Category Archives: Michael Ignatieff

Hard to believe Kinsella once had a high school crush on Ignatieff, or progressives just let the Liberals implode

Clearly there are still old deep fault lines in the LPC ranks, and the Big Red tent of brokerage ideological politics of “pragmatically” offering to be everything to everyone is being evacuated from both the left and right doors. And not too surprising. The LPC, with Ignatieff at the helm has moved so far to the right as to make itself a redundant choice within the Canadian political landscape. On the other side, small “l” liberals, lefty liberals, progressives are finally waking up to the fact that the LPC only campaigns from the Left (it is not of the Left) and there is a viable alternative: the NDP, a party which is actually progressive.

The LPC is redundant to as it moves to its the right and an impostor as it moves to its Left.  To paraphrase Michael Ignatieff: “There is a side Left door and there is a side Right door. Liberals choose your exit, but no one enters.”

Warren Kinsella is not too happy but also only too willing to rub it in Ignatieff’s face. From his blog today:

“I was tossed on the political barbecue pit by Michael Ignatieff and his Super-Smart Senior Staff (4S, for short) for having the temerity to suggest, out loud, that Messrs. Chretien, Broadbent and Romanow were right.“I have no relationship with Warren Kinsella,” sniffed [Ignatieff] the fellow for whom I’d busted my hump for a couple years, and that was that. 

My sin? Agreeing with, you know, the most successful Liberal leader in history: suggesting that those of us who opposed Conservatives clearly needed to get together if we were ever to defeat Conservatives.  And, more broadly, that Canada – like other democracies around the world – seemed to be heading towards a binary political universe, whether the political classes approved or not.

What now? Well, that’s a really good question.  If the NDP make history, and carry their current popularity past the weekend and into next week, they could very well form the Official Opposition.  The instant that happens, as I told this PostMedia reporter yesterday in a long chat, the aforementioned Ignatieff and 4S are gone.  They’ll all have to resign on election night if they are to escape the enraged, pitchfork-wielding grassroots Grits. Even in 1984′s rout we held onto Opposition status.  With that gone – and the staff, and budget and influence that brings – it will be a long, hard slog back.”


"wherever I’ve been I’ve supported progressive policies."- Ignatieff

I completely take issue with this self characterization. 

When has it ever been “progressive” to?

1. Defend U.S. exceptionalism and the US invasion of Iraq.

2. Defend the use of coercive force and suspension of rights in a liberal democracy.
“To defeat evil, we may have to traffic in evils: indefinite detention of suspects, coercive interrogations, targeted assassinations, even pre-emptive war.” (New York Times Magazine, May 2004)

3. Champion the Tar Sands (ethically or economically -the US is even reticent about procuring such dirty oil.

4. Uncritically support Israel’s actions vis a vis the Palestinians, at one point (In August 2006) saying he was “not losing any sleep” over dozens of civilian deaths caused by Israel’s attack on Qana during its military actions in Lebanon.

5. Fail to support any real electoral or democratic reform such as proportional representation.

6. Support tax breaks for the richest corporation in times of budgetary surplus.

And the list goes on and on. Ignatieff is much more credible as a neoconservative than as a progressive.

Update: Rediscovered one of my favourite John Steinbeck quotes:

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporality embarrassed millionaires.”
John Steinbeck

Not quite the same as covering a Beatles song with Yo-Yo Ma backing up, but I believe

A little less Narcissieff Beta version 2.0 released .

Not wanting to bad mouth the Daily Bread Food Bank because I’ve volunteered and worked with them in the past and they do amazing work, but Daily Bread definitely knows which side of the toast is buttered. Being essentially a Liberal run organization (the last two executive directors were Liberal MP Gerrard Kennedy and Kennedy campaign booster Gail Nyberg), it is often out of step with other anti-poverty groups and often the first to lend some credibility to the Ontario Liberals’ disingenuous attempts to deal with housing and poverty.

Note the political mileage that Gerrard Kennedy has extracted from sitting as ED of the Daily Bread Food Bank. Sitting on a board usually means very little, but for Kennedy it has enabled him to masquerade as an anti-poverty activist and extricate votes from “progressive” swing voters.
Still, hat’s off to Daily Bread which despite being hijacked by Liberals keeps equality and justice alive. Pretty much my feelings about democracy. Despite neoliberals (Conservatives & Liberals) best efforts to either pervert or mitigate it, a democracy of the people will prevail.


“Michael” is such a compassionate man of the people; not an elitist bone in his body (unless you’re Ukranian but that’s a story for another day). For a more kindhearted advocate of the poor and downtrodden, perhaps only….. Gerrard Kennedy.

As well, for all you social conservatives don’t fail to notice that Michael & Zsuzsanna are well suited to your nukelar (cf. Dubya) family values discourse. One “Hail Mary directed at “progressives”; one “Our Father” aimed at social conservatives (I mean, Ward, June, and Wally Cleaver- don’t think “the Beav” can vote yet).

No counterspin needed, the recent spin attempts unwind themselves.

Translating Kinsella #2

For the benefit of the spin impaired and the Kinsella challenged, I thought I might provide another installment of translating Kinsella. The tortured and defiled word of the moment is “brilliant”, a word used by Kinsella to describe Paul Martin’s cheap shot at the Conservatives. You see, in Kinsellaland “brilliant” means predictably partisan, shallow analysis, and a word to be bandied about when trying desperately to survive an unthinkably abysmal couple of weeks. This isn’t, however, about piling on; rather about counterspinning. So here we go in the week that was Kinsella’s “musings” (remember back when the blog was named Kinsella’s “musings” as if reflection not deflection were the impetus for the writing).

The week begins with textbook disavowal, under the guise of Kinsella’s media rules: “When the National Post editorial board says you are making political mistakes, it means you aren’t, at all. Keep doing what you are doing.” Deny, deny, deny in the hope that it is a lie.
Then, having been outdone at manipulating the Canadian public by Stephen Harper, Kinsella must have been beside himself. That gratuitous photo-op could have been “Michael’s”, and the Liberals not the Conservatives could be flirting with a majority. In referring to Harper as “reviled Conservative Prime Minister”, what is he saying about Ignatieff, whose approval ratings have steadily declined and are well below Harper’s?
To be honest, what really made me take notice this past week was Kinsella’s shameless deployment of a true working class hero of the Left, Pete Seeger, singing “Michael, row the boat ashore”. While in keeping with contemporary Liberal ideology’s penchant for saying, promising, and doing whatever it takes to win, it still seems a little hypocritical to reach that far Left for inspiration. Secondly, the song itself is a kind of “we shall overcome” anthem, referencing the archangel Michael, field commander of the Army of God. So Warren needed his batteries recharged, we can all appreciate that. I just hope he didn’t identify with the role of the Liberal archangel in the service of the Liberal Cause. Or worse, that he didn’t see “Michael”, Ignatieff that is, as the archangel.
The rest of Kinsella’s week is essentially consumed with flailing attacks on Harper, ending the week finally on a much less abrasive, almost conciliatory tone. One might think Ignatieff is about to set sail in an different direction. Seems as though Ignatieff is tired of being “framed” by the Conservatives. Apparently we’re about to see a more cooperative and congenial Ignatieff. It’s almost as though Ignatieff might have come around to the realization that the political pursuit of “the common good” is not necessarily equatable with repeating old cards about Conservatives, nor the self-evident entitlement of the Liberals to govern. Apparently, you have to bring some ideas to the table. Perhaps rather than a coronation in Vancouver, the federal Liberals could have discussed, I don’t know, policy. Anyway, I suspect that since Ignatieff is seemingly about to adopt Jack Layton’s position, we might see less bravado and fewer chickens up on Kinsella’s site.
BTW, to appease Mr. Kinsella’s newfound interest in economics, I would humbly send him over to The Progressive Economics Forum should he want to experience a real discussion on economics, and yes, sometimes punctuated with real brilliant insight.

To all who call themselves "progressives" yet vote Liberal, Please Read!

I would like to think that being “progressive” entails a whole series of critical renegotiations (one’s relation to capitalism, to democracy, even to politics itself) as well as certain political demands (electoral reform, justice, civil rights etc.). Yet, I’ll settle for this one. To all self-styled “progressives” who vote Liberal, please re-examine your assumption that the Liberals are in fact “progressive”. That may be the most singularly dangerous piece of unquestioned self-evidence circulating out there. Thanks to Jan from the Bruce for drawing my attention to this excellent piece exposing the federal Liberals led by Ignatieff as hollow and false champions of the “Left”.

I urge “progressives” to read fully and carefully the linked article, particularly those who voted “strategically” in last year’s election (one of the casualties of which was incumbent Peggy Nash being ousted by Gerard Kennedy- that is, a first rate parliamentarian and true champion of the Left, respected by all, being replaced by a second rate politician and false “progressive”). Here’s a sample:

On Friday, the Liberal Party of Canada threw down the gauntlet and submitted a vote of no confidence in the minority government led by Conservative PM Stephen Harper. Many progressives might think “why not?” Harper is, after all, a wolf in wolf’s clothing, managing to run a neoconservative, neoliberal government with voter support of his party in the mid-30 percent range, and all the rest of Canada to his left.

Unfortunately, Harper’s challenger, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff, is just as much a wolf, but poses a much greater danger to the Left because he dresses as our shepherd…

Until Friday, Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals had supported the Conservative government in 79 consecutive confidence votes since 2007. That wouldn’t be so concerning if the Liberals had been winning major concessions for progressives, but no such luck.

At a basic level, Ignatieff has acted in ideological accord with the Conservatives. Ignatieff is short on details of how he would have behaved any differently than Harper, even when agitating for an election. If he is a progressive at all, it is in hindsight only: whether in the States or in Parliament, Ignatieff goes along when policy is being made, denies problems as they occur and complains unconvincingly about the consequences.

Ouch! In today’s Globe & Mail

On the bright side: it’s not like it was a top Liberal making the salient point that “Michael” is a little too Narcissieff.

Rick Salutin
Narcissieff in the mirror of politics

Judgment day: Michael Ignatieff will make a seriously bad candidate

Perhaps Michael Ignatieff’s views weren’t as sinister as they once seemed. When, for instance, he wrote in favour of what’s been called torture lite, which means torture that doesn’t leave marks; or supported the war on Iraq, which he halfheartedly recanted; or the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, which really only applies to the right of powerful nations to attack weak ones; or selective bombing of the Balkans in the 1990s. Maybe he just had a twerpy impulse to follow where those in power – the Clintons, Bushes or Blairs – led.

So let’s turn to the consequential question for Canadian politics – not what he thinks but how he’ll campaign. This was always the doubtful element: Can he lead the Liberal Party to victory? Remember that he never won the leadership. He began as a strong favourite, frittered that away and lost to Stéphane Dion. Then he seized power last winter without having to face challenges from Bob Rae or Dominic LeBlanc. He has yet to show he can win.

My own sense is that he’ll make a seriously bad candidate, due to what I’d call his narcissism. This isn’t so much about adoring yourself, as being so self-absorbed that your sense of how others react to you goes missing. A therapist I know says it usually involves “a great deal of self-referencing. A real other doesn’t exist except as an extension of themselves.” This won’t be useful when you’re asking for people’s votes, against other candidates.

For instance: “I’ve been lucky in my life to meet famous people.” And, “I just pick up the phone and call some of my friends in his [the Obama] administration.” As if we should be impressed, or envious. He recounted how witty he and the Prez got with each other (“He said, rather amusingly …”). And how the President complimented him on things he’d written, which “made this particular Canadian author feel pretty good.” That stuff may go down well with adoring audiences at author readings but, in politics, it’s better to have your flunkies leak it for you. We’re not at Harbourfront any more, Toto.

He told CBC Radio’s Eleanor Wachtel that politics is “the most incredible adventure of all the adventures I’ve had in my life. … It’s been unforgettable no matter how it turns out.” But for people in the country, how it turns out is what counts; he can save all the savouring for his next memoir. He told Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker: “I’ve been a spectator a lot of my life but this is about acting. … You have to be ready for combat, and you have to lead troops.” It’s not that it’s wrong to reflect on life’s twists and turns, but he seems so captivated and preoccupied. Instead of revelling in the fab experience of being an actor, how about just Doing Something?

It’s this misplaced emphasis that suggests an emotional tone deafness. The narcissism makes you oblivious to signals sent by others about how they perceive you, leading, one fears, to bad times on the campaign trail.

It’s not the same as egomania, which can work in politics. Egomania requires you to be aware of others in order to dominate or manipulate them. With narcissism, you barely notice them, you bask in your own presence and assume everyone does. Even Stéphane Dion didn’t seem narcissistic. Just arrogant: a guy who felt so superior, he was sure everyone would follow his lead. But narcissism blocks the reality of others, hence the stream of off-putting remarks.

Narcissieff himself seems to have a sense of this. “What is it that a great politician knows?” he asked Adam Gopnik. “I’m trying to learn that.” You might expect him to have had a clue before running to be PM, but at least he’s asking. Trouble is, a narcissistic makeup can stand in the way of finding an answer. It cuts off the natural ability to pay attention to others. He looks, someone said recently, as if he’s Voguing a politician.