Ever conscious of this stuff, he began with a headline.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Michael Ignatieff said, “I am in.”
If that wasn’t sufficient, there was more in this quotable vein.
On loving his country: “I love my country.”
On Stephen Harper’s government: “The truth is not in them.”
On leadership: “Leadership for me is about telling a true story.”
On understanding: “What we understand together, we can master together.”
And that was just the first page.
He moved onward and upward from there. Take out your bingo cards and follow along.
Outthink. Solution. Honest. Hope. Opportunity. Dream. Equality. Values. Prime Minister. Beliefs. Challenge. Rise. Ensemble. Renewal. Best. Brightest. Pledge. Convene. Grassroots. Compassion. Toughness. Generosity. Fierce. Patriotism. Love. Faith. Listen. Respect. Tradition. Future. Honour. Lead.
As is the case with all successful politicians, he was trailed by a small array of young men in dark coats. He wore a dark suit and red tie with a shirt that might’ve been pink. He rocked a bit on his feet, massaged the air around him with his hands, pounded his fist every so often and spoke French with a particular verve. The press gallery was vaguely captivated by him, having found a politician that was purposefully more interesting than a loaf of bread.
“I’ve changed,” he declared. “I’ve been tested.”
A reporter noted that last time he sought the Liberal leadership, in 2006, it was deemed his to lose. “And I did a pretty good of job it,” he joked.
“I think the ballot question last time was, ‘Who the hell does he think he is?'” he added.
He then clarified that he was not, in fact, the devil.
If the enduring lesson of the Stephane Dion Era was that one must first look and sound the part if one hopes to become Prime Minister, Michael Ignatieff would seem an easy choice to lead the Liberals into the next election. At least so long as the Prime Minister you desire is one who does a good job of seeming smart and worldly and charming and nearly cool. If your basic test is an individual’s ability to deliver a decent speech—a test that is at least as sound as any of the others—Ignatieff would seem even better prepared than he was two years ago.
But of course there are also, as sports people put it, the intangibles. How a politician makes you feel. Whether you believe him. Whether you find him relatable and endearing and admirable or merely impressive. And, er, what it is he says he wants to do within his jurisdiction.
Someone somewhere opined today that we need a leader like him. It was, all things considered, a fairly astute assessment. The primary problem with it being that there’s a large chasm between a “leader like him” and “him.” That is the question. And it is primarily on the small matter of what is he wants to do with this country—and how sensibly he articulates as much—that it will be answered.
Only once during this second attempt at a campaign launch was Ignatieff particularly tested in this regard. Someone asked him about the auto industry and what he might do about it if he were Prime Minister.
Ignatieff began his answer with reference to an obscure joke about an Irishman. What followed was altogether sensible, if not transcendent.
Which probably qualifies this as a good start, though not much more than that.