Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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Ignatieff for PM

Okay, so there’s not even an election looming in Canada, and the Liberal leadership race is far from decided. That said, I’m growing more and more convinced that Michael Ignatieff’s the guy for the job.

Here’s an excerpt from Alan Fotheringham’s column today, in which he predicts, or at least hopes, that Ignatieff will be Canada’s next Prime Minister.

He writes beautifully. In a 1984 book, The Needs of Strangers; he opens this way. “I live in a market street in north London. Every Tuesday morning there is a barrow outside my door and a cluster of old age pensioners rummage through the torn curtains, buttonless shirts, stained vests, torn jackets, frayed trousers and faded dresses that the barrow man has to offer. They make a cheerful chatter outside my door, beating down the barrow’s prices, scrabbling for bargains like crows pecking among the stubble. They are not destitute, just respectably poor.”

Another chapter deals with King Lear and love. Another about Augustine, Bosch, Erasmus, Pascal. Another, The Market and The Republic, with Smith and Rousseau.

[. . .] Why should not Canada, the best of all countries, have not as leader an international figure who can demonstrate the best we have?

Dan Gardner’s column from Monday’s Ottawa Citizen suggests that “Ignatieff’s great strength is his great weakness”:

Referring to Ignatieff’s recent article “If Torture Works…,” Gardner says that the article proves the following:

First, and most obviously, this is a man of formidable intelligence and learning.

Second, this is a man who not only does not avoid tough issues, he is drawn to them.

Third, he revels in complexity without getting lost in detail.

Fourth, he is intellectually honest. He examines contrary arguments with as much care as those that support his views. He respects those who disagree and he values debate as the path to truth.

And last, he has a sound sense of the tragic. He understands that life sometimes forces us to make tough choices and the best we can do is choose — as the title of his recent book put it — the lesser evil.

The problem, though, and Gardner’s unfortunately correct about this, “is that the very writings that demonstrate Mr. Ignatieff’s admirable qualities provide a near-inexhaustible supply of statements that can be wrenched out of context and flung like mud. He hates Ukrainians! He supports torture! He loves George Bush!”

“This,” Gardner writes “is just the nonsense Mr. Ignatieff encountered before entering the leadership race. Imagine what will happen when the hired guns on the other campaigns get to work.”

Although I think Gardner’s probably right, I can’t help but wish that some day in the not-too-distant future we’ll see George Bush meeting up with Ignatieff rather than Harper. Now that would be a conversation I’d love to listen in on….