Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Advice To Ignatieff: Stop Talking

When Ignatieff made the initial flippant remark about the Qana bombing, it was clear that he was the victim of a horrible soundbite, intermingled with a helping of political naivete. In fairness, I didn't take Ignatieff's "losing sleep" comment as some indictment of the man's character. The comment was a mistake, that Ignatieff later admitted upon reflection. Chalk it up to a lack of understanding of the political realm, where carefully chosen words are a necessity.

However, this latest twist isn't so easily dismissed in my mind because on this occasion Ignatieff swings wildly to the other extreme, which suggests political motivation. Ignatieff's overt attempt to appease, in a region that would be sympathetic, is hardly flattering and rightfully blows up in his face. You can't go from no reaction to the most damaging language and not expect fallout. Ignatieff has now achieved the impossible, alienating both diametrically opposed sides.

The "war crime" comment represents the evolution of a political animal. Ignatieff tries to curry favor with a constituency that will likely never support him, given the history, and in so doing betrays his staunch supporters. Did Susan Kadis overreact? Possibly, but that doesn't diminish the fact that Ignatieff has lost his soul on this issue. You can't be everything to everybody, Ignatieff plays the chameleon and rightfully loses. If I could offer Ignatieff any advice, stop talking and take you lumps. The more you talk, the more the verbal gymnastics embarrass.

The "Ignatieff is a rookie" meme now finds more support. More alarming, the "anti-politico" angle to Ignatieff's campaign, that has appeal, is completely tarnished by this transparent political powerplay to win support. I must confess, this latest episode reminds me of Paul Martin circa 05/06, saying anything to anybody and in turn appearing to be nowhere. When you abandon your principles for political expediency, there is nothing left. I don't care what Ignatieff said, it's what provoked him to say it that is most troubling.


Anonymous said...

Who cares about political sphere, hasn't this guy been married -- twice? That's the average-joe realm where we find out that what we say carry serious, brain-cramping repercussions.
And that he was playing that ol' Canadian shellgame, talk one thing in french and another in english, is tried 'n true, but one that has to be used with some restraint... Tossing around bon mots on 'I didn't lose any sleep' or 'war crimes' seems to be a typical ivory tower kind of perspective that won't lose your tenure and may incite a great debate in a crowded auditorium, but to a reporter?
This guy would be essentially bathed in tar tar sauce for the election-fuelled media and would likely have the same positive effect as that poor ol' BC son, Bob Skelly (during the first press conference during the 1986 provincial election, moments after Vanderzalm had his newser to announce it, Skelly came out, on live TV, made a verbal misstep, gave that 'deer in the headlights look' to the whole province, and asked 'Can we start (the press conference) over?')... But even funner is seeing the Ignatieffites douse themselves with teflon trying to say that they may disagree with his latest 'statement'/reason-for-submitting-a-correction' but they still love this guy. He can win! That's the brain who calls itself TdHuh? has posted already.
I'm not an Anybody but... kind of guy, but i'm beginning to see a lot of reason to cheer on Volpe to give Iggy the ol' italian kiss of death.

Steve V said...

Controversies like today only fuel the idea that a Ignatieff-led Liberal Party would be a neverending exercise in damage control. Tory strategists must lick their chops at the thought of self-inflicted wounds, contrasted by their own ability to offer tight, controlled messages. In a short-election campaign, something like this episode could be fatal.

Olaf said...


Seriously, what is wrong with him? I like Iggy, I like him more than any of the other candidates. But what the hell was he thinking with this? Especially as a human rights prof., he surely would know the implications of using the loaded term "war crime".

Is his French sketchy, could it be a mistranslation? I just don't get it. Everything else he said, and his clarifying statement, are pretty innocuous. So what happened?

Jacques Beau Vert said...


I can't believe this is coming from the same guy who wrote yesterday's post.

After a lifetime of journalism and advocacy, Ignatieff is no "rookie" - he knows enough and has had all the preparation one could hope for. It just didn't seem to do him any good.

While I think it's premature (as far as I am aware) to call Qana a "war crime", I was fully ready to hear his thoughts out -- it's the hasty retreat his campaign beat that made me roll my eyes in contempt. I was willing (and happy) to listen, but if the campaign won't even stand by his statements and has to turn to spinning instead - I'm kind of tuning out.

Jacques Beau Vert said...

Who cares about political sphere, hasn't this guy been married -- twice?

BurlIvesPipe gets better and better each day. Man, that's a keeper.

Jacques Beau Vert said...

Is his French sketchy, could it be a mistranslation?

Olaf, Cerberus claims that he said "crime of war", not "war crime" - my French is actually worse than Kennedy's so I had to go to Chucker to check, who replied that there's no difference. "Crime de guerre" is what you say to mean "war crime".

Since then, a poster, Fadi, at Cerberus, says the exact same thing as Chucker.

Steve V said...

"I can't believe this is coming from the same guy who wrote yesterday's post."

You haven't been paying attention then :) Your "party hack" crap is hilarious.

Steve V said...


I really think these comments were a misguided political overture to try and undo a perceived gaffe that alienated people. I have heard the argument that Ignatieff's latest comments show leadership and refreshing honesty. In my mind, nothing is further from the truth, this event represents Ignatieff's political-speak coming out party. I see no difference between what Ignatieff did in Quebec with Harper's penchant for speaking out of both sides of his mouth, depending on his audience.

Anonymous said...

I want to see a full list of Ignatieff's contributors. I have a sneaking suspicion that Tory money is coming in in droves. He's a wet dream.

Winnipeg Liberal said...


If, as you suggest, Ignatieff is pandering, how do you explain his willingness to repeat his comments today, in English, in Ontario, to the national media?

He's saying today exactly what he said on Sunday, and he's not bending to the pressure he's getting from pro-Israel groups. How then can he be pandering to all sides?

In my view, he's merely acknowledging the obvious - the laws of war appear to have been disregarded by participants on both sides during the Lebanon crisis.

Steve V said...

win lib

Good point. But, really what else can he say now? If Ignatieff retracts he looks the fool, although he did present the war crimes angle in a more balance way today. I honestly believe he was over-zealous in trying to counter the view that he was an Israeli apologist, others can see it differently. One thing is clear, Ignatieff's frank talk might not be suitable for this environment. We are all debating the merits of what he said, the MSM is merely reporting the fallout and its all negative. The question becomes, given the penchant for controversy, is this man our best face? In my mind it's an open question.

Anonymous said...

We need to gag him.

Winnipeg Liberal said...


I think your comments reflect what is wrong with the political environment.

The media love controversy. Their idea of balance is to get comment from people on the extreme opposite sides of an issue, rather than trying to find someone willing to cut out the posturing and rhetoric. Their goal is to catch people's attention and rile them up, which is why we only hear about the fallout from the comments and nothing about their substance.

As to your suggestion that Ignatieff may not be the best choice for leader given his penchant for controversy, I point out that, on every serious policy issue, there will be strong feelings on all sides. Making a decision or a statement on that issue will necessarily leave at least one side unhappy. But if we are to get anything done as a country, our leaders have to be willing to do things that annoy, anger, even outrage some people.

I'll concede that a leader shouldn't go around stirring up controversy unless he or she has a good reason, and I do hope Ignatieff will use less politically charged language in the future, but at least he's willing to stick his neck out, which is all too rare a quality in politicians.

The Canuck Report said...

I think the Winnipeg Liberal should open his/her eyes and see that is what the Conservatives are doing right now. It Maybe not the fact that the Conservatives are those type of people but it may be due to a minority government. All I know is that I never saw the Liberals hold to their word. I have gotten to the point that I don't care a great deal what a politician says as long as they follow through (and as long as it is not NDP, I like getting rid of Federal debt) I think everyone should get a Liberal membership and vote Ignatieff into leadership just so the Liberals will stay out of the main ring until a new generation comes to the forefront.

Ti-Guy said...

I think these problems are going to continue to be inevitable until it becomes acceptable again to simply say "I don't know...I don't have all the facts...I'll have to think about that." This is in fact how sensible people come to a good understanding of an issue. As with practically anything, quality takes time.

At the time of the Hezbollah/Israel conflict, the only people who were required to make decisions quickly were those people directly involved in the conflict. I didn't understand why it was so all-fired important for Canadian public figures to rush to make statements, particularly in the form of soundbites that express a false clarity, like Harper's 'measured response," which was as equally outrageous as anything Iggy said.

All this to say that, although not an Iggy fan at all, I feel bad for the fact that he's entering a political climate he doesn't understand very well and that we have a political climate like this in a first place...where the value of immediacy and phony moral clarity (when neither is really required) seems to be prized above saying things that are actually meaningful and sensible...qualities that, quite often, involve saying nothing at all.

Steve V said...

ti guy

Well said! When you question whether Ignatieff's tendency for gaffes makes him a good choice, it might be more a statement of the climate, than a character assessment. When you have an environment where soundbites rule the media, and frank talk is akin to blood in a shark tank, then you produce leaders who are largely bland and packaged. Something like this week could effectively sabatoge an election campaign. I guess the question is do we choose leadership as a reaction to the climate?

Ti-Guy said...

I guess the question is do we choose leadership as a reaction to the climate?

We quite often do; whether that's the most sensible response is another story. Had I known the old federal Progressive Conservative Party (which I miss dearly...he said, sardonically) would have been so devastated in in the 1993 election, I wouldn't have voted against it with exactly the same glee as I had.

I think a renewed Liberal Party has to commit to doing politics differently in this country. I see no other way forward.