The problem goes deeper than Michael Ignatieff. The Liberal Party's real problem are the Liberal Party members responsible for putting Ignatieff at the helm. That's Jim Travers' take on the Liberal malaise. The worst part is - he's absolutely right.
From a distance, Ignatieff was easily mistaken for [a] champion. A cosmopolitan public intellectual with patrician bloodlines, the writer and professor blended exotic success with domestic roots.
All that was missing was the discipline of due diligence. Locked on to Ignatieff in much the same way they blindly fastened their fortune to rusty John Turner, Liberals either ignored or dismissed available evidence contradicting the consensus and conventional wisdom. Too lightly weighed was the absence of experience in a craft that mercilessly punishes on-the-job training. Too easily skimmed was the library of awkward Ignatieff musings on the American Empire, the Iraq war and the utility of torture. Too fast forgotten was the revealing use of "we" when talking to southern neighbours wary Canadians know as "them."
Every portrait needs a frame and Liberals had none for Ignatieff. A party that hadn't seriously considered its policies, principles or purpose for nearly 20 years could only wistfully compare him to Pierre Trudeau and consider his candidacy in the context of Liberal prospects in the next election.
The Liberal conclusion, accelerated by the Christmas coalition crisis, was that the more seasoned and campaign ready Rae was too burdened by his NDP resumé and that Ignatieff was the answer. Given a broader choice, Canadians are proving harder to convince.
Travers is right on this one, dead right. It was almost stomach-churning to listen to all the IgLibs swooning over "Michael" and praising the brilliance of the "war room" guys all the while the party stagnated and fumbled and their vaunted Michael slid beneath Harper in public acceptance.
Travers is right that there's an arrogant indifference to the Liberal Party and its members about policy and principles and purpose even liberalism itself. Many Liberal bloggers I've observed are far too preoccupied in their party reclaiming power to discuss what the LPC ought to do if returned to power.
Michael (swoon) will unveil our policy when Harper calls the next election, right? Whose policies? Michael's? Is this guy who unequivocally supported the brutal conquest of Gaza, who can't see beyond the Athabasca Tar Sands, who somehow thinks Canada and the world need a muscular Canadian military presence, who supported the illegal invasion of Iraq, who made so many other questionable calls along the way - he's going to tell the party what its policies will be?
Oh please, spare me.
I, for one, hope there is an early election call and I hope in the wake of that election the LPC membership emerges with an appreciation that the Liberal Party of Canada without liberalism is an empty vessel the Canadian voter will not embrace.