Sunday, May 11, 2008

Impressed by Bob Rae

One of the main things that bothered me about Bob Rae's leadership bid, the fact he didn't seem too concerned about policy, there was the belief that he could simply get by on strength of personality. For someone who felt that the Liberal Party needed institutional change, Rae's approach wasn't particularly attractive, he almost seemed the "establishment" candidate, playing it safe, exclusively counting on charisma. I think Rae's campaign really did reach a crescendo at the convention, when he ad libbed his speech, which to my recollection was unheard of.

Fast forward to today, I have nothing but praise for Rae. Since his return to Parliament, he has effectively become a major asset for the Liberals. I mentioned by earlier hesitations about Rae, to put my praise of him now in context, lest it all be reduced to simple partisan preference. Bob Rae currently "owns" Question Period, I've rarely seen somebody command such respect. That was confirmed during Friday's QP, when I watched Rae rise, relaxed and poised, ask his question, which brought an unusual hush, and then sit back in his seat like it was his room. Rae's "presence" is really a thing to watch, he commands respect and his impact is shown by the answer's he receives. Van Loan was quivering in his response, seeming to realize his own inferiority, Rae has the ability to intimidate.

I couldn't find a video for this performance, but I did find a couple of clips to give some indication:

Here and here.

Rae has some prominent baggage from his past, but in terms of sheer force of personality, which is now supported by a sense of wisdom, grace and intellectual eloquence, he has no peer. Bob Rae literally makes the Conservatives uncomfortable, he has on more than one occasion actually commanded enough respect to mute the catcalls. Objectively, pretty impressive stuff.


Anonymous said...

I'm not in the least impressed - you hardly notice him.

Sorry, but that's the way I feel. And, he'd never, ever get Ontario. Too many folks still around who remember.

But hey, anything's better than angry Harper.

Steve V said...

It's not up to Rae to "get Ontario".

Fair enough, but I respectfully disagree, he's been a great advocate, especially on foreign affairs.

Anonymous said...

it would be nice to see bob rae caring about canada's foreign policy to countries other than Israel

Jennifer Smith said...

I see Mr. Anonymous #2 got this week's talking points from CP Central.

I remember Rae as Premier (I even voted for him), and while the Ontario economy did suffer on his watch and put me off of ever voting NDP again, in retrospect there really were a lot of other factors involved - like, you know, that whole 90s recession thing.

Since then, I've come to respect the man more and more. I was particularly impressed with a piece he wrote for the Globe & Mail last fall on the federal spending power (the article is gone now, but I posted excerpts here).

I don't know if he would have made a better or worse Liberal leader than Dion, but he's a good man.

Steve V said...


Afghanistan, Burma?

Steve V said...


I don't care about the leadership angle, just a commentary that I think he is pretty effective.

Blues Clair said...

I was very impressed with Bob Rae's leadership campaign and his conventions speech was poignant. Bob Rae makes it easier for someone like me, who has voted for the NDP in the past to consider voting for the Liberals (Dion as well). I also think Mr. Rae asking Stephen Harper to name which MPs he thinks are "anti-semitic" was a politically smart move as it will put Mr. Harper on the defensive in trying to justify his recent 'anti-Semites' smear against the Liberals and NDP.

knb said...

blues clair I also think Mr. Rae asking Stephen Harper to name which MPs he thinks are "anti-semitic" was a politically smart move

I agree but Harper has no compunction when it comes to these matters, so I cringe at the thought of what may come out of his mouth.

While he has the 'protection' of the House to respond in, he could do some serious damage to people.

RuralSandi said...

I think Rae was shocked when he again became a member of Parliament - at the partisanship and childishness and noise of our so-called government. He referred to it in his first blog after sitting in the House.

Anon: 11:14? I think it's Harper that's only interest in Isreal - you seem to be quite mixed up. No way on earth Harper has the expertise on foreign affairs as Rae, Ignatieff, Cotler, etc.

Come to think of it, Liberals do really have some remarkable people in their caucus.

Antonio said...

I never liked Bob Rae,

his tendency (maybe it is the NDP way) is to react rather than act.

We all remember the "leadership time is not about policy". Well at least I do.

I dont think he would be very good on the other side of the bench.

We saw that was the case with some Tories. Great opposition members, terrible cabinet ministers

Möbius said...

I'm a Conservative-leaner, and still voted for Rae in Ontario in the early '90's, due to the arrogance of Peterson.

He fucked up the really obvious things, and put the province in debt we're still paying today. As well, he actually had "Rae-days" named after him. Not a good memory.

Once chance is all you get with me, and he blew his.

Austin said...

Sorry Mobius...but are you talking about the debt that ballooned because the Ontario manufacturing industry almost collapsed completely when free trade was implemented? On top of the recession?

Rae chose to implement a solution which did not involve wholesale slash and burn policies to offset this loss in revenue. Of course it increased the deficit. But to say that Ontario is still paying it off is disingenuous as best, and outright lying at worst.

The only people who can really complain about "Rae-days" are those who were part of the public sector. And look what happened to them afterward when the Harris doofus' took over.

Spare the spin. Rae did as good as he could have under the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

It's amusing to hear all these Liberals now making excuses for Rae's horrific record as Ontario Premier in the 90s. Back when he was in the NDP, the same Liberals denounced him from one end of the province to the other and never had a single good thing to say about him. To this day, Liberals try to have it both ways - they use Bob Rae's record in power as an example of NDP fiscal incompetennce - but then they try to claim that none of it was really his fault.

Which one is it?

100% of the policies that the NDP implemented in Ontario came from Bob rae and only Bob Rae. He was almost Harper-like is the extent to which he controlled everything in that government with an iron fist. Cabinet ministers argued that running a $10 billion deficit might not be a good idea - Rae just overruled them and insisted on running up the deficit.

Canada has only ever had one NDP government that ran up large deficits - and it was run by Liberal Bob Rae. When true NDPers like TC Douglas, Blakeney, Doer and even Harcourt and Clark are in power - they are models of fiscal rectitude.

Anonymous said...

"Bob Rae literally makes the Conservatives uncomfortable"

He tends to rise above partisanship, something many Cons in the opposite side of the bench fails to do. Also has a self-deprecating sense of humour, which disarms the government minister who wants to score theatrical points in Question Period.

Note the Maxime Bernier affair. Rae opted not to take pot shots and instead encouraged the government to do more with regards to Burma. Mind you, invoking the "responsibility to protect" doctrine that had been undermined by the neo-cons is questionable to say the least.

Bob truly loves the theatre of life that is the House of Commons. Don't know there are many others.

burlivespipe said...

It's amusing to read all these NdPers make excuses for Rae's horrific experience as Premier in the 90s -- when back then and even up to about 2005 he was still one of 'Us'. Now that he's a Liberal they denounce him from one end of the province to the other...
At the time he led you to the homeland and took a valiant stand against a crushing recession that wasn't 'made in Ontario' but certainly hit that province pretty hard. As far as i can see, all the NdP leaders i've met and voted for (provincially) all endorsed the Rooseveltian new deal idea when it comes to dealing with a crippled economy.
Now i suppose you NdPers are big Mike Harris fans suddenly? How apropos, considering how you knee-capped child care, the Kelowna Accords, etc.

Which one is it, Anonymoos?

Anonymous said...

"It's amusing to read all these NDPers make excuses for Rae's horrific experience as Premier in the 90s -- when back then and even up to about 2005 he was still one of 'Us'."

Except that they didn't. Many grassroots NDPers in Ontario turned against Rae before he was even defeated - as a result of the Social Contract etc... and he was already basically persona non grata the party by 1996.

I still find it amusing to hear Rae himself claim that the NDP is "fiscally irresponsible" - when the only real example of NDP fiscal irresponsibility is the government that he led!!