Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bright and Blind

Michael Ignatieff still does not understand the part he played in his party's worst defeat in history. Bob Hepburn writes that Ignatieff's new book should be titled It Really Wasn't My Fault:

According to Ignatieff, the Liberals were trounced because they lacked money to buy television ads to counter Harper’s attack ads, which kept hammering away at the fact Ignatieff had been out of Canada for nearly 30 years, because they were in worse shape internally than he had imagined and because Harper and Layton were veteran politicians who knew how to connect with voters better than he did.

To Ignatieff, the Liberals’ demise had little or nothing to do with his flip-flopping on key issues, his failure to focus on two or three issues about which he felt passionately or his wooden, cold television image.
If anything, the book reinforces the widely perceived image of Ignatieff as arrogant and aloof, a man who turned voters off, not on. It’s as if he is saying about his political life: “I’m brilliant, I’m better than this.”

Hepburn writes that Ignatieff made all kinds of mistakes:

As leader, he was uninspiring and his political smarts were questionable. He failed to establish distinctive policies that set him apart from Harper. He failed to tell Canadians two or three key issues that he felt most passionately about. He supported Harper on virtually every Conservative legislative initiative, keeping the Tories in power.

At the same time, Ignatieff excluded his own MPs from a major Liberal policy conference. He failed to attract star candidates. He showed little understanding of what he wanted to do as a politician or how he would achieve it. He was terrible on television and refused to listen to advisers who wanted to help because, as a former TV star, he knew better.
Canadians didn’t like him not because he wouldn’t get down and dirty in politics, like Harper does. They voted against him because they knew he didn’t have any core values and because they felt he looked down on them.

There's a lot that Ignatieff has failed to learn. A man can be very bright -- and utterly blind.


CK said...

Owen, let's be fair. I think the Liberal Party was as much if not more to blame than Iggy was.

It is true the party had no money for TV ads. It is also true the party was trapped in bitter infighting.

It was the party insiders that went off to Harvard to pluck him and have him uproot from a life he and his wife were living for decades. It's not like Iggy woke up one morning and made a long distance call and said, "Hey, I wanna be leader of your party!"

His own party threw Dion to the wolves when things didn't quite work out as planned at the 2006 leadership convention for their man.

Then, not that long after, the party threw Iggy to the wolves. I remember reading articles not long before the last election that some Liberals were secretly hoping for a Harpercon win so Iggy would leave.

There was talk that Roy Romanow, Ed Broadbent and Jean Chretien were involved in talks of forming a coalition, but one where Bob Rae would be leading and throwing Iggy out. Not sure how much substance was in those rumours, but it does make one think.

Also, many NDP partisans along with Hepburn, seem to continue to live in this fantasy land that had Iggy agreed to that coalition back in early 2009, they would still be in power. Seriously?

While I supported the threat of that coalition and the actual forming of it for the short term, just enough to get that stimulus package out, I knew it was unrealistic that that coalition would've lasted longer than perhaps a stimulus budget, if that long. Remember the forming of it, how arduous it was? It was fragile at best.

Gilles Duceppe didn't want join this agreement if Dion was still leader. Layton and Dion couldn't agree on much and eventually, Dion had to leave.

Also, if one followed Duceppe and the Bloc, was there actually any assurances that he would've stuck with this coalition for a year?? I doubt it. Duceppe's mantra was "I'll vote for what I think is best for Quebec". As such, he had voted with the Harpercons numerous times. Harper knew the game of divide and conquer and did it well. It was only a matter of time that Harper would've lured Duceppe over to the dark side with some perk for la belle province.

Layton and Harper were better "friends" with each other than Iggy and Layton ever were.

Let's also remember that Layton and Duceppe also were willing to sleep with Harper to form a coalition of sorts to oust Paul Martin. No loyalty.

In Lawrence Martin's book, "Harperland", it appeared that Harper was initially willing to step aside and give them the rope to hang themselves with-- he too, didn't give them 6 months. It was Kory Teneyke and his puppets that wanted him to prorogue immediately.

Also, Hepburn seems to imply that had Iggy not voted with the Harpercons so much or at all, the Harpercons would not be in power today. Uh, no, they would've gotten their majority that much sooner and more time for Harper's path of destruction.

Sure both opposition parties enabled Harper while in minority, but as it has been seen in the last 2.5 years, Harper has done more damage in that short time than he did with 5 years in minority.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, CK, that the Liberal Party was the author of its own troubles. The civil war between Chretien and Martin did the party immense harm.

In trying to steer Iggy to the top, the movers and shakers fundamentally misunderstood the kind of person they needed to repair that damage.

They didn't need a public intellectual. They needed the kind of person who could use his political smarts to bring the party together.

But once Ignatieff was declared leader -- without a race -- his political deficits became clear. He's a brilliant analyst. And he's probably a terrific teacher.

But he's no politician.

The Mound of Sound said...

I think CK is going way too easy on Ignatieff. Leaving aside his stabbing Dion in the back (and I was never a Dionista), the path Iggy charted for the Libs, transforming them into Conservative Lite, was enough to drive me and plenty others like me out of the Liberal fold - in my case after forty years.

Ignatieff's liberal instincts were very frail to begin with. That much is apparent from his writings before the royal carriage was sent to Harvard to collect him to his triumphant return to Canada. I think this business that he was a reluctant warrior is more of Iggy's self-serving bullcrap.

He endorsed "muscular" foreign policy and supported the razing of Gaza. What kind of Liberal is that?

What I can never forgive him is his failure to act when Harper prorogued Parliament as Canada faced the greatest economic threat since the Great Depression.

He could have and should have convened a council of the best and brightest to forge a Liberal stimulus proposal to bring to Parliament when it resumed. Harper's proposal was utterly ineffective, terrible.

With a viable stimulus alternative, Iggy would have had something valid on which he could have brought down Harper on his ridiculous budget. He would have had something on which he could have campaigned before a very worried nation.

But what did Iggy do? He treated it as an extended Christmas holiday. He used the time to write a book about his maternal ancestors, the Grants. At the very moment when Canada was staring into an international crisis that pathetic lump wrote a book about the Grants.

And then, when Parliament was recalled, Iggy stood there empty handed, his thumb squarely up his backside. He had no choice but to support - and consign Canada to - Harper's "stimulus budget." Do you remember cringing with embarrassment when Ignatieff proclaimed how he was putting Harper "on probation"?

Everything that followed from that was just a bad joke. You can't blame the Liberal Party for that. It rests squarely and solely on Ignatieff.

Remember his "thinkers' conference"? Did you ever get to look at the roster of speakers? It was massively top heavy with CEO's and management consultants - perfect for a conservative party but not a liberal party. Is it any wonder Iggy could never come up with policies that resonated with a troubled electorate? The man was a farce.

And now, true to course, he's doing the predictable - blaming anyone and everyone else he can name to mask his own deficiencies and failures.

That may work for CK but it doesn't wash with me.

Owen Gray said...

Ignatieff was to the manor born, Mound. That's not necessarily a fault -- so was Franklin Roosevelt.

The difference between the two men is that Roosevelt's social position did not blind him to the struggles of ordinary folks.

For Ignatieff, their struggles were more philosophical than real.