So long, Michael Ignatieff. I miss who you used to be.

Canadian politics didn’t strip him of everything. He remains a thinker.


Andrew Potter’s essay on Michael Ignatieff reminded me of the influence Ignatieff had on my own life, well before he entered politics.

In 2002 I faced something of a dilemma. The previous year I had begun my first real job in print journalism at the Ottawa Citizen. It hadn’t started well. No one ever tells aspiring writers that they’ll start their careers covering car accidents and asking distraught parents how they feel about children drowning in their backyard pools. But this is how it begins. I started thinking about a new line of work.

Then al-Qaeda flew jet planes into New York skyscrapers and murdered thousands. I begged my editor to send me to Afghanistan. He did. My career took off. By 2002 I had the sort of job I always wanted: covering foreign news for the National Post.

In the meantime, however, I had applied to study for a doctoral degree at the University of Oxford and was accepted. I saw a looming fork in the road. But in truth I wanted to do both: journalism and academia; the thrill of breaking news and the deeper satisfaction of digging into a topic for weeks or years, rather than hours.

Michael Igatieff, at the time, straddled both worlds. He was a rare academic who wrote lucid and important journalism. On a whim, I sent him an email at Harvard, where he was running the Kennedy School. His reply was long and thoughtful. Go to Oxford, he said. You’ll never be intellectually intimidated again. As for journalism, and especially freelance journalism, it’s a tough way to make a living, but you’ll be a free man. And that’s worth something.

I admired Ignatieff’s ideas then. He was an internationalist who believed there were times when Western nations must use force to stop slaughter and other human rights abuses in sovereign nations. When a country devours its children, I recall him telling a Radio Canada interviewer, the West has a duty to intervene. And few countries in the 20th century had devoured as many of its children as had Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Ignatieff’s defence of America’s invasion of that country was brave and principled. It owed more to a liberal tradition than to the neoconservative one he is too often tarred with. There was a time, in the 1930s, when the NDP’s forefathers in the CCF took a stand against fascism in Spain. That the NDP has abandoned its heritage and now seeks accommodation with those they once fought is its own shame. But the party’s current morally bankruptcy on foreign affairs doesn’t change the fact that the Left has a much nobler tradition.

Still, Ignatieff disappointed me as a politician. He spent decades making the moral case for humanitarian intervention, and then cast all this aside for a shot at power. His apology for supporting the Iraq war was self-abasing twaddle. He blames himself for being too moved, too influenced, by the passions of Iraqis who suffered genocide — as if such emotions are not understandable and good, as if solidarity with those who have suffered genocide shouldn’t play a role in our foreign policy. He once wrote that those we too quickly abandon in broken countries will have reason never to trust us again, and then he didn’t make the case for staying, and fighting, in Afghanistan for as long as it takes. He was no less resolute than Stephen Harper, but that’s not saying much.

Ignatieff jettisoned the best parts of himself when he ran for office. I’ve often wondered what he would have said to a student who asked him in 2010 whether he should go to Oxford. In my most cynical moments I suspect he would have suggested the student stay in Canada and study at Trent. But then what else could he say? The Conservatives made Ignatieff’s world experience a stain.

And yet the shallowness of Canadian politics didn’t strip Ignatieff of everything. He remains a thinker. He wasn’t a good politician, but he is a good man. He respected Canadians. He answered them. That Harper hid behind the braying cheers of his supporters when faced with difficult questions from reporters says a lot about the kind of person he is. Ignateiff wasn’t intellectually intimidated. He didn’t hide. Ignateiff said he’s leaving politics with his head held high, and he’s right. I voted for Harper in 2006, back when I thought he believed in something. I voted for Ignatieff on Monday. I’d do it again.


So long, Michael Ignatieff. I miss who you used to be.

  1. As would I Dr Petrou, as would I.

  2. I didn't vote for Ignatieff. Too many issues with the Liberal Party and particularly my local candidate. But I agree, he can hold his head high. There were moments when he did and said dumb and even wrong things, but on the whole, I think he ran the campaign with integrity — something his enemies didn't do with an attack campaign that exploited xenophobia and anti-intellectualism to discredit Ignatieff.

  3. I tend to agree with you. I think Ignatieff did one of the worst things you can do, in politics or anywhere else – he tried to be something he was not. He is a brilliant man and he did have passion – it was jut never channelled in the right way or the right direction. And yes, the day he started saying wars and torture were OK, was the day he lost me, and maybe the day, as you say, he gave up the best parts of himself for a shot at power.

  4. He came in advertized as potentially a new Trudeau, but I think he most closely resembled Mike Pearson. It's too bad our political system doesn't favour thinkers. I wasn't sure I liked him enough to vote for his party when he took the job, but faced with the alternatives, I did vote Liberal and I'd do it again. I think he would have made a good PM.

    • Excellent. Absolutely agree, Iggy was a Pearsonian Liberal.

      Disagree with Petrou on the "twaddle" of Ignatieff's support of Iraq's invasion. It's hard to measure just how febrile things get in the U.S. Look what it did to Christopher Hitchens. I have friends in NYC who were walking on eggshells for months. Yeah, Bush lied, but down there you could understand just how much, and how deeply, everyone felt.

      Ignatieff recanted. Hitchens still hasn't. Ignatieff has Character.

  5. Using your knowledge acquired in academia and the skills you honed as a print journalist, please explain, in your own words, the assertion that "the Left has a much nobler tradition" in foreign affairs than say the Liberal Party of Canada, or the Conservative Party of Canada.

    • I think you've misread. I think MP was saying that "the Left has a much nobler tradition" in foreign affairs than those policies/positions currently promoted by the NDP as the model of Left foreign policy in Canada. MP contrasts a time when Canadian socialists and social democrats joined in the Spanish Civil against the Fascists with the view that today's NDP would appease the contemporary equivalents of fascists in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. I find the latter point slightly caricatured, but yours is a far worse caricature.

  6. He lost me when I realized that when he left the UK, he still did not choose Canada to make his home. He had already lived and worked in the US so it had nothing to do with being a 'world traveller', it was a snub to Canada. He never contributed to Canada yet, when he wanted to add Prime Minister to his resume, he suddenly found Canada and we were to forget the nasty things he said about Canada and the fact that for all of his adult life we were never good enough for the self-important professor. Not this lady.

    • Actually he taught and worked all over the world. Including in Canada.

    • You think living in the US makes you a world traveler?

      • You should check his bio – he did a lot more than live in the US for a few years.

    • Luckily, saying nasty things about Canada doesn't disqualify a person from being Prime Minister.

    • Alright, go ahead, make ridiculous arguments. Leasa, go get a PhD., write some terrific stuff, become something of a media darling, get offers of enormous prestige and great pay and tell me you're going to turn them down.

      There are approximately 1 million Canadians making a living in California. And I guess they're all "snubbing" Canada.

      Leasa, you define parochial.

  7. I feel that if the decision came up about whether to follow Americans into a foolish war, Ignatieff would make the wrong decision for the right reasons and Harper the wrong decision for the wrong reasons.

  8. When a country devours its children, I recall him telling a Radio Canada interviewer, the West has a duty to intervene. And few countries in the 20th century had devoured as many of its children as had Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

    I would have voted for that Ignatieff, not for the one who changed his mind for political expediency.

    • honest q: how is it better to have voted for a party led by a man who refuses to acknowledge his position on the Iraq war for political expediency? (assuming you voted CPC, which is suggested by your comments in this place)

      • well, Harper has never really reneged his position on the Iraq war, although he doesnt publicize it much, for obvious reasons. so in that sense it is better, he may not scream his position from the rooftops, but he hasnt done a 180 on it just at a time when that position became politically inconvenient.
        (and yes, I did vote CPC)

        • it's not about "doesn't publicize it," he "has never really reneged his position on the Iraq war" because he flat-out refuses to discuss what his position was, or what his position is now, ever since that position became politically inconvenient. We have no idea what his position is today on the Iraq War.

          • at the time it was an actual issue, he chastised Chretien for not participating, didnt he? and people certainly seem to believe his position is one of support (read Mike T's comment below).

            But you bring up a good point, it would be preferable if he discussed it openly and stood by his convictions.

          • yes, Harper's position was quite clear in 2003, my point was that "ever since that position became politically inconvenient" Harper refuses to discuss what his position was or is. I think that's cowardly. Ignatieff may have only changed his position once his former position became politically inconvenient, as you suggest* but to do so at the very least required acknowledging the existence of his previous statements. This isn't much on the scale of courage, but not much is still more than 0.

            *or he might have changed his mind, I don't really care either way. Ignatieff's never been a "consistent" thinker, even from one paragraph to the next, and I don't worry much about his reasons for changing his mind.

      • it is strange indeed we probably have the only sitting world leader who still feels the invasion of Iraq was justified. It is my sincere hope we don't face that kind of decision again while harper is in power.

        • yeah, it would be so much better if only Saddam Hussein was still around. And now OBL is dead too. Im so sorry for your loss.

          • Really classy of you Alfanerd. OSB has zero to do with this subject, but true to form you smear away.

            For the record, Canada, under a Liberal Government, went to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and OSB. And the Liberal Party continues to support that war, despite the cost in Canadian military lives.

  9. Ignatieff's early text, A Just Measure of Pain: The Penitentiary in the Industrial Revolution 1750-1850, profoundly changed the fields of criminology and social history. Add to this his biography of Isaiah Berlin, The Rights Revolution, Blood and Belonging — and one can see how Ignatieff the author has influenced (even redefined) many field and professions. I hope he keeps it up.

    • Maybe his talents are better used in academia, besides. There are less talented individuals who would make better politicians.

      • One of the interesting aspects of Ignatieff's career is that his work hasn't been limited to academia. His books sold well and were influential beyond the ivory tower. His journalism, documentary work and even fiction writing were also consumed by a wider public than just academics and policy wonks.

        • Including "Talk show hos"

          • Talk show host, like Oprah, only not making so much

  10. I would have certainly seriously considered voting for him. I think it takes courage to take an unpopular (and correct) position such as being in favour of the Iraq war, and if a liberal takes that position, it takes even more courage. I would have respected that immensely. His flip-flop really disheartened me though and I could not have voted for him in a million years.

  11. Now maybe our country will get back to some kind of normal.
    Mr. Harper doesn't have to worry about someone constantly attacking him and he can get back to running the country as he should..
    I think Layton will start behaving now that he has no backup to encourage him to do otherwise.

    The show is all yours Mr. Harper, take us to the top..

    • What is your definition of 'the top'?

    • Way to go Joshua. What Canada doesn't need is someone who talks truth to power. What we need is someone who answers to no one. Ve neet a shtrong leeter. Ein volk. Liebensraum.

      Oh, and as many corporatist powers as you can imagine.

      There is no left or right. There is corporatist and not so corporatist.

  12. That guy beside you Iggy, its called a backstabber, you were their sacrificial lamb. The LPC is not a kind one.I dont hate you, I just did'nt like you.I hated the way you lectured me.Enjoy the US of A

  13. An excellent, excellent piece. The Michael Ignatieff who stood up to the moral relativists, apologists and hand-wringers on the left and defended the liberation of Iraq on principaled liberal grounds was an inspiring example for many.

    The fact that Ignatieff later through that courage out the window in order to curry favour with those same moral relativists, apologists, and handwringers who now dominate the modern Liberal party reduced Ignatieff to a disgraceful shadow of his former self.

    The parallel with Stephane Dion is somwhat striking. Dion received multipe bruises as a courageous and unapologetic opponent of the sovereigntist movement during a time when such views were far from popular throughout Quebec… only to throw that legacy out the window when he tried to cut a deal with those same sovereigntists during the coaltion debacle.

  14. No matter how you look at it, going into Iraq was dumb. Not only was it dumb, but the Bush administration lied to everybody as to why they went in.
    Everybody agrees that Saddam Hussein was garbage and that the world is better place without him.

    That was not the point.

    • Sorry rubbing my neck from the logic whiplash there. You think its good Saddam is gone but invading Iraq was an error? Make up your mind please.

  15. Michael, you and the left keep missing the mark about Ignatieff. Someone being abroad for 30 years then coming back to run for Prime Minister is simply ridiculous. If someone wants to go abroad to get a degree, all the power to them.
    It was the Liberal brain trust that forced Ignatieff to change his views on Iraq. I personally like and respected what he originally said.

  16. Ugh. No one wants to state the simple truth that Ignatieff is a waffling political hack with no defining principles.

    Everyone wants to blame regular Canadians or attack ads.

    We continue to treat this person with kid gloves even after his brand of directionless apologism has been rightly rejected by the Canadian people.

    Ignatieff was an incoherent communicator and an unprincipled leader who was more concerned with blaming Stephen Harper for problems than offering solutions.

    Go back and watch the English debates and try to tell me this is a man with a vision beyond his own arms reach.

    Good riddance!

    • I think you miss Petrou's point. Once upon a time Ignatieff did, in fact, stand for something. Not anymore. That NYT editorial in which Ignatieff recanted the values he used to stand for will go down as every bit the embarassment as his electoral drubbing.

      The Liberals thought Ignatieff would change the Party for the better. Instead, the Liberal Party changed Michael Ignatieff for the worse.

      • I do not miss his point. I reject it as embarrassed apologism, just the kind Ignatieff himself was so often guilty of.

        I reject the notion that Ignatieff ever stood for anything. He was an opportunist, and not a particularly crafty one.

  17. Agreed! When Ignatieff first ran for the Liberal leadership (in '06, was it?), I listened closely to what he said, and seriously would have considered voting for him. I felt his int'l experience was an asset, and the only thing I didn't appreciate was the opportunism (coming back to Canada and immediately making a power grab, but aside from that…).

    But then '06 Ignatieff became '10/'11 Ignatieff. He reversed himself on many controversial positions, he leaned left, he came across as insincere on certain occasions, etc etc. And I stopped seeing him as a viable alternative to Harper.

  18. T Smith teed it up and hit it out of the park.
    The "principled" Ignatieff, for whom I had also had some respect and admiration , revealed himself to be as callow and arrogant as the party that anointed him, startiing with the removal of the putative nominee in his "chosen" riding. No need for this intellectual colossus to toil in the Elysian fields of Canadian constituency politics.
    He richly deserves his fate because I am sure that he and his classmate, the ever reliable sofa salon socialist Bob Rae and his fellow travellers in the LPC braintrust had concocted a constitutionally valid but a very politically risky and unpalatable scheme(hence the refusal to clearly state that they would defeat a minority and restore their version of the ancien regime). He outsmarted himself like Wallace Shawn in the Princess Bride.
    Clearly, the Count could not count(cheap shot). How else do you explain the disastrous decision to force an election?
    I can hardly wait for the real story and some intellectual candour from him when he is safely back in the academic cloister.
    Big Rad

  19. Ignatieff's defence of America's invasion of that country was brave and principled. It owed more to a liberal tradition than to the neoconservative one he is too often tarred with. There was a time, in the 1930s, when the NDP's forefathers in the CCF took a stand against fascism in Spain. That the NDP has abandoned its heritage and now seeks accommodation with those they once fought is its own shame. But the party's current morally bankruptcy on foreign affairs doesn't change the fact that the Left has a much nobler tradition.

    I'm very proud of the way Maclean's writers and those who have been influenced by MI are speaking up – it says a lot about Macleans – all of it good. It gives me heart and courage to struggle on as a lib.

    • One could say MI's self abasement that took place in order to enter the hallowed halls of Canadian poitics and even more so the sanctimonious bosom of the LPC is his own fault, he should have fought back – can anyone imagine PET allowing himself to be neutred in such away? Still, it speaks volumes about the party and the country generally – i'm very very angry today…but i'll get over it…what other choice do i have?
      As for the quote…no truer word said in a while @ Macleans. If you wont fight for what you stand for; just what do you stand for? Convinces me more then ever that the LPC needs a sea change, and that it should be saved. Thx Mr Harper…we'll be back!

  20. Well he has his new job:

    Outgoing Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has been appointed Senior Resident at the University of Toronto's Massey College.

    Hmmmm…the Munk School of Global Affairs – maybe he will learn something.

  21. Seems to me the democratic system worked fine Joan. Canadians cast their ballots in a free election — and clearly, they do not share your bitterness towards our Prime Minster. I hope you let it go. Four years is a long time hold such simmering rage.

    Accusing people who disgree with you of supporting 'autocracy' is itself contemptuous of democracy.

  22. Saddam being gone is good. Taking our eyes off the ball in Afghanistan to do so was a bad move.

  23. I suggest to you that they were not willing to vote in an autocracy, but rather that they did not know they were doing so.

  24. mercifully, no one cares what the Liberal Party thinks anymore.

  25. Why in the world did you knowingly waste your vote? Weird.

    • Because I believe in voting for the right thing, not the popular thing.

      • You struck out on both counts on Monday night.

        • Well you're a Con…you wouldn't know the right thing if you fell over it.

  26. I like your question. Its about time someone started the job of debunking common myths about the glorious leftards and their so called philosophy. Thanks for starting the ball rolling.

  27. In the Mansbridge interview, a couple of weeks ago, Harper said his support for the Iraq War was a mistake. He said he learnt he was too trusting of the people providing the "bad" intelligence.

    • interesting! harper is definitely a man you want in control ten years after an important decision needs to be made!

  28. How hard is it to understand?

    The US got rid of Saddam, great. The US also ruined itself doing so and made itself look like an aggressor thus proving anyone claiming that the US is evil and wants to crush Islam right. The American government also lied to the world about why they wanted to invade.
    The ends doesn't always justify the means.

    • Correction: Your perception is that "the American government" lied. Fair enough. Perhaps the Americans were guilty of the same illusions you appear to exhibit but I wouldn't accuse either you or the Americans of a deliberate lie. Misguided? Perhaps, but how is it possible for you to know what the American government “wanted” or what they believed to be true or false? History will undoubtedly prove whether the Americans were right or wrong by invading Iraq and removing Saddam from power. It is far too early to make the judgements you profess.

  29. Not only did the liberals transplant a long absent Canadian to become their leader, it seems they also did brain transplant on Ignatief. That was the most unprincipled campaign Liberals ever did. Funny to see biased one thought attack media whining and crying the morning and probably years after.

  30. So it's all about feelings then, and not results. Ignatieff made a mistake, but he had the "appropriate" feelings. Harper made the same mistake, but he had "inappropriate" feelings, and therefore is evil. Never mind that it's the same war with the same end result we're talking about here.

    • whatever job you hold in your workaday life, if it requires being able to distinguish between two completely different words, you are underqualified for it.

      • If it requires deciphering your cryptic posts, I am woefully unqualified.

  31. The Iraq war was not unpopular in the US at the time. Bush's approval ratings were through the roof when he went in. So much so that the media didn't dare ask the hard questions. Even the media has to worry about public opinion. Ignatieff only changed his mind about it once he moved back to Canada.

  32. And not-so-subtle Nazi references are just so appropriate.

  33. Excellent analogy. Guys become leaders and they throw their principles out the window. Harper's done much the same thing. I hope he rediscovers his before it's too late.

  34. Actually it makes perfect sense. There's no illogic there at all. The world would have been much better had his head just exploded, or he ate a poison mushroom, or got hit by a truck or something. The world is NOT better because of the invasion.

    I supported the Iraq war and I have no trouble admiting it was the WRONG position to take. If someone as reasonable and as intelligent as Tony Blair can be taken in by cooked intelligence reports, what chance do the rest of us have?

  35. You realize that you can't bring up the fact that Ignatieff spent 30 years outside the country without being accused of repeating Conservative talking points don't you?

  36. 40% of Canadians were willing to vote in an autocracy…

    …because 40% of the electorate are stupid, old, fat white guys. Old fat sexually repressed white guys. With bad skin. And bald. Really bald. And ugly. Ugly bald wife-beaters. If they had wives. Which they don't. Because they're too old, fat, ugly and sexually repressed.

    Don't just leave us hanging there. Finish your thoughts!

  37. I too once liked Ignatieff. The fact that numerous lefties screamed "NEOCON!!!!" every time his name was mentioned, along with the fact that Bob Rae seemed downright distraught over Ignatieff's decision to run for leader, made me instantly like him. It was only once he started capitulating to his detractors on the left that I lost total interest. I still would have supported Harper. But I would have been comfortable with the 2006 Ignatieff as PM. The 2011 Ignatieff was a hollowed out shell. And contrary to the popular theory being peddled at MacLeans and elsewhere, that hollowing out began long before the first attack ads ran against him.

  38. Bang on. Ignatieff was a good and decent man, who lacked only a spine and political instincts. His fate was sealed before he ever became Liberal leader. The coalition albatross weighed heavily around his neck, because he signed onto the damned thing. Signed his own political death warrant that day too.

  39. It's a pefect fit for him, and he'll be a much better professor than a political leader. Nothing wrong with that. I'd make a terrible professor and even worse political leader.

  40. I don't see any of them coming back and immediately auditioning for the PM's job. A distinction you seem to gloss over.

  41. The Shallowness of Canadian Politics -hahaha as compared to?.?…ofcourse, for many chaps like yourself Oxford represents some sort certificate to/of the world – you are very amusing.

    • Yeah, here it is:

      While We are busy bringing peace to the Middle East and simultaneously ending poverty in Africa, here is a little pack of chicken with fries and extra coleslaw…uh.uh I mean a Family Pack for you silly little people that haven't even been to Trent let alone Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard. Etc. – You misunderstand the gravitas of our 'intense' discussions of how to spend your money solving all the troubles that bother us.

  42. Completely agree as well. I voted for him and I'd do it again. We're in for some hilarity in Parliament the next few years, and I don't mean that in a good way.

  43. .
    Ignatieff was an apologist for Washington exceptionalism.

    Give him 10 years and he'd become and apologist for Beijing exceptionalism.

    Ignatieff held the officially liberal and proper stance of 'Castro as monster'. A safe, Carteresque, position. OK.
    If he ever visited the man, I suppose, like Carter, he would have had a few 'friendly' chats, and then stood up in public and given him lectures on democracy and freedom. Very courageous.

    Trudeau held the honourable, principled, and personal stance of 'Castro as my friend.'

    • .
      Now I've thrown meat before the dogs.

      • Yeah, if you think Castro is anybody to be friends with, or that Cuban domestic policy has anything worth praising, then you are insane. Even the Cuban government itself has recognized that communism doesn't work, and are trying to bring in reforms slowly enough to maintain their power (as China did). Fidel Castro is a monster, and his brother Raoul isn't much better.

        However, I'm not sure if economic disengagement is necessarily the way to deal with him. Like you said, it gives you the chance to lecture them publicly on democracy and freedom. More money going in means more (illegal for now) entrepreneurs who have their own assets to challenge the regime. More trade means more communications technology such as cellphones and computers.

        After all danR, everytime you insult Harper and a Cuban reads it, he starts to wonder why he can't speak against the socialist government that you admire so much. Everything you say in criticism of your own government means I win on foreign affairs.

  44. GOD DAMMIT!!! I spent 6 days in Kosovo in 'the the shiat' for chrissakes!!! and 3 weeks in some 2 star Hotel in Crotia!! What the hell do these people want?

  45. Hahaha

  46. I find it deeply disturbing that Michael Petrou and the vast majority of the posters here seem to think that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea. It should have been obvious back in 2003 that it was a horrible idea in many, many ways. But to have that opinion today is like believing the Hidenburg is the height of 21st century transportation technology. Have you all been living in sensory deprivation tanks for the last decade?

    • That's because it wasn't obviously a horrible idea in many ways.
      Lots of fuzzy thinking on why the Iraq war was a bad idea. It was a bad idea because of the execution risk: Bush and his team were incompetent, we had had 30 years of an omnipotent America winning in all foreign interventions. It was not immediately obvious that America couldn't conduct yet another act of sucessful surgical regime change, and had bitten off more than it could chew. This is what got people like Tony Blair and Paul Martin and Ignatieff onside: it's good to get rid of murderous dictators, and America always wins and has infinite money to pay the bills of doing so, right?
      The great mystery of Chretien's career is what made him decide not to participate in the war, because by all accounts he was on the fence until the very end. I've always thought it was because Chretien's canny political instincts sussed out that Bush and Rumsfeld had no idea what they were doing.

      • When was Jean Chrétien asked to participate in the Iraq war? Who asked and what exactly was requested? This is but another example of "when myth becomes reality, print it!"

        • If I can recall, it was assumed we would participate, as the UK answered the call to arms. Do you remember Chretien's response to the reporter who asked what he needed to believe the WMD claim? “A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven.”

  47. Anyway, mostly a great piece by Petrou except for this line:
    "That Harper hid behind the braying cheers of his supporters when faced with difficult questions from reporters says a lot about the kind of person he is."
    No it doesn't. It says a lot about the kind of politician he is, one who learned the hard way to avoid sticking his foot in it. Like Mackenzie King, Harper the human being will remain a bit of an anglo-saxon mystery.

    • Difficult or silly? It's all in the mind of the beholder.

  48. I have often wondered how Ignatieff's career would have gone had he become a Tory. I look at someone like Chris Alexander and think about how in some ways he's the Gen Y version of Iggy. Iggy's self-image as a man of the left and memories of his youth made him join the wrong party. (Much like his old roommate Bob Rae did!)

    • He'd be Minister of Foreign Affairs in a Harper majority elected in 2008, with a year to go in its second mandate.

      That's how Ignatieff's career as a Tory would have gone. And he wouldn't have had to swallow himself whole to do it — the air of fakeness would not have come, because he could have embraced all that he had preached during his career as a public intellectual.

  49. The scion of failed Russian nobility never inspired me to vote Liberal — the Dippers did along with every craven extremist in the other camps. To me, Iggy was the lesser of several evils. It's sad he seemed unable to retain his integrity on entering politics. It's too bad his party strayed so far to the Left pushed by a phalanx of grasping guttersnipes and has-beens. They fail to see how profoundly overburdened taxpayers want their government to be fiscally responsible without abandoning the hopes of a more progressive society. By moving more to the centre — allaying people's fears of a less caring ministry — Harper may herald a long period of Conservative rule. Liberals need to contemplate that for a while before deciding on who their next "leader" will be and what policies they should champion. They will lose my vote permanently if a merger with smiling-Jack and the Dipper-heads comes about. Prolonged chatter about a fusion of the two will simply drive me further from the fold. The party of Laurier merits better.

  50. It seems a little late in the day (and just a tad opportunistic) for all you MacLean's guys to be wringing your hands at the treatment of Mr. Ignatieff and suddenly waxing lyrical about what a great intellectual he is. Both you and Andrew Potter come across as pretty crass trying to up your own intellectual cred by trotting out your academic bona fides and moral/intellectual superiority ('Hey look, I'm a great thinker too, and isn't it terrible the way we great thinkers are treated!') Please.

    Where were you guys (Wells included) when, as he writes, "Muttart had the party register a website in Montenegro so its URL could be, reinforcing the notion that the Liberal was “just in it for me.” They stuffed it full of embarrassing old quotes. Ads ran for weeks on television and radio…

    I thought that site was the work of some juvenile ad hoc mischief maker. It would have been relevant to know it came from the Prime Minister's office. Wy didn't you journalists tell us at the time?

    Or, during the election, this candid bit from the same Wells' post mortem might have been useful for voters:

    “They say that we try to portray Ignatieff in our ads and so on as a weak and flailing professor,” the war room staffer said. “No, that's how we portrayed Dion. Dion was weak, you know, Dion was ‘not a leader.' …Michael Ignatieff, in our narrative, is a political opportunist who is calculating…“He's a schemer… he's an opportunist …‘He's a malicious human being.'… that's kind of the sentiment we're getting at. With Dion, we were trying to portray him as weak. You can't trust him to lead us out of the economic recovery because he's a weak man. With Ignatieff, it's ‘He's a bad man'…

    It's not just about how Ignatieff was treated. It's about the depths to which our current government is willing to go. But I don't recall you guys writing much about any of this while it was happening. So take your regret and shove it.

  51. It appeared to me that the opposition parties played into Harper's hands without fail. The majority, if not all, charges laid repeatedly against the Conservatives were specious if not simply ridiculous. A group labelling themselves as "NOT HARPER" here in Kings-Hants, constituency of Scott Brison, were seemingly comprised of misfits and oddballs. When asked what it was about Harper they disliked, their answers were consistently vapid and incoherent. With widened eyes and bulging nostrils, they proclaimed Harper to be "evil" but their looks and demeanour suggested that it was "they" who were unhinged. Had Harper really killed the census? Was it he who refused to reform the Senate? Did he fill the pockets of Conservative friends with public monies, as the Liberals had done? NOT HARPER! Sadly, those who proclaimed these specious charges, for the most part, except for the brainwashed i.e. the so-called “Raging Grannies” etc., knew they were not true. It was not Harper who was guilty of contempt, it was really those in opposition exhibiting contempt for the Canadian electorate.

  52. Lectured you about what? When?

  53. I couldn't have said it better myself. There has never been any evidence that were asked to participate in Iraq to a degree any greater than we were at the time. We were already exhausting our potential capacity in Afghanistan. The House did not vote on the issue and any claim by Jean Chretien that he turned down any specific request from President Bush has not been substantiated.