Cold Hard Wonk

No sentiment but politics

Opportunistic Words

Posted by JJ in Doubletake/Doubletalk, Strategic Planning (Wednesday August 30, 2006 at 8:45 am)

Potential Liberal leadership candidate Michael Ignatieff was finally asked the hard question: are you only in this for the chance to be Prime Minister? Of course, that’s translated from the original mediaspeak: will you run for the Liberals again if you lose the leadership race?

It’s an interesting question because it would seem to ignore both Mr. Ignatieff’s prior involvement with the party (as a volunteer with the Pearson and Trudeau campaigns in the 60’s) and the fact that he probably wasn’t expecting this situation when he was drafted by Paul Martin’s government to displace a perfectly suitable MP. He couldn’t have accepted Etobicoke-Lakeshore believing that he’d be running for the leadership today, could he?

Still, it’s his answer that’s really striking:

I’d like to serve my constituents well, but you’re asking me an anticipatory hypothetical about the situation that prevails on the 3rd or 4th of December.

Because stringing long words together to duck a question makes you look like a courageous intellectual. Funny, the Frosty Wonk thought he didn’t like to equivocate.

But he’s right. How dare the media (much less the party he wants to run) question his committment! After all, there was nothing opportunistic in his moving back to Canada only two months before being parachuted into a riding by a sitting Prime Minister. And besides which, as Ignatieff himself points out, there are ways other than sitting as an MP to help the party:

When I go into rooms people are glad I’m in the room because they’ve read stuff I wrote which contributed to their sense of what it is to be a Liberal and what Liberal philosophy is. There are all kinds of ways I can serve the party.

It seems the man just can’t express himself without being inspiring. Certainly, the term “Liberal philosophy” doesn’t figure prominently in reviews of his work (at least not compared to words like “dense” and “legalistic”). But it’s good to know that his mere presence can raise the spirits of the minds he helps to create. Now, can he lead them effectively?

Is that drivel? It’s hard to tell in this context.

But translated from its dense, legalistic form, Mr. Ignatieff’s answer seems clear enough: “If I don’t get elected leader, I’ll go back to writing books in a tenured academic post.”

If so, why wait?

1 comment for Opportunistic Words »

  1. “When I go into rooms people are glad I’m in the room because they’ve read stuff I wrote which contributed to their sense of what it is to be a Liberal and what Liberal philosophy is.”

    Wow, I don’t actually consider myself a Liberal, or necessarily have a “Liberal philosophy”. But these kind of comments give me the impression that Mr. Ignatieff has a bit of an over-inflated ego. I think it is presumptuous of him to assume that people are “glad” he is in the same room as them.

    Comment by eli — 8/30/2006 @ 3:36 pm

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