Thursday, June 22, 2006

Intense Curiosity

Not that it matters in the grand scheme of things, but that's the emotion that was prompted by the posting from TDH Strategies' Jonathan Ross discussing why he supports Michael Ignatieff for leader. A juxtaposition:

On March 27, I wrote this as to why Mr. Ignatieff was not one of my favourites:

"...a fundamental disagreement with his stances on the Iraq war and the use of torture," and belief "that a man who has spent the better part of three decades outside of Canada is properly cut out to lead the Liberal party so soon after returning "home."

I resented his description of our country as a "well-meaning, herbivorian boy scout" back in 2002. I hated the fact that he had started to include himself in his pontifications on what it was like to be an American (using words like "we" and "our". I had confusion on his opinions on torture, the United Nations, and Iraq, and accused the candidate of being someone who "flirts with [an] issue masterfully, and yet always leaves himself an exit strategy to negate his critics."
That was him then. This is him now:

Well, like I have stated in the past, my opinions were formed with only a peripheral understanding of the man, and I now know that I didn't have all the necessary information. Because ultimately, despite the fact that I don't agree with all of Ignatieff's positions, I also understand that he is a guy that can step up to the plate and offer Canadians many of the visions that I have spent years promoting on this website.

I like the fact that he is willing to take positions that aren't necessarily popular or easy. If there is one thing that has become very clear to political observers is this country, it is the intense backlash against wishy-washy, "trying to please everyone" types of policies after the Paul Martin era. Why have Stephen Harper's five priorities been well received for the most part? Because a) every Canadian is able to find at least one that they can support b) they are decisive in branding who the government is and what they want to accomplish c) people are ready to be won over by leaders, not appeasers.

Supporting our mission in Afghanistan is the right thing to do, and there is no waivering in Ignatieff's stance, in spite of some Liberals' insistence that we MUST be different than Stephen Harper (how utterly silly that kind of stand alone criteria is). His support for the Iraq war and the ouster of Saddam Hussein is controversial and some might even say dangerous, but completely understandable because of his bond with the Kurdish people.
Now he's reciting Ignatieff-supporter talking points. ("Bond with the Kurdish people"? How does that justify an invasion in 2003, when the Kurds were more autonomous than they had ever been?) I mean, this is bog-standard stuff- no spark of creativity whatsoever. Long-in-tooth and long-rebutted.

But more importantly, get a load of all that "he holds his position without wavering" stuff. Aside from being talking points, doesn't that

a) mean that he still holds the contempt for Canada seen in the earlier quote


b) sound a HELL of a lot like a Republican trying to support George Bush in 2004? Down to the word? For those Canadians who maybe haven't been paying attention, consistency is not necessarily a virtue. Sometimes you make mistakes. Sometimes the situation changes. Sometimes you realize that there's a better option. Leaving aside the wisdom of the deployment in Afghanistan, this is a terrible argument, and it makes me wonder why the hell someone of Ross's seeming intelligence would mention it.

The other rather dim bit? Take a look:

These kinds of positions provide a nice transition into my next point - Micheal Ignatieff has more depth behind his opinions than just about any politician I have encountered over the past decade. In fact, it is that kind of knowledge base and experience which make him the atypical politician - a feather in his cap as far as I am concerned. Like I wrote last month:

"Rather than create a wedge with people, however, Ignatieff's long academic and journalistic careers have given him the uncanny ability to know how to identify with an audience. He was just as comfortable walking into a small room filled with wealthy socialites sympathetic to the plight of Israel as he was speaking to a large, semi-hostile Sunni Muslim audience celebrating Milad-un-Nabi. To say that he has been to mosques in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, to recant about trips to Israel, to understand the delicate balance of issues betwen the Israelis and the Palestinians...requires a broad base of experience in which to draw upon. And, Ignatieff has plenty in which to work with."

How refreshing...a candidate that can back up his words with academic credentials, global experience, and the incorporation and consideration of a wide range of opinions.
Ok, let's leave aside the "consideration of a wide range of opinions" (every politician does that to a certain extent, unless they're "holding a position without wavering")... what does having a background in foreign policy have to do with, for instance, knowing about a carbon tax?

Sometimes I think that people think that the "Professor" on Gilligan's Island is an actual true-to-life character, and that knowledge of one field means that you must be an authority on another. This, of course, is nonsense- there are any number of fields that Ignatieff is completely ignorant about, just as there are any number of professors who are completely ignorant about international relations and foreign policy.

Ignatieff's strength is in foreign policy, full stop. On that, he speaks authoritatively, although it's important to remember that someone with a Prof. beside his name is usually dead wrong on some issue in his field, and for every issue there's a Professor that's dead wrong about it. The thing about Ignatieff, though, is that it's precisely on the issue of foreign policy that he's been criticized most deeply and by the most experts in the field, and the "Prof." beside his name doesn't insulate him from those criticisms in the least.

If his foreign policy is a millstone around the neck of the Liberal party, it's a millstone. Full stop.

I also found this interesting:

I am very impressed by Ignatieff's intellectual honesty. This approach is a combination of not treating your audience like idiots, and having the resolve to call a spade a spade without walking on eggshells.
Yes, he's pretty good at "calling a spade a spade without walking on eggshells". So was Archie Bunker.

(Oh wait, that's wasn't spades he was "telling it like it is" about, it was Ukrainians. Just calling a Slav a Slav, I suppose. I wouldn't call that "intellectual honesty", though.)

Me, I'm surprised that any Canadian could read this:

He believes that we cannot continue to live in this bubble of "boyscout diplomacy" and expect the world we live in to magically become safer. He says that a mature and diversified foreign policy must involve risk - a quality that we as Canadians are often so adverse to
...and not feel downright insulted. I guess calling the people you want to lead a mob of delusional children is the kind of diplomatic acumen that Michael Ignatieff brings to the table. Ross says "He is a breath of fresh air". He certainly does smell of something.

So kudos, Jonathan Ross, kudos, for joining the winning team:

Finally, aside from the content behind the candidate, the way I have been treated by the campaign, even in the past 24 hours, has been very impressive. I was welcomed on board by the national campaign director with a phone call yesterday. I have already been asked to make contributions, likely on national policy to begin with. I have had a lot of positive encouragement from so many of the individuals that form the collective core of Ignatieff supporters across the country. It is very nice to feel appreciated.
...and I'm very glad that Ignatieff's e-communications and blogger recruitment team worked so hard to bring you onside.

Judging by the talking points in this post, life is so much easier when you can have your opinions chosen for you.

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