Monday, December 22, 2008

26 ways to attack Michael Ignatieff…

…and 20 how to sell him. Here’s a selection of the responses you gave to my post earlier this week asking how the Tories and Liberals will define the new Liberal leader.

Micahel Ignatieff: Not A Canadian
Michael Ignatieff: Man of Mystery
Count Ignatieff, the Russian vampire
An elitist egghead who is out of touch with the reality of the every day Canadian
An Aristocrat
Viscount Iggy of the (American) Ivy Towers.
An intellectual who knows nothing about the economy.
“Who do you want at the helm? A torture expert or a trained economist?”
Dithers Lite
An arrogant man who ONLY came back to this country to get the PM's office he thought was entitled to. He felt so entitled he didn't even let his party vote for him.
The least experienced party leader in Canadian history
A guy who belongs in the Conservative caucus
A person who sees an opportunity to gain power and is seizing it.
Snob, egghead, "out of touch" with Canadians.
Harper will be made out to be the Tim Horton's guy, while Ignatieff will be portrayed as too snooty to know what a Starbucks even is. Tim Horton's vs Canoe.
An elitist who's never had a real job
How can this elitist who lived outside of Canada for 30 yrs understand the hardships facing average Canadians?
Paul Martin...the dithering sequel
Wait until Ignatieff defines himself and then pounce on any weaknesses
Ignatieff has a "hidden agenda" to bring back the carbon tax
Michael Ignatieff: Arrogant. Out of touch. No government experience. Not Worth the Risk.
The Conservatives will NOT try to define Ignatieff but will instead focus on defining the Liberals as a whole.
The parachute candidate
Unknown. Untested. Risky. Who is Michael Ignatieff?
Yorkville, Toronto, academic, too good for Canada, friend of separatists, wishy-washy, intellectual

Smarter than Harper.
Michael Elliot Trudeau.
An intelligent, calm, even-tempered leader with the ability to stick to the high road.
The Great Canadian Thinker.
Worldly leader with balls.
A guy who has a vision vs. Harper no vision
A guy who wants to unite Canadians vs. Harper who wants to divide them
A guy who wants Canada to live up to its full potential vs Harper who just clings aimlessly to power
Will change the tone in Ottawa
A person willing to tell it like it is in tough times.
Emphasize Ignatieff's team
Ignatieff - not Harper. A man who listens. Ignatieff Liberals, let's build together.
Paint him as someone who thinks through his decisions
Pull a little Obama and make him out to be a politician who hasn’t grown up in Ottawa and the Canadian political machine.
Straight-talker on the economy
Strong, decisive
Not Dion
Make him the Obama of Canada, without mentioning the name Obama.
Promote his intelligence, promote his stance of human rights, promote his stance of child care.

I forgot to ask how the NDP will attempt to define him, but I think it’s fairly obvious they’ll go at him on policy – specifically foreign policy. My hunch is that the Bloc will use a similar battle plan given that he’s not perceived to be a hard line federalist like Dion or Chretien and I suspect the “not Canadian enough” argument would be a tougher one for them to pull off.

So, from this list of 26 attacks, what will the Tories use? The two areas where Ignatieff is most vulnerable would appear to be on his time outside of Canada and his academic background. However, using those attacks directly could backfire. I’ve heard Ignatieff turn around the “out of Canada” argument beautifully and the Tories would just look petty attacking him for being “too smart”. So I think they’ll be more nuanced (since, if there’s one thing the Tory war room is, it’s nuanced, eh?). It won’t be he’s “un-Canadian” – it will be more of a “he hasn’t been here, he doesn’t understand the problems facing average Canadians” argument. The academic attack pairs nicely with this when it’s framed from an “out of touch” angle – and you can be sure they’ll sprinkle in a few “elitist”, “arrogant”, or “condescending” topings whenever they can.

So, what do the Liberals do to counter?

When I talk to people who aren’t overly political, even if they don’t like Ignatieff they all say they can visualize him as a Prime Minister. I'm not sure what the tag line would be for that, but you want to convey the message that he's "ready to lead". As for an image, it’s no secret that voters want to be inspired – we saw that loud and clear in the US. Ignatieff doesn’t need to pretend he’s a new Trudeau or a northern Obama, but I believe most people would be willing to buy him as a man with a national vision and big ideas. Just as the Tories want to attack him as a “smart academic” without saying it in those words, the Liberals want to sell him as a “smart academic”, without saying it in those words - the “vision thing” might be the way around that.

That said, the best defense is a good offense, so I would hope that Ignatieff and the LPC aren’t afraid to get their elbows dirty. Governing in tough economic times is never easy, and the first goal should be making sure Harper wears this recession tighter than a sweater vest.



  • "Smarter than Harper"

    Yeah! I can click with that!

    By Blogger JimTan, at 2:34 p.m.  

  • It'd be one thing if it were just a short stint abroad but the guy hadn't lived here since before I was born, and decided he wanted to pursue the Prime Minister's office before he even came back! The last part is particularly galling. Its not just an attack its a valid criticism, and frankly I dont agree with you that Ignatieff's rebuttal--basically trying to shame people for even raising the issue--will fly.

    By Blogger KC, at 3:13 p.m.  

  • Well said. He's definitely tougher for the Conservatives to attack, but they'll find a way. Perhaps the attacks will come from events yet to happen, maybe in how Iggy handles himself, say, around Jan. 27th.

    By Blogger Brad Dillman, at 3:49 p.m.  

  • Ignatieff: narcissistic apologist for empire.

    The man is completely full of BS on all matters of foreign policy.

    There is not a single war of US aggression that he has not supported, at least in the last two decades.

    The illegal war against Serbia, as well as the wars of aggression (both illegal under the UN Charter) against Afghanistan and Iraq -- all were supported hawkishly by Ignatieff.

    Now that the blood has been spilled he offers half-ass excuses -- like sympathy for the Kurds and Shia in Iraq, without acknowledging, for example, the widespread hatred of the occupation amongst the Shia.

    Ignatieff's newfound support for the Kurds is also shallow. Did he speak out against US arms sales to Turkey in the 1990s, when Kurds were being slaughtered in the southeast? No.

    Likewise, has he ever called for an immediate end to the Israeli occupation and the immediate enforcement of all UN resolutions (international law) on the matter. No he hasn't.

    The guy is a complete fraud, who specializes in dishing slippery lies to a gullible and largely uninformed Liberal Party membership and Canadian public.

    He has been dead wrong -- and complicit as a public intellectual -- on every important foreign policy issue in the last 2 decades.

    But apparently that's not a problem to the unprincipled opportunists in the LPC.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:39 p.m.  

  • The real fun will come from Layton after Iggy spurns him and doesn't take him to the Ball after all.

    Nothing as nasty as a spurned & burned socialist.

    Next election, Iggy will have to really reinforce his left flank to keep the Socialist horde at bay.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:01 p.m.  

  • A lot of those Iggy pluses seem frankly a stretch...

    I seem to hear this notion of Iggy as a uniter, not a divider. Is this a real strength of Iggy, or just the same kind of pap they say about everybody. After all, Iggy and his cronies undermined Dion for the last 2.5 years so he could take power - something he did by essentially rigging a leadership race he was going to win anyways, and by resisting the notion of COOPERATING with the other opposition parties to topple Harper, while at the same time trying to appear standoffish about cooperating with Harper. This is a weak selling point because the evidence does not support it.

    Moreover, "uniter not a divider" is a clear contradiction to the other broad theme, of Ignatieff as a champion of a big Canada that stands for something - a new Trudeau. Trudeau certainly was a nation-builder, but nation-building is controversial. Of course this line is probably the better sell.

    To the Tories: don't use the experience attack. People don't care about EXPERIENCE, they care about COMPETENCE and UNCERTAINTY. Ignatieff has enough time to define himself, and is clearly smart - enough so that his experience won't be an issue (plus he is old). The experience attack on Obama was effective (somewhat) because it combined a play on people's uncertainty with age politics. It ultimately failed because Obama ran a tightly controlled, effective campaign. Not so Sarah Palin.

    I believe the best way to beat Ignatieff is to downplay leaders and promote a debate on policy. Increase the salience of foreign policy issues to force Iggy to either shed support to the left (while seriously pissing off some ethnic voters), or cede the center to the Tories. Make the Tories the party of cautious international engagement, as opposed to he-manitarianism.

    When you do that, it reinforces most of the attacks on Iggy anyways. eg. Iggy is un-Canadian/arrogant, cares too much about "the world", not enough about Canada.

    The main attack on Iggy himself should be "Iggy is a flip-flopper". Why? Because when policy debates force him to compromise between leftish party activists and the general public he is likely to look indecisive. Mutually reinforcing lines of attack are always more effective.

    Last point - avoid Harper-Ignatieff comparisons. As a leader, Iggy is probably more innately appealing than Harper. The Tories should emphasize their bench strength - which they actually have - especially counter one of the least experienced Liberal caucuses of all time.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 6:18 p.m.  

  • Were I in the CPC war room I would be going after "elitist, does not understand average guy, media maven, two clever by half".

    If he sticks with the coalition "He's selling out Canada" if he ditches it, "Can't keep his promises".

    But hammer the Upper Canada College/Harvard/Oxford pointy head thing. A sort of distant Adelai Stevenson.

    And I'd have Harper change the oil on his car (after careful and private instruction), ferry his kid to hockey, wear the blue sweater, have a coffee at a Corner Gas like venue, go online a lot and continue shunning the press gallery but give every local reporter in the country ten minutes.

    Harper wins if he can connect to the rural and suburban middle class. You let Iggy and Jack duke it out for seats in the Toronto Party enclaves. And the CPC needs to figure out how to spring a couple of seats lose in Nfld, BC and a dozen in Quebec.

    That said, I could easily live with Iggy as PM. As Harper seems intent on ruling on Liberal Lite principles I have to go with style to some degree and Iggy has some, Harper does not.

    By Blogger Jay Currie, at 8:56 p.m.  

  • Ignatieff is a worldly man and has connections internationally that Harper could only dream of having - which is good for Canada.

    Ignatieff was a journalist in war torn countries - how down to earth and real can it get. Harper? He does Afghan photo-ops, protected and all.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:30 a.m.  

  • Ignatieff: Leads a left-wing party, therefore somehow more intelligent, tolerant and environmentally-friendly no matter what he actually says or does.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 12:01 p.m.  

  • I’ve heard Ignatieff turn around the “out of Canada” argument beautifully and the Tories would just look petty attacking him for being “too smart”.

    How are either of these true? The Out of Canada thing was one of the reasons why he wasn't elected Liberal leader in 2006, and his ability to turn that around face-to-face won't cut it in heavy traffic. As for attacking someone for being "too smart", that's not how you do it: you attack them for being "intelligent" and "educated" (as in an elitist ivory tower type), whereas YOUR guy has "street smarts" and "the kind of smarts you don't get from books".

    Just ask Al Gore how pathetically easy it is for an idiot to make an intelligent man look bad for his intelligence. The media will be all over that; it WILL be the prevailing narrative.

    (After all, if you do it well, there's a Senate seat in it for you!)

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 1:16 p.m.  

  • As for the NDP thing, their visceral strategy (as opposed to policy strategy) will be leveraging Ignatieff's various pronouncements to paint him as a thinly-veiled Conservative who opportunistically seized the Liberal party because the competition was tougher on the other side of the aisle. The whole "progressives have only one choice" line will be even more prominent than it was in 2008's general election, and the NDP's Tivo-jockies will be closely watching each and every Ignatieff pronouncement to back this up.

    That's why the "move to the center" rhetoric is questionable. Iggy is dangerously vulnerable on his left side, to the extent that there's such a thing as "left" and "right." He's given no real reason for progressives to think he gives a tinker's damn about them. He must shore that up, since he doesn't have Obama's advantages of a weak left candidate in Nader and opposition to the Iraq War.

    (Yes, yes, the NY Times thing. "I was wrong, but progressives who opposed the war were still dangerous Saddam enablers, and it totally would have worked if I were in charge" doesn't cut it. The BQ/NDP/Greens will tear him a new orifice if he pretends that that's going to insulate him.)

    By Blogger Demosthenes, at 1:25 p.m.  

  • The moment Ignatieff was chosen as leader it was like a giant ray of light opened up over the entire country. He knows how to send out clear messaging. This is my favourite quote from him, just after he was "elected":

    Ignatieff to the Prime Minister "Change, or I'll take you down".

    That kind of messaging will take the Liberal Party a long way. I can only hope the folks down at the national executive are planning on how they can take full advantage of the economic crisis...As one journalist put it:

    "Make Harper where this recession tighter than a sweater vest"...he he.

    I agree completely, and messaging to convey that is what Liberals should be working on. The national executive needs to engage the grassroots, because I can assure you there is plenty of unharnessed energy there.

    By Blogger Scott, at 5:06 p.m.  

  • Lieberals still don't get it, do you.Iggy will do worse than Dion.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:15 a.m.  

  • He knows how to send out clear messaging. This is my favourite quote from him, just after he was "elected": Ignatieff to the Prime Minister "Change, or I'll take you down".

    That made me laugh for 2 reasons.

    First, Ignatieff's "clear messaging" is what gets him in trouble in the first place. Remember "I'm not going to lose sleep over that (Qana)"? How about "we didn't get it done"? Both were clear, lucid messages, and he regretted saying both. Iggy's "clear messaging" will become (or perhaps already is) his biggest enemy.

    Second, Ignatieff leads the Liberal "backing down and loving it" party. How many times in the last parliament did Dion, Iggy, Rae, etc, threaten to topple the Tories, and then back down? Ignatieff's latest "I'll take you down" message could possibly be serious (I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now), or it could be more pathetic BS. How long will the public tolerate the Liberal talk-the-talk-then-back-down-at-the-last-minute strategy?

    By Blogger Mike514, at 5:07 p.m.  

  • Michael Ignatieff Liberal Leftist Elite, held back from power by the likes of Jack Layton and a Canadian public who put survival in a shaky economy in front of his agenda to bring North America under Obama control, Ignatieff, whose forebears were Russian born, works, in effect, toward the formation of a North American Union.
    But while sovereignty may be up for grabs in Obama’s America, Sovereignty is a hallmark worth fighting for by Canadians.
    Robbing Canadians of their Sovereignty is something bound to evoke the fighting spirit of Canadians when it is comes from a parachuted back to Canada politician who spent almost three decades living outside the the country he wishes to lead, including five years teaching at Harvard University.Ignatieff boasts he has friends in high places in the USA.Some Canadian pundits claim he is being groomed as Czar of the North by no less than Larry Summers, economic adviser to Obama.We have found Iggy's hidden agenda?

    No wonder Iggy wasn't opening up his patform - he planned to walk into the Prime Ministers office, cause all the chaos that Obama has caused the States, take our Sovereignty from us line us up for the final NAFTA plan - bye, bye Canadian benefits eg; Canada and Supplement Pensions, oh wow look at his Fascist friends Larry Summers adviser to Marxist Obama! Speaking of wolves in sheeps clothing, no wonder he is friends with Bilderberg member Bob Rae! He was going to do better alright - he wants to do Canadians in better than ever before! Yes Iggy's hidden Agenda has become crystal clear now! I'll never vote Liberal, too corrupt and sneaky for me! I am no Internationalist, I am patriotic to Canada! I also wish to preserve my country, I have no desire to help build a North American Union for the benefit of the Rockerfeller family and their Global Elitist buddies! They can go to hell!

    By Anonymous Btok, at 1:24 p.m.  

  • God help us if Iggy is elected

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:10 p.m.  

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