Apparently Foreign Policy magazine has released its list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers, and it has placed Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff at number 64. #1 was fed chair Ben Bemanke, #2 was some guy named Barrack Obama, and other notables include Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bill Gates, and Pope Benedict. So, not a bad list. Even if it does include Dick Cheney.
Here's the entry on Ignatieff:
64. Michael Ignatieff
for showing that not all academics are irrelevant.
Liberal Party leader | Canada
Poised to become Canadian prime minister next year, only five years after leaving Harvard University's Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Ignatieff is out to prove the relevance of academia -- and big ideas -- in politics. Ignatieff's writing on the sometime necessity of "violence … coercion, secrecy, deception, even violation of rights" to fight terrorism has made him a singular voice among Canadian liberals. His 2004 book, The Lesser Evil, made the case that targeted violence was necessary to prevent the possibility of falling victim to greater violence, but stressed that democratic states should not employ torture or be motivated by national pride or revenge. In 2006 he was elected to Canada's House of Commons and in 2008 became leader of the Liberal Party. As a politician, he's renewed his party's focus on human rights, the war in Afghanistan, and more recently, global climate change, which he defines in characteristically utilitarian fashion as "redistributing risk to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world."
Exciting news for "Toronto Liberals" certainly, but for the more cynical in our ranks the reaction will no doubt be "oh crap, don't remind people Ignatieff has a brain, the Conservatives will kill us!" And, while I've not ventured into Blogging Tory land yet, I'm sure the Conservative war machine (not a metaphor, they built an actual machine) is all a tizzy gearing-up for another values-war. More evidence he's out of touch, academic elitist, etc. He's not Tim Horton's! He "thinks" about things!
Isn't it time, and I hope you're listening DonOLO guys and gals, that rather than cowering and hiding from this narrative, that we flip it on its head? Hate to break it to y'all, but we're not going to successfully repackage Michael Ignatieff as just folks, even if we bring Jean Chretien's denim shirt out of retirement. It just won't fly.
Michael is what he is: a journalist and academic and a world-recognized author and expert on human rights. He's a deep-thinker. The Conservatives want to paint that as a bad thing, because a) their guy ain't, and b) they're more comfortable in a values-war, drawing sharp lines to lure support. But why are we letting them define the terms of the debate? Who decided smart was bad?
We need to make the argument for smart being good. I want a leader that is a thinker (balanced with decisive doing, naturally), that is intelligent and learned. I don't care if our leaders like hockey too or like maple dips. I want to know they have good values and rich experiences and strong principles to guide their decisions.
We've been hiding from Michael's resume for far too long. Ignatieff and the Liberals need flip the narrative and instead treat it as an asset. Tell us about his career, about reporting on the flight of the Kurds in Northern Iraq for the BBC, about how he became a human rights expert, and why. Tell us how his experiences as a journalist, as an academic, how his writings on human rights led him into politics. Tell us how that experience has shaped what he has come to believe, and how it would influence what he would seek to do as Prime Minister.
Or, in other worlds, for the umpteenth time, let Ignatieff be Ignatieff. Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers