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Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting the measure of Michael Ignatieff: A reply to Eric

To be fair, one tries to turn what you provide--a couple of proper nouns (Arar and Iraq) and a quotation taken out of context--into meaningful propositions. But this is mind-reading at best and isn't likely to get much past the usual cliches. That said, your position appears to be that Ignatieff must be a liar because Bush is a liar and, at the crucial time, Ignatieff supported Bush's war in Iraq. You are entitled to your opinions, but we don't learn much of strategic value either from guilt by association or from poor logic (circular reasoning, fallacy of the excluded middle). Approximately the same suspicion is more articulately stated, leading to a more specific charge, by Stephen Gowan. Details are still skimpy. If all you want is to decide who to vote for, that may be enough. If you think we may have to deal with Ignatieff as a PM (and leader of a coalition government), then more will be required.

The background of this discussion is here and here. The current facts are available here (torture) and here (Iraq). You just don't like them, Eric.

The missing facts are the one's required to support the judgement that Ignatieff is a liar. Simple nouns (Arar, Iraq) fail to substitute for reasons. The usual method is to compare spoken positions to actions on the ground, preferably over a long time. The onus is on you, Eric, though we all have an interest if you can prove that Ignatieff is actually lying. Innovation will be welcome, but sloppy work is just a pain in the ass.

I suggest again that this will lead to the question -- Is Ignatieff a pragmatist or an opportunist? Terry G thinks this is a faulty question. Not a loaded question like "Have you stopped beating your wife?" but more, I would guess, like "Did you walk to school or bring your lunch?" I think he misunderstands the question (see poll).

  We have a serious need to get the measure of the man said to have "the coalition in his pocket."

Coffee shop conversations and Canadian comedians commonly portray Ignatieff as an ivory tower academic with an unnecessarily large vocabulary. It doesn't take much research to support this position. It gives rise to the counter argument that he is not an idealist but a pragmatist.

Others (like you? and the National Post) argue that he has no integrity, is simply addicted to power and that he will say anything to get himself elected, a view that finds increasing support when it is applied to Harper, but not so much Ignatieff. This view is an extreme variant of the notion that Ignatieff is an opportunist, i.e., that he goes beyond merely capitalizing on opportunities, say to forward his possibly idealistic agenda, and is instead in the grip of a serious psychopathology.

Getting the measure of Michael Ignatieff will be no easy task. Failure to read (and listen) for context and tone will lead to serious mistakes. Is he an idealist? a psychopath? an opportunist? a pragmatist? or some combination? is there some more accurate or thought-provoking appellation?

Glavin's analytical vocabulary goes well beyond "liar" and "bullshit," but he declines to be critical. Instead he is infatuated with Ignatieff's resume and dazzled by his suits. We're going to have to get beyond that.

Glavin meets Ignatieff presumably in "a restaurant booth in a dark corner of the cavernous tropical atrium of the Rainbow Country Inn in Chilliwack" and finds him "dashing." I have only seen him on TV, and he puts me in mind of Count Dracula. Thin crooked lips, big canines. Could I watch him sink those fangs into a juicy filet and suppress the desire to make a dash for the garlic? I don't know.

But I do remember when the Turner-Mulroney campaigns got derailed by a public obsession with the leaders' chins.

All that is just so much sand in the face. We have a serious need to get the measure of the man said to have "the coalition in his pocket."
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