Friday, August 11, 2006

Damage Control

Some people just seem to be a lightning rod for controversy. Such is the case of Michael Ignatieff, who always seems to be "clarifying" his words, while his handlers do damage control. I must say, Ignatieff's penchant for self-inflicted gaffes should give Liberals pause. Afterall, just imagine a quick-paced election campaign, where a few reckless words can command the debate for a week and cause massive momentum shifts. If there is one lesson to be learned from Harper's election campaign, it's that discipline and ability to stay on message are critical components for a successful campaign.

Ignatieff is a dangerous choice, in the sense that he likes to "freelance", which could be refreshing on the one hand, but all too often it reveals a lack of political instinct and experience. The new Liberal leader doesn't enjoy the benefit of a couple years to hone his craft, the election will most likely come quite quickly after the convention. A couple gaffes like we have witnessed recently is the equivalent of a death sentence, and will ensure a Harper victory. I have this eerie feeling that an Ignatieff led Liberals would spend most of its time on the defensive, allowing Harper to pounce on clumsy words.

Supporters point to Ignatieff's anti-political disposition as a plus in a false world of packaging and partisanship. However, this sentiment is still forced to admit the reality that you can't usurp the political arena. Wording is critical, careful consideration vital and an ability to see the landmines essential. Ignatieff's complete failure in reacting to the middle east crisis immediately, coupled with the problematic language in the eventual statements, represent a glaring example of someone who just might not get it. Just because you are an intellectual heavyweight, doesn't preclude a person from lacking basic common sense, nor does it necessarily translate into effective leader.

This leadership campaign is a dry-run for the general election. We scan the policies, but we also see who is quick on their feet, who shows the ability to challenge Harper effectively and who demonstrates sharp political instinct. With all due respect to Ignatieff, from the moment he declared himself a Liberal, the evidence suggests glaring liabilities that constantly re-surface. In my mind, other than the obvious choice of Volpe, Ignatieff has run the worst campaign to date and this fact should give everyone pause before it's too late.

4 comments:

Scotian said...

I would tend to agree with you in your analysis. Just because someone is an intellectual heavyweight does not mean they are a political heavyweight. I think Ignatief is demonstrating that quite clearly. In politics perception is at least as powerful as reality in defining a political party/leader/movement. Indeed, someone that is convinced of their intellectual credentials/authority can be a disaster in politics precisely because of that confidence.

I am not a Liberal and have no skin in the leadership race itself. My interest in it is solely confined to the interest of having Harper's CPC removed from government as soon as possible and replaced preferably by someone actually capable of leading this country in the manner to which it has preferred over the last several decades. I see the Liberals as the most likely party to do so, especially given the way Layton has subordinated the fundamental beliefs the NDP traditionally stood for as the primary basis for their campaigns with the desire to first gain seats from the Liberals even if it means a Harper government as an outcome.

I do not think Ignatief would win the next election, even to a minority, not unless Harper and the CPC have managed to do something which infuriates enough voters to through them out regardless of what the new party/leader is going to do, much like how Harper won in the last election in no small part to his prior record being ignored because of the intense anti-Liberal sentiment running in the country. Ignatief appears to me to be needing a few more years experience as a politician before becoming the leader of a party given his record to date. I have no problems with his qualifications on paper, but his performance to date leaves me with serious reservations, and I suspect would many Canadians in a general election when the opposition to the Liberals starts using his gaffes in their promotional/election material.

Good post Steve, but then I find that true of most of your work...:)

Steve V said...

thanks scotian

I don't dislike Ignatieff, although I do disagree with some of his views. Ignatieff is genuine, articulates his ideas quite well and has a great deal to offer. However, I can't see how anyone could credibly argue that his campaign has been successful to date. There is still lots of time, but these "rookie" mistakes should serve as a caution for anyone who fears a long Harper reign.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Indeed, more seasoning is needed. I think a Liberal win last January and a few years of government/political experience would have served Michael well.

Anonymous said...

While most would agree that the moral wrong here is the callousness of the statement, I find it strange that most of the criticsim is focused on the strategic blunder than the troublesome thinking and tone behind the comment. In other words, it's okay to feel that way about Qana, but it's wrong to express it in the heat of a leadership campaign.

Like it or not, Iggy's take on civilian deaths has been solidly consistent. In his initial response to the conflict, which preceded the Star article, Iggy advocated a ceasefire not because he was alarmed by the rate of civilian casualties, but because the continued pounding of Lebanon has reached "a level of diminishing returns" to Israeli strategic interests. In that same article, he lamented the tragic events of Qana not for the innocent women and children that perished, but that "it proved a victory for Hizbollah".

Iggy fans need to come to terms with their differences with the man and endorse his position rather than making apologies on his behalf when it is clear he never asked them to.

Ignatieff is the candidate here, not his minions.