Sunday, May 24, 2009

Is Michael Ignatieff As Good As His Word?

Ignatieff pledges not to reciprocate personal attacks

If there's any one word that could be used to sum up the recent Conservative ads regarding Michael Ignatieff, it's personal.

Rarely have Canadian politicians taken it upon themselves to attack a political opponent on such personal grounds, but the Conservatives have done this. It's absolutely undeniable.

Speaking on the matter today, however, the Liberal leader has pledged not to attack Stephen Harper on personal grounds -- at least not overtly.

"Let's be clear how we carry the attack, because I will not attack Mr Harper's patriotism," Ignatieff promised. "I will not attack his character. I will not attack his family. I will attack his record, and God knows, there's enough to work on."

"There's enough on the record that we can attack: record unemployment, record bankruptcies, record deficit," Ignatieff announced. "That should give us enough to be getting along with."

And while Ignatieff knows full well that the economic stimulus package -- the stimulus package that he and his fellow members of the opposition demanded -- is responsible for Canada's current deficit, and knows full well that economic mismanagement south of the border is responsible for Canada's current economic condition, it's encouraging to hear Ignatieff pledge to restrict his campaigning against Stephen Harper to substantive matters of policy.

And while it would be both encouraging and wise for the Liberal party to try to brand itself as the party of the high road -- thereby counter-branding the Conservative party as perveyours of low-road politics -- one also has to remember that this would be counter-characteristic of the Liberal party.

After all, it was the Liberal party that dressed Stephen Harper up in fictional policy. It was the Liberal party who insinuated that Harper would summarily declare martial law if elected to office.

Michael Ignatieff may personally be able to scrape together enough credibility to temporarily change the public image of his party. But Canadians will remember the disgusting and shameful lows the Liberals sank to in order to attack Stephen Harper. They'll remember that as disgusting and irresponsible as the Conservatives' current batch of political ads are, previous Liberal ads were even more disgusting and even more irresponsible.

Canadians may also be intrigued to be introduced, once more, to the "tough guy" personae, wherein he indulges himself in blue-collar tough talk, replete with calculatingly devolved language.

"If you mess with me, I will mess with you until I'm done," Ignatieff pronounced.

It's a bold statement, but one has to hope that Ignatieff is as good as his word. Even though the Liberal party has never succeeded electorally against Stephen Harper without resorting to personal -- and often fictionalized -- attacks, one has to hope that at least someone in Canada has the courage to rise above the personal mudslinging that has passed for political campaigning in this country for too long.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Ideas Revolutionary - "Attack Ads"


  1. Patrick,

    The integrity it will take for the Liberals not to stoop to the Tory level of personal attacks will indeed be considerable. Hopefully Iggy can live up to his promise.

    While some of the Liberal attack ads against Harpo earlier this decade were indeed deplorable - it is worth remembering that it was a two way street. Further, some of the indictments contained within these earlier ads concerning Harpo's character have been borne out. However, I do agree it serves none of us to see a re-emergence of such discourse on the Liberal side. Best let the Tory's claim the field in the realm of "attack ads" - for, perhaps more than any other recent development, their mere presence speaks to the flaws in their current leader's character in ways that Liberal attack ads never could.

  2. I don't think any of the character traits those Liberal ads suggested he had have been born out -- and certainly not the fictional policies they ascribed to him.

    The gun lobby isn't running wild in Canada.

    We haven't turned the clock decisively back on abortion policy.

    We haven't abolished universal health care.

    The Conservatives haven't done any of the things the Liberals insisted they would.

    We can say whatever we like about the Conservative anti-Ignatieff ads. They're dirty, and they're irresponsible. But they stop well short of fear-mongering, which is precisely what the Liberal party did in this country for the better part of 13 years.


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