Ignatieff the right choice

So, Michael Ignatieff has been handed the Liberal leadership as of this afternoon, as Bob Rae has officially bowed out of the race. This was a very wise and concious decision by Mr. Rae, as the battle between he and Mr. Ignatieff more than likely would have been harmful and destructive. It also gives the Liberals a sense of direction before Christmas and a clear leader who should be more than capable.

Now, I’ve heard the knocks on Mr. Ignatieff before. Those that I’ve heard are:

  • He has spent too much time out of the country (especially in the US)
  • He is an elitist, out-of-touch, snobby professorial central Canadian
  • He has little to no real political experience
  • many of his opinions in the past (i.e. Iraq, torture) have proved to be untrue or out-of-sync with Canadian values

A portion of the above has some truth to it. However:

The details are sketchy, but by my count he was in the US (to complete his PhD at Harvard) from ~1970-76. He was then assistant professor from 1976-78 at UBC. From 1978-2000 he was semi-permanent in the UK but also travelled worldwide. In 2000 he accepted a prestigious directorate at Harvard, and then finally returned to Canada in 2005.

What this says to me is that he is well-travelled. Certainly he has not spent a lot of time in his home country, but surely being the political animal he is, he has kept in tune with what has gone on. Oddly, most of what I’ve heard on this criticism in the media talks about him spending much of his life in the US, where in reality he has spent much of his life in the UK and further. It used to be that a well-travelled individual was seen fit to be a prime minister. Certainly I would think his exposure to different cultures and countries has served him well.

With regards to being elitist, out-of-touch, etc etc., I find that hard to believe. While his riding is in Toronto, he worked hard to win it (being a “parachute” candidate is never easy). And after being returned to his seat in the recent election you could hardly call him out-of-touch. I will concede he does have an elitist and snobby air to him, but what should matter is what he’s saying, not how he’s saying it.

Mr. Ignatieff has limited political experience. Yes, this is true, to a certain extent. He has only had about two years as an MP in Dion’s Liberals. However, in that short time, he has proved himself to be a skilled parliamentarian, eloquently and firmly tackling the duties of Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Not many rookie parliamentarians get thrust into such a role so quickly, especially in a minority parliament. However, he has handled it brilliantly, and there is no reason to believe his lack of politician years will be a detriment to him.

Lastly, he has made some comments in the past that have not served his purposes well. Namely, his position on the war in Iraq (from which he later withdrew his support) and his misunderstood “lesser evil” approach to terrorism combat. However, these issues illustrate to me that he can take a stand for something he believes in, but also has the ability to reconsider his ideas if he proves to be wrong. From what I have read, Mr. Ignatieff has always carefully and intelligently considered the facts at his disposal, rather than simply caving in to political or social trends. In fact, despite his “warhawk” image (MSM-created), he is in fact what I think is a “realist peacenik”, in that he believes in war as necessary but avoided if at all possible. Take, for example, his aforementioned “lesser evils” approach, wherein he advocates for techniques such as coercive interrogations, pre-emptive strikes and indefinite detention of suspects in order to prevent terrorism. I would argue, in fact, that Mr. Ignatieff is attempting to find some sort of common ground between modern Canadian values and a 21st-century, American counter-terrorism reality.

In conclusion, I believe that Ignatieff is the correct choice for the Liberal Party. He is a strong individual, not afraid to speak his mind, and has a sharp wit to boot. He appears to have the support of most of the Liberal caucus, at least moreso than Mr. Dion or Mr. Rae. Mr. Ignatieff has been holding back, in order to let Mr. Dion lead and not step on Mr. Rae’s toes, but now he will be able to unleash the full Michael Ignatieff. He has much work ahead; he must, within a month, build the political machine, unite the party, and prepare to either work with Mr. Harper or call an election. If he is able to do these things, he will be a fine match for Mr. Harper.

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