Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thanks But No Thanks

When the National Post starts singing your praises, it might be a sign that you want to re-visit your stance, or more correctly, the interpretation of your stance. BCL points to the Kay column, but we also had a McParland column yesterday, which also lauded Ignatieff's "firm" position.

He has done a lot of good for himself in his handling of the Gaza crisis, taking a firm line in support of Israel and letting the left wing of the party know that the days of shallow posturing are over. In doing so he risks alienating important elements of the party, but it's the sort of strong-minded decision-making that won Stephen Harper respect from voters, even those not disposed to admiring Tories.

But not under Michael Ignatieff. Notwithstanding his own rhetorical toadying to Israel's critics in 2006, he's taken a firm pro-Israel line in the Gaza conflict....

This is more than just a stirring demonstration of moral clarity. It is also smart politics...

Ignatieff is signalling that a well-informed adult is now firmly in command.
The Kay column is particularly nonsensical, because it presents a false choice between unequivocal support for Israel and the far left, Sid Ryan routine. How anyone can credibly posit such a simplistic choice, concerning such a complex issue, escapes me, but it is a black and white world for ideologues I suppose.

I would argue, it's a worrying development that NP is lavishing praise, because frankly it appeals to a demographic which is really weak terrain for the Liberals. The argument that this policy speaks to the "center" is wrong, a one-sided perspective appeals to the right (not withstanding Jewish support, which does have electoral consequence) a subset which is firmly in the pocket of the Conservatives. The feverish hawk vote is the Conservative base, you see no argument or discussion within this group (see BT's for a practical example), it's just knee jerk support, based on ideology. Only a fool entertains the notion that a firm position can realistically siphon off this support, the Liberals might earn "respect", but the votes will never come.

The Liberals need to appeal to the center, the mainstream view of this conflict, which largely supports one view or another, with caveats for dual responsibility. Eliminate the far left, because that isn't fertile ground, but don't alienate the majority view, in some non-starter pursuit of the Conservative base. The fact the NP thinks you're bang on, means your probably out of step from where you need to be.

I understand the impetus for the "firm" position, because you can't view Ignatieff's position in isolation. There is no question, that past musings during the Lebanon conflict cost Ignatieff politically, it spoke to a lack of seasoning, a bumbling quality that was counter-productive. Fast forward to today, and you can see how handlers wanted to avoid a repeat, a desire to look resolute and solid. Couple that fact, with the usual heat from the right, to try and paint the Liberal Party as soft on terror, anti-Israel, and Ignatieff's "reaction" is seen in a better light. Not a statement on correctness, but just some recognition of the environment within.

The Liberal Party should just ignore the 20-25% of voters that make up the Conservative core, just as they should ignore the other side, equally one-sided, lacking any sense of nuance, far too cut and dry for a serious read. I could care less what Ezra Levant thinks, or a newspaper with an agenda, it's not our audience, it's irrelevant to our thought process. Largely parroting the Harper view might win you temporary praise from entities that will never support you in the end, but it isn't a sound recipe for electoral success. It is also pure folly to alienate part of your own base, as you appeal to the unattainable.

What we see isn't "smart politics", because if I'm looking to areas of the country where Ignatieff could shine, this position doesn't win many converts, in fact it's somewhat offside. I view the "praise" as a clear signal that you've moved a touch too far, it's not a positive, more correctly concerning.


Antonio said...

this is a good thing steve

The Mound of Sound said...

Calling Qana a war crime wasn't "a lack of seasoning," it was an all too rare and obviously inconvenient display of integrity - that had to go.

Wherever he is, Pierre Trudeau must weep at today's "Liberal" leadership and the obsequious sycophants who support it.

I've been a Liberal for 41 years and I've never seen this party so cravenly unprincipled (and I was never of the far left either).

Steve V said...

How so Antonio, and I wonder how it plays in your province?

bigcitylib said...


I think the NP stuff is indicative of a broader trend, which is that some of the righties who are

a) unhappy with Harper
b) wouldn't consider Dion

are giving Iggy a look. And I don't think its just over Gaza either (although this will all be over in another two weeks and we'll see).

Steve V said...


I don't disagree with that, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. I would just add though, people like these two "columnists" aren't exactly fertile ground for the Liberals. I don't think we should worry about Ignatieff appealing to "righties", it's the competitive center we should concern ourselves with. If the NP likes what they see, not sure that's a positive, because it's kind of like FOX in print (the only difference being one entity actually has a viable audience).

RuralSandi said...

Or, is it a ploy to try to get the left going against Ignatieff?

MOS - you have an opinion and a right to one, but it's becoming rather obsessive to say the least and constant insults to those that happen to support Ignatieff is divisive and personal.

I watched a bit of Clinton's hearing and it is clear that things are going to change on foreign policy in the US and suggest we wait - only 7 more days.

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one for me because on a very basic level I think the situation with Israel and Gaza is so heartbreaking and cruel and seemingly without hope. I'd like to say it is unsustainable, but the reality is it could be like it is for another several generations while the bodies pile up. So more than anything I just want someone to admit that and condemn both sides for loving their hatred more than peace. I'm beyond sick of hearing something so murderous - whatever "side" one is on - essentially reduced to a litmus test for world politicians, as it has been used my entire life.

But regarding the NP and their drivel, I would much rather they peddle the influence they do have in certain corners in this direction than to hear them drone on about "elitist" Ignatieff. I'm sure they'll be peddling that tale soon enough. But every day they find praise for him on any front - however slight - is a day they don't help drive another false, damning narrative.

I am more interested in what I believe Liberals would push for if they formed government, and I think in any numbers of areas in the world, they offer a better option than the Conservatives do. So I can live with quibbling over the parsing of statements of an Opposition leader who is not in a position to change the outcome at the moment in any measurable fashion.

Antonio said...

I learned a while ago that with the zealots in the media that are pro-israel, you really cant win.

Had Ignatieff taken a nuanced position, blaming Hamas for the bombing and criticizing Israel for the overkill, he would have been seen as indecisive.

Is it stupid? Absolutely

Is it a good thing that the media are saying we have a decisive leader before a decisive budget? Absolutely.

As for Quebec, nobody is paying attention here. Vinny Lecavalier might be a Montreal Canadien soon. Until that rumor gets put to rest, there really is nothing else that will stay in people's heads.

Steve V said...

"But every day they find praise for him on any front - however slight - is a day they don't help drive another false,"

That, is an excellent point.


You guys need Kaberle ;)

Joyce said...

Good point RuralSandi. Obama and the Liberal position will have to coordinate in a more comprehensive approach to the region. Bush's unqualified support for Israel's military options goes out with him.

Antonio said...

kaberle is lamesauce

Ignatieff is a Habs fan as well. It's about time he made a clear statement of that position as well.

Harper is a leafs fan (i know...such failure)

Anonymous said...

The one question implicit in the frame of this issue:

what would be the price for not taking a side in this issue - or going against the status quo here in standing with the UN in condemning Israel?

Anonymous said...

"You guys need Kaberle ;)"

Naah, Kaberle will go to the Sens. Then the Leafs will probably get Spezza in return. Someone Harper can use for ethnic outreach in Mississauga.

As long as the Habs get to keep Carey Price, Lecavalier is a big plus for the Iggy campaign. Carey Price's mom supports Kelowna. Stephen Harper supports _________?

Anonymous said...

Foreign Policy will not change in the US. Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr, Clinton, Bush Jr have all attempted, and with some minor progress have all failed. Why do you think that is? Obama will once again be a new president who wants middle east peace as his legacy, and, will fail. These former past presidents have had one thing in common, they have all supported Israel...why do you think that is? IMHO Israel could have responded in a more humane way, but, my opinion really doesnt matter because I'm not forced to live it every day. Iggy was and is now Harpers biggest concern. There's a reason Libs are now even with the Cons in almost every poll and its MI....like it or not MOS, his response to Israel went over well with Canadians..the math doesnt lie. billg

Anonymous said...

A bit off topic, but a good start to Ignatieff's tour. This is the kind of media attention we need



Anonymous said...

Iggy is on the way to returning the Liberal Party to power.

He has shown integrity, determination and a strong hand.

Good for him and good for the Liberal Party.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for Iggy to get to Quebec - I have a few questions for him.... and facile rhetoric will not cut it.

Steve V said...


Pretty good review for sure.

"There's a reason Libs are now even with the Cons in almost every poll and its MI....like it or not MOS, his response to Israel went over well with Canadians..the math doesnt lie. billg"

I would argue that has nothing to do with it, especially when you look at the regional breakdowns. The word "nation" is probably much more telling, that and relative strength compared to the last guy.

Anonymous said...

Okay, now it begins - Hilary Clinton expressed her support for Israel's right to defend itself BUT empathy for the Palistinian citizens today. This is a hint, I think, of a change.

You know, many have tried Billg - but if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Tony Blair has been working on this as well - Harper should just stay neutral right now....and wait to see what resolutions, if any, will succeed - it's such a delicate situation.

Anonymous said...

A portion of a report on what Clinton said in her hearing today:

Hillary Clinton sent a message to Israel Tuesday during her Secretary of State confirmation hearing testimony, telling the Foreign Relations Committee that because of the conflict in Gaza "we have ...been reminded of the tragic humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East, and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians."

Mainstream American politicians are famously reluctant to utter the words "suffering" and "Palestinian" in the same sentence. By breaking from that tradition, Clinton appeared to send a signal to Israel that that it would not have a free hand to operate in the Middle East.

Steve V said...

"You know, many have tried Billg - but if at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

Let's remember where we were when Bush took over. It was then that American policy lost any semblance of balance, Bush completely rejected and then actively marginalized the PA. Clinton failed in many regards, but there was a growing sense of even-handed policy, which completely evaporated when the Bush administration too control. I suspect we will see a return to the previous perspective, hopefully more, which in and of itself is a positive, practicalities aside.

All I want from Ignatieff, he set a tone like Hillary did today.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the Liberal party does not descend into the bias on this issue that we see happening to the Democrats south of the border.

There are no shortage of narrow-minded fanatics in the CPC, lets keep them there.

Steve is right, there is nothing to gain from appeasing a block that would never support us anyways.

Jason Cherniak said...

I'm sorry I missed this when you first wrote. Kay is a Conservative. He is playing games and trying to make Michael seem like Haper so as to upset part of the Liberal base. The reality is that Michael is taking a principled stand on the fight in Gaza, he is not playing the "us or them" game that Harper and extremists on both sides play when it comes to Israel.