Monday, October 30, 2006

Liberals And Baggage

Interesting interview with Kennedy in The Hill Times. I would like to focus on this comment, as it relates to his perceived weakness in French:
I'm simply getting more performance capability in French and I have accepted that as a challenge and I'm starting to demonstrate that clearly as something that I can do. Most people in the race are seen to have a drawback or two, that's my principal drawback. It's one that I can fix and people can judge for themselves where others may not be as fortunate."

This statement articulates exactly why I view Kennedy as the most electable, all things being equal. Kennedy's "baggage" isn't necessarily permanent, nor is it firmly entrenched. Kennedy's weakness is something he can "fix", a work in progress. No fair commentator can draw any long term conclusions about Kennedy and Quebec because the dialogue is still in its infancy. The point, Kennedy's "baggage" can easily be shed.

I watched an excellent interview with Bob Rae on the CBC last night. Rae was thoughtful, articulate and his usual charismatic self. The problem, half the interview was spent rehashing the past, in what has become a worrisome pattern. What have you learned Bob? If you could do it over again, what would you do here? Have the mistakes of the past made you wiser? For a party desperate to move forward, the last thing we need is too be sidetracked by conversations about the past, particularly the unpleasant experience of another party. I sincerely worry about the possibility of the next election turning into a referendum on Rae, rather than a discussion about the future of the country. It is important to take the perspective of the opposition, and if I were a Conservative strategist I would relish the opportunity to pour over the Rae record and embarrass him at every turn, making the fight purely defensive. Rae himself has admitted that the media seems obsessed with his past, the question then becomes, why would this reality change in a general, especially with the other side feeding the flames?

Dion's baggage is well-known. While it appeared that Dion was able to re-invent himself somewhat in the summer, the last while has given us painful examples of the old fights blemishing the need for renewal. Do we give the Conservatives a pass on the environment, their chief weakness, by presenting the man who will be forced to defend the abysmal Liberal record. I don't care what any defender says, the record was horrible, too little too late and Canadians largely agree. I envision a scenario where the Tories are allowed a forceful counter to any Dion arguments and the whole issue is lost in the flurry of charges and counter-changes. 13 years, 13 years. Listen to the debates in the Commons, the Tories make no secret of their tactics to neuter the Liberals- and they do it effectively, because the evidence isn't kind. To say, "there were items on my desk ready to sign" is a weak defence and I doubt it will resonate well with anybody. On Quebec, it would appear the whiskers are returning in the French media and the old hurdles will hurt Dion, particularly because he seems proud to mention the names of the vilified.

Ignatieff seems to acquire baggage at an alarming pace. I'm not going to re-hash all the missteps and the fallout, but for a man so new to the political arena the mounting negatives are objectively eye opening. I really like Ignatieff, I don't share the venom others have for him, but this race is a trial run and so far the results should give us all pause.

All this leads me back to Kennedy's comment. Everyone has challenges, but the question, which ones can be overcome and which are destined to haunt? If we want a new image, with a new agenda, that can speak to the future through a clear lens, then Kennedy is a slam dunk juxtaposed against these other men. Kennedy's biggest baggage revolves around an open question, which seems a far cry better than re-hashing old answers.

16 comments:

Olaf said...

Well put,

The thing is, as far as "baggage" goes, Kennedy can only improve upon his, where as the others are more or less set in stone.

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Well, there's still his "no university degree" baggage and his "lightweight" baggage. But you do have a point.

Just as a mostly unrelated aside: in my "real life," I am (among other things) a foreign language educator. And I just love that Canadians view adult language learning as something that's entirely accomplishable and entirely normal. It's a refreshing change from my country of birth.

Steve V said...

olaf

"the others are more or less set in stone."

exactly!

idealist

Leaving university to help run a food bank is hardly baggage in my eyes, more aptly admirable. The lightweight crack is a meme thrown out by opposing camps, which finds less relation to reality with each passing day. One of the biggest jobs, in the biggest province, ably managed, is hardly lightweight.

Olaf said...

Steve,

Leaving university to help run a food bank is hardly baggage in my eyes, more aptly admirable

I mean, you could also make the argument that someone who dropped out of school in grade 1 to help support their family made an admirable decision. Do you admire them? Sure. But do you want them leading your country? Maybe not.

Steve V said...

olaf

The question is, did Kennedy dropout because of poor grades or lack of intellectual ability, or did he see the importance of practical application over theoretical nothingness. Some of the stupidest people I have ever met are career academics. By the end of my university tenure I was bursting at the seams to get outside the esoteric playground that seemed all too detached from reality- and I say this as someone who did quite well thank you very much ;)

lance said...

steve v said: "Some of the stupidest people I have ever met are career academics."

Which brings us to that other candidate.

Cheers,
lance

Steve V said...

Good one.

MississaugaPeter said...

I guess helping feed 150,000 families monthly (without a cent of government money) or directing an annual budget greater than that of Manitoba and New Brunswick combined makes him a lightweight.

By the way, if an election is held after next summer, Gerard will have convocated.

Olaf said...

Lance,

That did work out pretty well.

Steve,

The question is, did Kennedy dropout because of poor grades or lack of intellectual ability, or did he see the importance of practical application over theoretical nothingness.

Not really. Obviously I'm just splitting hairs here, but the Flames game isn't on yet, so humour me. In my hypothetical situation, just because the grade 1 student didn't drop out because of poor grades or lack of intellectual ability (see failure to properly use safety scissors), doesn't mean that he didn't miss a lot by dropping out at grade one.

Clearly, Kennedy is no dolt, but he may have missed out on some of the finer points of academia which Rae, Dion, and Ignatieff have had to opportunity to ingest.

However, some may see this as a benefit... I mean, the very successful Ralph Klein didn't graduate high school... draw your own conclusions.

Steve V said...

olaf

Dropping out didn't seem to hinder Bill Gates or Paul Allen :)

Idealistic Pragmatist said...

Well, I'm not part of an "opposing camp"--unless you mean "opposing camp" as in "different party"--and I thought the "lightweight" thing before any of his fellow Liberals started batting it around. (If you want to know when it started, it was approximately at the moment when he indicated in a conversation with me that he had absolutely no idea what proportional representation meant.
Despite being, at the time, a member of a provincial Cabinet that had given the assent to a citizens' assembly on electoral reform!) And while I certainly wouldn't say that every politician has to have a university degree to do a good job, it would seem to be a bit of a barrier to becoming prime minister. I don't really buy the whole "dropped out to run a food bank" thing, either--finishing what you start doesn't take that long when you consider that you have a whole lifetime to do everything else you want to do. Maybe that's me just being defensive (as one of those "stupid career academics"), but it's the first thing I think of.

He does have many good points, though, it's true. Being the only one in the race really talking about renewal is certainly a huge positive. He'd probably be my guy if I were a Liberal.

Olaf said...

Steve,

Dropping out didn't seem to hinder Bill Gates or Paul Allen :)



Surely, Bill Gates and Paul Allen are the norm for drop outs. Except I can name about 50 dropouts from my highschool who are absolute failures, and about 25 university drop outs working either on the rigs or in a michelin factory in nova scotia... I know you were kidding, but you had to expect such a response

Steve V said...

idealist

I don't mean to slag academia by any means, but I merely reject the assumption that paper equates to intelligence. I completely buy the ideal of making a decision to wade into the world when an opportunity arises. As Kennedy has said, he saw a chance to apply the abstract.

You make compelling arguments for PR, but I don't think a person should be measured by their depth of knowledge on someone's pet reform. Kennedy seems to have lots of ideas on political reform, far more than anything the other candidates have offered. I especially like his commitment to make the government less hierarchial, to ensure leadership sets an agenda that is guided by the MP's, and by extension a better representation of people's wants.

Gavin Neil said...

I have three degrees and I'm quite happy to slag academia. If you want to be an acadmeic, go to harvard. I want a PM that's smart and capable, and a degree proves NEITHER of those things, much less both.

Plus I think we've had ample demonstration by our neighbours that you can be downright stupid and still be elected leader, so i think we should just pack the university degree thing in. If he wasn't articulate with good ideas, then it would have some legs. Point me to a single stupid thing GK has had to apologize for during this campaign, and I'll eat my words.

Until then, my three degrees are better than yours, and you must respect my incredibly enlightened opinion!

G

Steve V said...

"Until then, my three degrees are better than yours, and you must respect my incredibly enlightened opinion!"

Thanks for taking the time to speak to the masses ;)

Anonymous said...

as someone who struggles with the waiting-to-finish-school-so-i-can-make-a difference paradigm of student life (despite a number of weekly/bi-weekly volunteer commitments) it IS admirable that GK took the opportunity to HELP PEPOLE regardless of what the world says about how super fantastic university degrees are. dropping out of university to save the world in a big way is possibly the best example of 'seize the day'.