The first is Rick Salutin's devastating critique of Ignatieff, "Speaking Power to Truth". This should be of interest to anyone who has had serious qualms about the direction that George Bush has taken the country in.
[Ignatieff] tends to accept U.S. claims at face value. George Bush "risked his presidency on the premise that Jefferson might be right" about spreading democracy around the world. And "the promotion of democracy by the United States has proved to be a dependently good idea." Look, every empire says its motives are noble (the British "white man's burden", the French mission civilisatrice. It must be checked against the facts...Americans helped overthrow democracy: Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Brazil in 1964, Chile in 1973, Haiti twice in the past 10 years. I'm not America-bashing, I'm saying the record shows that the United States follows its national interest, full stop, in imposing or demolishing democratic regimes. But taking that evidence and suppressing or bending it to reflect the agenda of those in power is what I mean by speaking power to the truth of the facts
It gets even better:
He tends to accept the main premises of U.S. policy and propaganda, then quibble over details. That's not speaking truth to power, it's whispering mild disagreement in the corridors while never really challenging. So he endorses "preventive war" as part of the "war on terror," then supports invading Iraq in that context. Yet he never asks whether a literal war makes sense in response to a problem like terror. It's the way adults present troublesome kids with two choices, making sure they obey at least one. Similarly, he assumes that democracy means what U.S. policy says it means: elections, free markets etc. So the matter of whether it is stupid nonsense to "impose" a democracy at all doesn't arise.
Now comes the zinger:
Of course, you need massive power to even bother your head with elegant dilemmas of whether you should inflict freedom on others. Haiti wouldn't fuss about whether to spread democracy to the U.S., even if it felt elections there were as badly flawed as the Americans claim they are in Haiti. Our candidate says, "America has power and should use it," responsibly, one assumes, like Spider-Man. Yet he sounds to me a bit delighted by power and its proximity. Intellectuals can do that, too: speak power as truth.
Then there's this pretty bad misstep for an aspiring politician who hasn't lived in Canada for 30 years and hasn't moved there yet.
Michael Ignatieff's path into politics took another luckless bounce yesterday with the publication of an article in Harvard's student newspaper quoting him as saying he would ask the U.S. university to take him back if he didn't get elected to Parliament.
The statement had "Oh-Oh" written all over it, given that the distinguished academic and celebrity Liberal candidate has made much of being committed to re-engaging in Canadian life and is scheduled next month to take up a University of Toronto post.
Mr. Ignatieff quickly explained in a telephone interview from Boston that the comment was a joke. "I was talking in my customary way, with a lack of care," he said ruefully. "It was meant in a light-hearted humourous way . . . a kind of joke, like I was begging them to take me back."
The Harvard Crimson quoted him deadpan as saying: "If I am not elected, I imagine that I will ask Harvard to take me back. I love teaching here, and I hope I'll be back in some shape or form."