Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Did It Every Occur To Anyone?

I've read some criticism of Ignatieff, as it relates to Mulroney. First the birthday phone call, now the defence of Mulroney in his spat with Harper, clear evidence of some affinity, more proof that Ignatieff is a conservative at heart. Did it ever occur to anyone that this is all merely strategic mischief?

I fail to see the downside, in Ignatieff calling Mulroney, or injecting himself into the Conservative "feud". As a matter of fact, I think it's brilliant and I have little doubt it's intentional "stirring the pot". Why not speak to Conservative internal strife, why not volunteer an opinion, why not highlight a negative storyline? All I see, Ignatieff exploiting a chasm, and in so doing looking far more statesmanlike than the leader of said party. It's not an endorsement of the man's policies, or some deeper meaning, it's a political ploy, pure and simple. Mulroney still enjoys support within the Conservative ranks, and a measure of stature in Quebec, so Ignatieff's "praise" highlights an under the surface tension, which Conservatives don't welcome. I note that Bob Rae also called Mulroney, and I would love for someone to extrapolate that phone call as evidence of political similarity. I'm sure it's all genuine on one level, but a strategist would also see the value and a shrewd Ignatieff would relish the opportunity to wade into the Conservatives family feud.

If you're a detractor, it's easy to seize on the Mulroney/Ignatieff dynamic to further some pre-conceived view. IMHO, that narrative is a meaningless distraction from the real impetus here. This is smart politics, and it's refreshing to see Liberals poking the coals, as opposed to the previous years of listening to our opponents fan our own divisions. I haven't seen the tape, but I'm willing to bet a curious grin came to Ignatieff's face, when asked to comment on the Mulroney matter.

30 comments:

The Jurist said...

So the defences to concerns about Ignatieff's affinity for Mulroney are (a) that we shouldn't take what Iggy says seriously, and (b) that you're glad he's acting like Harper. Got it.

Northern PoV said...

Sew dissension in the ranks of the opposition? Sure.

Praise Mulroney? Just as he is about to be further-exposed as a greedy Con of poor judgment? Get real.

Torture, Iraq, Quebec Nationalism, Tar Sands ....
Our dim Count Iggy is too clever by half and way too impulsive.

JimmE said...

PET made a big deal of DIEF's significant B-day's, Iggy's nothing if not a student of history.

JimmE said...

By praising the man & not his actions, it is a nice contrast with the person we presently have as a PM.

Steve V said...

"Praise Mulroney? Just as he is about to be further-exposed as a greedy Con of poor judgment? Get real."

There are cracks in the Con ranks, that's the rub here, not some inquiry that nobody cares about. All Igntieff is doing here, and he's pointed out the policy difference, is highlighting the internal strife over Mulroney.

Jurist

I guess you missed the part on policy, so this "affinity" argument is merely a creation of detractors, a superficial point to scream "see, see". I think you've missed it entirely, but I understand how people would exploit these examples to further a narrative they've already bought into.

Jimme

Bingo!

Steve V said...

Jurist

Just curious my friend, did you take Jack "seriously" when he was applying to be PM, or was that just a wise strategy?

Ted said...

Maybe strategic. Maybe a genuine feeling that it is important to raise their game in Parliament and show a bit more respect for - advance apologies for using a US concept - the "office" and the dedication and patriotism shown by someone who actually did a lot of good for the country, even though he also did a lot of bad.

OK. Mostly strategic.

Steve V said...

Ted

I do believe that Ignatieff is genuine in wanting to elevate debate. I also believe part of our strategy will be to highlight his desire to want to elevate debate, because it contrasts nicely with the gutter tactics of the Conservatives. It's a wise strategic narrative, because it can be effective, when people sense the messenger is genuine. It works in tandem.

The Jurist said...

Except that he actually doesn't say what he disagrees with on policy - his only stated disagreement is with the "tribe" involved, which looks to me like a fairly obvious signal that he's more concerned with Team Red versus Team Blue rather than the policies that result. And as you'll note in the comments to my post, there are plenty of areas of obvious agreement.

As for the message around Layton, some of us do take seriously the concept that we should work to elect the best possible leader rather than simply the lesser of two evils. And I'd argue that the political system as a whole is worse off to the extent the Libs' response is to belittle the idea.

Northern PoV said...

""All Igntieff is doing here, and he's pointed out the policy difference, is highlighting the internal strife over Mulroney."

Politics Rule 1: When your opponents are destroying themselves, stay out of the way.

and "some inquiry nobody cares about"
ya, the fickle media and public don't care now - it has been buried for two years ...
but just wait for the fireworks: the image of the former PM (whose legacy at that point was a two-seat-rump) taking brown envelopes of cash in a hotel room, will resonate just like that other famous hotel room tryst:
Billy van der Zaam/Fay Leung

Northern BC Dipper said...

I agree with Northern PoV and Napoleon: Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.

The Liberal Leader trying to stick his nose in a Conservative fight that's gone public is a great cue for them to shut up and look united, something that might have not happened if Iggy sat back, watch, and privately laughed.

Mushroom said...

Note also that Rae supported the Charlottetown Accord, so there are more similarities in dealing with federal-provincial relations between Mulroney, Iggy, and Rae. Note that on this issue Harper and Manning are on the same island touting the Western alienation rhetoric.

I would recommend that Iggy fire a pre-emptive strike against Harper by using the concept of firewalls to counter possible attack ads. In fact, Iggy's Western Canadian strategy is step one in forcing Harper to build firewalls as a means to defend himself politically.

jamie said...

"As for the message around Layton, some of us do take seriously the concept that we should work to elect the best possible leader rather than simply the lesser of two evils."

The problem with the entire NDP argument that you have cited is it requires both sides of the discussion to accept the concept that Jack Layton is the best possible leader. Now isn't that a bit of a stretch to expect people of different views to automatically accept your belief of who the best leader is? That's quite presumptuous of you and automatically neutralizes the main focus of your argument.

For me Jack Layton is not someone I'd want as Prime Minister. Plain and simple I don't trust him either. This isn't because I prefer the choice of lesser evils or any other ethically-deficient moniker I might get for not supporting the NDP. It's because I have a right to support who I choose to.

I think the Liberals are the better party for government in these times. You can criticize me all you want for believing that but I'm far more comfortable with experience over moustaches and smugness in these times.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Come on now jurist, what affinity? You're stretching here, big time. I can wish Ed Broadbent a happy birthday and it doesn't mean I'm a closet dipper, does it?

Have you looked at what Ignatieff actually said? It was in French, but here's the translation:

"Well, what I find curious, let's say. Well, when Mr. Mulroney celebrated his 70th birthday, me, as leader of the Liberal Party I sent him congratulations. I don't agree with Mr. Mulroney's policies. I'm from a different political tribe. But he did have two majority terms. Many Canadians have a lot of respect for him, and for what he did. I think we have to show some respect here. It's quite simple. Mr. Harper has shown a lack of respect towards Mr. Mulroney. Of course, there's controversy around Mr. Mulroney. But he was one of his Prime Ministers, and I have respect for the institution, and I also have respect for the person."

Just what, I ask you, is wrong with that statement? How does it demonstrate some sort of affinity for Mulroney, pray tell?

Besides the Quebec politics of it, Ignatieff is making a case for more civility in politics. That, while we disagree with Mulroney on policy, he was a PM and let's have a little respect for the office.

Are you really making an argument for less civility in politics? That we should be more adversarial? That we shouldn't separate the person from the policy? That because I might disagree with you on policy, we can't be friendly to each other, and respect each other's contributions?

That's sad.

Lizt. said...

That is what Ignite is going to do now..sit back, smile, and relax. I think he was just adding a little fire to the flame.

The Jurist said...

jamie: I don't have a problem with the fact that others honestly disagree with my own take as to the best possible leader. The problem is with positions like Steve's that a campaign to elect Layton as Prime Minister should be dismissed out of hand rather than taken "seriously".

Jeff: So the goal is to promote civility in politics by (in Steve's words) "exploiting a chasm" within the Cons through a "political ploy". This makes more and more sense with every excuse.

A BCer in Toronto said...

jurist,

You still haven't pointed out just what was so bad about what Ignatieff actually said and how it demonstrated his secret Mulroney man-crush.

And to your point, can't you exploit chasms and promote civility at the same time? If someone is being a dick to someone, is it more civil to stand on the sidelines and let them be a dick, or is it more civil to step in and say I respect the person and the office?

Yes, I know it's hard to grasp, but sometimes being civil, in addition to being the right thing to do, can also be strategically sound and beneficial.

Maybe you should think about it a few more times.

Steve V said...

"You still haven't pointed out just what was so bad about what Ignatieff actually said and how it demonstrated his secret Mulroney man-crush."

It's a Team Orange thing :)

Steve V said...

As for staying out of the way, the question was asked and Ignatieff responded. That's a far cry from voluntarily injecting yourself into a circular firing squad. Point made, now we move on.

RuralSandi said...

How petty are we getting when the world is going to come to an end because someone wishes a former PM a happy birthday - much ado about nothing.

I think people should pay attention to what Harper is up to while no one is paying attention. I received my "8th" ten percenter today for this year. PAY ATTENTION to the questions (setting up another wedge issue and obviously Harper hasn't decided on pulling out of Afghanistan) - here are the questions:

- Should Canadians continue fighting in Afghanistan?
Stay Leave

- Do we need a Governor General
Yes No

- What should be done about the senate?
Elect Eliminate Nothing

- Do you agree with recent changes to pay equity?
Yes No

- Are you ready to have fun this summer
Yes Yes

(the last one?????)

Torontonian said...

A telephone call to Mulroney is simply a courtesy.

Educated people are like that.

Apparently, Conservatives are missing this elements

sjw said...

Dippers are as worried over Ignatieff as the Harperites are. Maybe even more so. Their petty criticisms should be taken with a rather large grain of salt. After all, they likely lay claim to the second least popular leader on the Canadian political scene.

JimmE said...

As a person who was personally called a LIAR in the press by Mr M's goons in the 1988 campaign, who wants to see Mr M pay for his crime (s?) I agree with your post.
The more I see of Iggy the more I like. This was smart, AND classy move; more class than I would have show for the man.

The Jurist said...

Jeff: The first issue obviously comes out of the birthday phone call. And I still don't think anybody has provided anything remotely approaching a plausible explanation as to why Ignatieff would be expected to call Mulroney alone out of the tens of thousands of Canadians celebrating a birthday to offer "congratulations".

As for the rest of his comments, there are serious questions there as to how much "respect" is owed under the circumstances. Last I checked, the Libs fought at least two election campaigns on the basis that Mulroney didn't deserve much of it personally.

As for respect based on the office, I for one see it as seriously problematic to assume that merely having occupied 24 Sussex is grounds for much deference. And it seems particularly odd to claim that there's some intrinsic respect owed to past occupants of the office when you and most Libs have (quite rightly) been ready to pounce on the missteps of the current PM.

RuralSandi said...

Is it me, or does Jurist like to have the last debated word and is obsessing far too much.

Remember, whatever you think about Mulroney he had conviction to his party. Harper was a Liberal, then a Conservative, then a Reformist, then Alliance and then called his party Conservative because he knew he couldn't get elected any other way.

Harper has no real conviction, he's out for Harper at any cost.

A BCer in Toronto said...

Jurist,

And I still don't think anybody has provided anything remotely approaching a plausible explanation as to why Ignatieff would be expected to call Mulroney alone out of the tens of thousands of Canadians celebrating a birthday to offer "congratulations".

Howabout because it's a nice thing to do?

He's not "expected" to do anything. But once thing does set Mulroney apart from "the tens of thousands of Canadians celebrating a birthday". He was a Prime Minister of Canada. I'd cast the net a little wider though. I think it'd be great if he gives Jack Layton a call on his birthday to wish him a Happy Birthday. Particularly if he's turning 70, as Mulroney was, hitting somewhat of a milestone.

Look, are you completely unable to separate the personal from the political? Obviously you and I support different political parties. We agree on a few issues, and we disagree on more than a few. But while I disagree with your views, I can still respect you as a person. I can think your ideas are wrong without thinking you're a bad person. We can even manage to be Facebook friends.

I'd like to think I could wish you a Happpy Birthday without it either being taken as my harboring latent NDP tenancies or an attempt to convert you to the Dark Side.

Which reminds me: Happy Bleated Birthday. Sorry I missed it last month. The Liberal membership form is in the mail...

Greg said...

Frankly, I don't think this would be raising any eyebrows (I think Jeff is right, it is a nice thing to do), if Iggy wasn't so busy portraying himself as a small "c" conservative Liberal in almost every policy area. Cozying up to Mulroney, in this context, just cries out for comment. People shouldn't be surprised when it happens.

Steve V said...

It does cry out for comment, if one is looking for something. Substantively it's a big nothing, but then some tend to ignore other statements or ideas put forth which don't fit into their neat characterizations.

Steve V said...

Greg

Here's a narrative. Since the Harper Conservatives are mirroring Obama's policies (today we heard talk of a new initiative in China, as I predicted after Clinton's visit, plus the auto coverage), and Ignatieff is the same as Harper, doesn't that mean that Ignatieff is the same as Obama?

Greg said...

Here's a narrative. Since the Harper Conservatives are mirroring Obama's policies (today we heard talk of a new initiative in China, as I predicted after Clinton's visit, plus the auto coverage), and Ignatieff is the same as Harper, doesn't that mean that Ignatieff is the same as Obama?

I think you have hit the nail on the head, Steve. But then, I am not the biggest Obama fan around. I am more of a Krugmanite.