works in another country.

  14. I guess he was “just visiting” who would have thunk it oh yeah those mean old conservative’s. Nailed it from the very beginning. Saw right through that Liberal. Ha ha

    • 2.5 million Canadians are doing the same thing.

      Ozzies do it, Israelis do it, Brits do it…..but Canadians aren’t allowed to eh?

      • Wayne Gretzky and many other hockey players do it but are still branded as Canadian heroes

    • Now the Liberals are offering Canadians their new saviour… Justin “Chippendale” Trudeau! Who in their right mind would hand over the levers of power for all of Canada to this dickwad..?!!

  15. Ignatieff was too smarty-pants to be PM of bucolic Canada. His place is in the ivory tower casting pearls to young malleable minds; not in the Canadian mosh pit of mediocrity.

    So what have Liberals learned from their misadventure? They went from brains to brawn now that Justin “Chippendale” Trudeau is their heartthrob leader mesmerizing women and youth, and opportunistic hangers-on. From a U.S. republic lover to a Quebec French supremacist who struts on the Canadian stage with aplomb and appeal. Oh, Canada….

    • It was a charitable event you moron. Harpers wife was there; she was chairman of the charity i i do believe. The haperitrites are utterly shameless. Do anything, say anything, misrepresent anything, as long as they take the man down.
      Only this time it isn’t working. So, yes in a sense the Liberals have learned from the Ignatieff fiasco. They’ve picked a guy that many Canadians think they know( whether they do is another matter) in order to insulate themselves from Tory hard ball tactics that worked so well against ignatieff. Who would’ve thought it would work as well as it has. I’m certainly enjoying the spectacle of the Harperites pulling their hair out with frustration. But then they never have got why the Trudeau legend has been so durable; most likely they never will til it’s too late…for Harper anyway.

      • Once the election campaign gets serious look to attack ads that display Justin claiming that Quebecers make the best PMs and that he would work for an independent Quebec rather than live in a Harper Canada! Perhaps you could emigrate to Quebec too after October 19, 2015… to be with your cher Justin!

        • Justin is the son of Pierre Trudeau, in case you didn’t know. There’s no way Canadians will believe he is in favour of Quebec separation. And the Conservatives already tried that attack ad in 2013 and it failed. All it’s likely to do is improve Justin’s numbers in Quebec.

          • But Rebecca, Justin’s Quebec French supremacist views are captured on video, and when the general election comes about you can bet the CPC and NDP will hang your cher Justin boy over his own words.. notwithstanding your love for your Justin “Chippendale” Trudeau.. the heartthrob of Canadian girls of all ages…lol

        • Any idiot can make any point they like once you remove context – as you’ve just demonstrated.
          Save your moronic TPs for someone who cares. I’m a proud westerner. It’ll take more than a vacent blow hard like you to make me move anywhere.

          • I can see you suffer immeasurably over the poisonous truth about your Justin… the Quebec French supremacist… just like his Papa Pierre… it’s true…

  16. This sentence threatens to defeat me:

    “In academic life, false ideas are merely false and useless ones can be fun to play with,” Ignatieff once wrote in a widely noticed mea culpa, but not as much as everyone else should be culpa on Iraq.

    Is the sense that Ignatieff was, while offering a mea culpa, suggesting others were more maximally culpable than he?

    • Well I would have said Dubya was more culpable than Ignatieff will ever be.

      Dick Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld…..lots of people FAR more culpable than Ignatieff.

    • I took that as a shot at the bush admin, in particular Cheney. But now you mention it he did say everyone.

      • Is it a really veiled swipe at his eminence- Harper?

        • No.. it refers to Justin “Chippendale” Trudeau … the false “leader”… lol

          • I doubt it. Trudeau is a more genuine leader than Ignatieff ever was. Trudeau at least has spent his entire life in Canada and has strong connections to Canadian politics through his family. Ignatieff on the other hand spent most of his life in a Harvard classroom.

          • Rebecca Fine ardently believes with all her heart that Justin “Chippendale” Trudeau is a “genuine leader” to whom she would turn over the welfare of all of Canada!

            Meanwhile she ignores the fact that her Justin is a overt Quebec French supremacist and his racist views are captured on youtube videos for all to see.

            But her love for Justin boy conquers all and she won’t hear anything bad about her heartthrob. Yes, she votes with her heart.

  17. Ignatieff was treated somewhat harshly by Harper and subject to a lot of attack ads, but even though I’m no fan of Harper & the Conservatives, they did accurately portray this aspect of Ignatieff correctly. It’s clear that he doesn’t really understand Canada and should never have run for Prime Minister. You can’t spend so many years outside the country and expect to get elected to office. He obviously prefers being in a Harvard classroom than talking to voters.

    • “He obviously prefers being in a Harvard classroom than talking to voters.”

      Well, that makes two leaders from the last election who preferred other activities to “talking to voters”

    • I justifiably believe that Justin Trudeau also doesn’t understand Canada based on his public views on Quebec French supremacism claiming that Quebecers make the best PMs and that Canada belongs to Quebec!

      Once the federal election commences, the CPC and NDP will make certain that all Canadians understand the diabolical views of Justin the supremacist racist who most certainly doesn’t deserve to be PM of all of Canada. He will be the last leader of the soon to be defunct Liberal party. Believe it!

      • Do you practice this stuff in front of a mirror Obie? You must provide hours of entertainment for your family and friends.

  18. We don’t need no Harvard professor to lead our country.

    All we need is a part-time high school drama teacher.

    • … and Justin “Chippendale” Trudeau is a hellava good thespian-politician who loves to strut on the public stage and deliver his scripted lines in his edwardian drama queen tone of voice… just like his Papa Pierre did to capture the hearts and mindlets of Canadian women, who are now lil’ grey haired supporters of son Justin! Oh how the wheel turns…!!

      • I really don’t get where people think he’s such a great speaker. He sounds stilted, stiff, forced, rather monotone, and at a volume reminiscent of a senior who forgot to put his hearing aids in.

  19. Yup. As others have remarked, the Conservative “Just Visiting” ads were right on the mark, weren’t they. But that didn’t stop the various Ignatieff apologists from howling and screaming at the time, did it. I guess, for some people, it’s not whether you’re right or wrong, but how loud you yell and scream.

    • Just wait for the next election when the CPC and NDP nail cher Justin with his relatively recent Quebec supremacist views spewed on Quebec TV in French… while trying to portray the opposite to the suckers in the Rest of Canada… and the youth and besotted Canadian women want to believe him because he is so “us” and so “cute”… go figure…lol

  20. Interesting to read this Wells’ piece with the government response to the Canadian journalist in Cairo in mind.
    They’ve emphasized that Fahmy is a dual citizen and has been working in Cairo for 8 years.
    Like Ignatieff, not a real Canadian.

    • Their response is a disgrace of a whole other order.

    • As a dual citizen, Fahmy is a Canadian when in Canada and an Egyptian when in Egypt and subject to the laws of Egypt too. But wait… some Canadians believe he’s a Canadian when in Egypt and an Egyptian when in Canada and part of the multiculti liberal fabric of our nation.

      Fahmy just can’t lose with that kind of naive Canadian attitude… and in a sense is a superior Canadian-Egyptian than plain Canadian born citizens.

      • Even you would be subject to the laws of Egypt if you were visiting Einstein!

  21. I have only read excerpts from Iggy’s book, but from those get the feeling the election was the first time in Michael’s entire coddled life that he’d been soundly rejected.

    The peasants,er…voters of Canada simply didn’t care that Ignatieff was a man of letters,a great intellectual (who’d never run a lemonade stand or had a paper route), we were just too unsophisticated to care about the blue blood that courses through his veins.

    Intellectual you may be,Michael, but street smart you are NOT! You were dumb and egotistical enough to believe your self-perceived magnificence would cause us to swoon on your behalf at the polls. When it didn’t work,when you were more soundly beaten than any Liberal leader since John Turner, you went into a state of shock,rather pitiful to see.

    Simply, you were NOT the man to run this Country and we “great unwashed masses” were intelligent enough to recognize that fact. We aren’t intellectuals, but we aren’t stupid.

    • … and the desperate Liberals have gone from brains to brawn with their telegenic louche scaramouche leader Justin “Chippendale” Trudeau… and they seem to have struck a resonant chord amongst brain-addled Canadians who have “fallen in love” with cher Justin… and who seems to be saying all the right things to the besotted (mostly female) masses who want to believe their heartthrob leader. Oh, Canada ….!

    • I agree.

      Mikey was “surprised” at the resounding rejection of the cult he thought he had built around himself.

      He is sort of like another Liberal leader, (a PM) who upon losing an election didn’t blame himself, but instead said, “The people of Canada have let us down”

      Can’t get more Liberal than that.

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