Sunday, September 24, 2006

On the Subject of Fighting Back...

I have some replies to attacks on Rae by bloggers recently.

Bob Rae is being painted as a traitor to the party because he gave some money to NDP candidates in the last election. I checked the government disclosure database, and Rae gave donations of $250 and $300 (a total of $550) to two NDP candidates, along with $300 to a Liberal candidate. It's a personal thing whether this bothers you or not, but it doesn't bother me because: (1) All three donations are probably to friends; (2) I have read a fair bit of political biography and I understand that politicians make cross-party friends, and often aren't as partisan as they may seem in a debate (and thank god for that; they need to be able to work together after all); and (3) it's not enough money to make any difference.

Rae's comments about ideas are being misinterpreted to mean that he is not a man of ideas or that he doesn't believe in ideas. It's so ridiculous to say that Bob doesn't have ideas that I don't even know what to say to this one. Go take a look at Bob Rae is all about ideas. A leadership race is about choosing a leader, not choosing a platform.

Lots of bloggers are claiming anecdotal evidence that Bob Rae is a disaster in Ontario. There have been three large, independent, credible surveys recently, all showing that Bob Rae has very strong support across the country and especially in Ontario, both in the general public and among Liberals. See here, here, and here. Here are some quotes from the survey results:

* "Dryden and Rae are significantly ahead of other contenders among the general public"
* "Rae does comparatively well in Ontario, where he is in first place"
* "NDP voters are disproportionately attracted to Rae"
* "Bob Rae continues to hold a lead in the number of people who say they would vote Liberal or consider voting Liberal if he was leader... In Ontario, Rae enjoys a wider lead..."
* "Bob Rae has increased his potential to draw soft NDP support, which is a very important segment of voters for the Liberal party to focus on."
* To the question, "Which candidate would make the best Prime Minister?", Liberal party members who said they were going to vote in the candidate selection ballots answered Igantieff 16%, Rae 15%; and in Ontario they answered 18% for both. These were the highest scores of any candidates.

Finally, some people persist in saying that Bob Rae was a disaster as Ontario premier. He was a very good premier. A North America-wide recession struck during his first year, and he was vilified by his own party by coping with it in a fiscally responsible way. The Ontario NDP is still bitter that he didn't embark on a $10 billion auto insurance program while the deficit was skyrocketing. Rae did the right thing. For more information, see here. For my personal recollections of his premiership, see Why I Left the NDP.


The Big Dog Fights Back

Think Progress has posted this morning's Fox News interview with Bill Clinton here, and also provided references to support Clinton's assertions that Fox News has been excessively partisan (as if we didn't know that already).

It's obvious that Bill Clinton went on the show fed up with the ongoing smear campaign against him and the whitewash of the current administration, and Clinton was prepared to fight back. As one commenter on Think Progress put it, "It’s about time we started standing up to the Rightwing in solid ways. With the truth, not by playing their game. It takes the Big Dog to do it. Maybe others will catch on."

In his memoir My Life, Clinton expresses his exasperation with Democrats for not fighting back. He has been smeared more than possibly any other public figure, but he fought back - on the facts - and he fought back hard, and it worked.

A talking head on CNN opined this morning that Clinton had no reason to complain about the questions the Fox interviewer lobbied at him; she said he should have known that he would get that kind of question on Fox. She got the entire situation backwards: after smearing Clinton for years, Fox should have known that it would be very dangerous to give him a chance to respond to their viewers. I wouldn't be surprised if someone at Fox News isn't quietly fired over this.

By the way, I also saw Clinton today on the much more respectable Meet the Press, and he talked in elegant detail about the $7 billion he just raised for his international aid foundation - the ostensible reason he was on Fox News. Fox was just one station on a long line of media stops for Clinton to publicize his foundation.


Playing to Win

I got a call from Michael Ignatieff a few minutes ago. It was one of those mechanical voice recording calls, which I dislike... but I can see the efficacy of them. Ignatieff's first sentence was, "Hi, I'm Michael Ignatieff and I've been a Liberal my whole life."

My first reaction was Whoa baby - you're attacking my guy Rae.

My second reaction was: And why not? It's a fair comment. My main concern about Ignatieff has been whether he has sufficient political savvy, so I can't fault him for making an effective hit on a legitimate target.

I can see how third and fourth spot candidates tend to come up the middle and win leadership races, because it's the nature of the beast that the front runners have to attack each other. ("Attack" is too strong a word, but you know what I mean.) Then supporters of the front-runners, if they're too touchy, get mad and refuse to throw their late-ballot support behind the other front runners - people who they probably originally thought were pretty good. The candidates who are behind the front runners might manage to avoid the scrum and so piss off fewer convention delegates.

So I'm going to try to avoid defensiveness. As Keith Davey says, the best outcome for a leadership race is for all the candidates' weaknesses to be aired, considered, and dealt with. My late-ballot support (if I get to the convention, and if Rae drops out) is going to stay with Ignatieff and Dion unless I learn something new that's substantive, and not because they ran an effective campaign against Bob Rae.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Importance of Same-Sex Marriage in Current Canadian Politics

Conventional wisdom has it that the Liberals were turfed out of Ottawa (barely) because of the sponsorship scandal, but I'm starting to wonder if the real force behind the Harper throne is opposition to same-sex marriage. Or more accurately, a social conservative movement for which gay marriage was a hot button issue after it was legalized by Bill C-38.

Federal Liberals started going public about their support for same-sex marriage shortly before the last Ontario election. I was living in a rural riding then, and when I was out stumping for my Liberal candidate I was yelled at and chased down driveways by people who were irate about gay marriage - even though it's not a provincial issue. Around that time the Vatican threatened to excommunicate Prime Minister Martin if he continued with the legalization. It makes sense that that anger would carry through into the next federal election.

Marci McDonald, an acclaimed Canadian political journalist, wrote an article for the October Walrus called "Stephen Harper and the Theo-cons: The rising clout of Canada's religious right." She provides some interesting statistics:

64% of weekly Protestant church-goers - the vast majority of them Evangelicals - voted Conservative in the last election, a 24% jump from 2004. ...For the first time in the history of polling in Canada, Catholics who attend church weekly also shifted a majority of their votes from the Liberals to Harper's party.

The Roman Catholic church has continued to agitate, even after the Canadian Supreme Court and Parliament both legalized gay marriage. Earlier this month (around the same time he was offending Muslims) the Pope announced that Canada has excluded god from the public sphere. He described our legalization of gay marriage as "folly".

Bill C-38 also got the attention of Americans. I happened to be in North Carolina during the discussion of the bill, and was shocked to see an entire hour-long Ottawa press conference by Jean Chretien shown live on American TV. If you've ever spent time in the US you'll know that Canada is rarely mentioned and Canadian politicians are completely ignored. But Canadian legalization of same-sex marriage was huge news in the States. And according to McDonald, American Evangelicals poured money across the border to support the gay marriage opposition.

All of this opposition was centered in the Conservative party, who as a consequence were able to elect 70 Evangelicals.

The rise of religion as a political force in Canada is easy to miss, because it's hiding. The proponents of theo-con values know not to speak to mainstream media. They speak in churches and Christian schools, and they are very careful to be discreet.

The good news for Liberals is that the longer same-sex marriage remains legal, the more time Canadians will have to realize that it's not doing any harm. Who has suffered because some gay people got married? Who has even noticed a difference? We don't have to change the minds of Canadians about same-sex marriage to win this battle; we just have to wait till not many care very much about it.

The threat is that Harper will be able to carry on the movement with other hot button theo-con issues such as abortion and assisted suicide. McDonald's article is a real eye-opener, detailing many highly funded, well-organized evangelical advocacy movements that have sprung up in Canada over the last few years. If they become permanently entrenched, Canadian democracy and the protection of our human rights will be in desperate danger.

Our opportunity is that Harper has to reopen the same-sex marriage debate this fall, and he's vulnerable because it forces him to show his colors, something he has been working hard not to do. It wasn't too long ago that Stockwell Day, then leader of the Canadian Alliance, was laughed out of office for promoting creationism and claiming that dinosaurs and man lived together.

For more on the theo-con threat, see James Laxer's blog.

(The Walrus doesn't publish articles electronically until a couple of months after they're released.)


Friday, September 15, 2006

Carolyn Bennett Drops Out of the Race to Support Bob Rae

I have been a passionate Rae supporter for a long time. As I said in my endorsement, I think he is the best choice to rejuvenate the party, to beat Harper in the next election, and to lead the country. I see a better future for all Canadians in the leadership of Bob Rae.

I always knew we had a shot, but this seems like an important turning point: the moment I believe that we're going to win this thing!


If You Had to Choose the Next Happy Meal, Which Meal Would You Choose?

This recent Gandalf poll seems a bit dodgy. The survey talked to 1,000 random Canadians. Here is the key question: "If you had to vote for the next Liberal leader, who among the candidates would you vote for?" The response was: Dryden 19%, Rae 17%, Ignatieff 10%, Dion 8%, Bennett 6%, Kennedy 4%.

So here's an equivalent kind of question: If you had to choose the next Happy Meal at Macdonalds, what would you choose? The options are: roasted vegetables on foccaccia; bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich; deep-fried worms; or flaming bananas.

You might be a vegetarian who wouldn't be caught dead in Macdonalds but you support the concept of healthy alternatives so you choose the roasted vegetable sandwich, even though you don't plan to ever buy it. You might be an employee of Burger King and so you choose fried worms in the hopes of messing with the competition. You might not take any of this seriously and so think, Hey man, flaming bananas. Imagine all the kitchen fires! I'm going for that one.

So maybe our Macdonalds pollsters broke out the numbers for declared Macdonalds customers. Even then, the respondents might have the following thought processes: Geeze, foccaccia, never heard of it. I guess I have to choose the BLT, just because I know what it is (even though after an advertising campaign I'd realize that foccaccia is just a fancy name for white bread, and I'd prefer it). Or: This place is so stodgy, we need to shake it up. I don't care how; we just need change. And so I'm choosing flaming bananas, even though I'll never order them. Or: Wow, BLT, that would make a nice lunch; I'll pick that.

To the Gandalf question, "If you had to vote for the next Liberal leader, who among the candidates would you vote for?", people identified as Liberal voters answered: Dryden and Rae each 19%, Ignatieff 12%, Dion 8%, Kennedy 7%, Bennett 5%. Keep in mind though that only 30% of the respondents identified themselves as Liberals, so this data is based on 300 people across the country. Not enough.

Perhaps the biggest problem with "If you had to vote for the next Liberal leader, who among the candidates would you vote for?" is that it is ambiguous. Did respondents interpret it as, "If you had to choose the next Liberal leader, who would you choose?" or "If you had to vote Liberal in the next election, which leadership candidate would you rather vote for?" (Would you think it meant, "What do you think Macdonalds should put on its menu?" or "If you had to buy one of these meals, which one would you buy?")

Asking "if you had to choose..." tries to force people to come up with a response. A more meaningful question might be, "If the following items were on the menu, would you be likely to order them?" Or in the case of the Gandalf poll: "If Ken Dryden were leader of the LPC, would you vote Liberal?"

Way down at the end of the report the survey addresses this question. The question is "How likely would you be to vote for the LPC if it were led by the following candidates in the next election?" This is a fairly typical polling question that is designed to determine the pool of potential voters for each candidate (made up of respondents who say they are very likely, somewhat likely, or don't know whether they would vote Liberal if that person were leader).

In the Gandalf survey, the candidates for whom respondents said they were certain or likely to vote Liberal are: Rae 21%, Dryden 20%, Dion and Ignatieff each 16%, Bennett 13%, Kennedy 12%, Brison 11%, Findlay 10%. But the numbers also reveal the following:

* In another section of the survey, 70% of respondents said that they'd vote for a party other than the Liberals, but in response to this question, no more than 42% said they'd be unlikely to vote Liberal if any of the candidates were leader.
* In another section of the survey, 30% of the respondents said they'd vote Liberal, but in response to this question, at most 8% said they were certain to vote Liberal if a specific candidate were leader.

This shows incredible softness in opinion on both Liberal support and non-Liberal support. It might be useful data in a trend (Decima is guaging the potential voter pool on a repeating basis to show just that) but it's not clear how useful it is as a snapshot.

The report makes some claims that may be beyond its sampling. For example, it says, "In Quebec, Conservatives are now in a fight to hold their seats, and could lose up to seven of them to the BQ. BQ could come out of an election with 60 or more seats." This survey sampled 1,000 Canadians. If they made sure that the number of responses from each province was proportionate to the electorate, then about 250 of those surveyed were in Quebec. This seems like a small sample to forecast the outcome of over 60 ridings. To say anything about the outcome of any riding, I'd like to see a much better sample.

I'm very interested to see the results of the leadership convention delegate selections, which are due out in October. Until then I'd put surveys like this in the "yappa ding ding" category. Yappa ding ding is a Garifuna term meaning "something worth less than nothing".


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Review of Ghosts (Stratford 2006)

Ibsen's Ghosts is an intense play. A young man is coming to terms with his impending death from syphilis and his growing understanding of how he contracted the disease. A young woman is trying to resist the manipulations of the man she believes to be her father to turn her into a whore. A woman who endured life with a dissolute husband is trying to put to rest the ghosts of the past. The ending leaves two of the characters in such a tragic dilemma that audiences don't clap right away - it takes a few minutes to absorb the situation before being able to re-enter the world outside the play.

The first time I saw Ghosts was the 1977 Stratford production starring Margaret Tyzack and Nicholas Pennell, and it has remained in my memory as one of the great theater experiences of my life. It was also one of the great audience experiences of my life - I and the entire audience seemed to be reacting as one. When the curtain fell, I felt that every person in that audience was holding their breath in a great shared emotional experience. After a minute, at the same moment we all burst into thunderous applause.

The performance I saw tonight was the polar opposite. Oh, the acting was good, more than good. Martha Henry and Brian Hamman, as the mother and son, were magnificent. Martha Henry created a character of such depth and subtlety that I will remember the mother as someone I knew well. Peter Donaldson, who with Seanna McKenna and Scott Wentworth is my favorite Stratford actor, was mesmerizing as the priest. The direction and set were wonderful. The play had all the power and insight of the first time I saw it. Where everything went horribly wrong was the audience.

The audience laughed. It was like being in a TV sound stage during the taping of a sitcom. They tut-tutted the paternalistic priest, chuckled knowingly or oohed and ahhed at horrific revelations the characters made to each other, and roared with laughter at everything said by the nasty man pretending to be a father. They, or at least some proportion of them, apparently thought that the play was a light-hearted look at the bad old days of female oppression. Finally, in the last 15 minutes, the last die-hards seemed to realize that it wasn't funny, and they shut up.

Is the modern audience too stupid for Ghosts? Perhaps that's why it isn't often produced. Or did I just have the misfortune see the play with a bunch of drunks?


Liberal Strategy

I'd like to see the development of a strategy to portray the Harper government for what it is: inexperienced and incompetent. There is a strong, strong case to be made for this view. The Harperites are campaigning every day, portraying themselves as a competent government, and we should be working to paint our own picture. We need to attack and attack hard to start taking control of the political context in preparation for the next election, which may be very soon.

Even where Harper is trying (or claims to be trying) to do good things, he is unable to produce effective policy. Let's examine the record on achieving Harper's stated goals, as listed on the Government of Canada web site:

Lower Taxes
Child Care
Health Care

I'm no expert, but here are some off-the-top-of-my-head suggestions on things we should be saying about Harper's five goals.

1. Accountability
Harper has a terrible record on accountability. He dodged the Ethics Commissioner after buying a Liberal MP with a cabinet commission the day after the election. His proposed Accountability Act is open to all kinds of criticism, showing Harper to be naive and reactionary. He's using important policy to take cheap shots at his opponents (I'm thinking of his attempt to impose a $1000 limit this year). His deputy Prime Minister made a written promise not to merge the party and then almost immediately merged the party.

2. Lower Taxes
I am not a low-tax advocate, but I agree with lowering the GST. However, Harper has actually raised taxes since he took office. His inexperience is costing Canadians money after the brilliant economic stewardship of a decade-plus of Liberal governance.

For example:
Thanks to the Conservative’s new tax plan, the basic personal amount that all Canadians earn tax-free decreased from $9,039 to $8,639 putting 200,000 low-income Canadians back on the tax rolls. At the same time the lowest income tax rate was hiked from 15 per cent to 15.5 per cent. ...To make matters worse, experts predict that the GST reduction will only amount to a savings of about $26 per year for Canadians in the lowest income tax bracket – a mere fraction, by the way, of the savings that will be enjoyed by wealthy Canadians. The Conservative government has implemented a tax policy that literally robs from the poor to pay the rich. ~ Politics Canada Editorial

3. Crime
Note that Harper's stated goal is not to "reduce crime"... and he's not. He wants to build more prisons and put more youth in jail. His goal is retribution, not pragmatic crime reduction. His approach is costly of tax-payer's money and young people's lives.

4. Child Care
Harper's inability to get beyond his right wing ideology results in bad policy. This isn't child care. This is a handout. It could be done efficiently through tax rebates, but instead there's an expensive program to mail millions of cheques a month. The approach to child care is inefficient and ineffective. It's also smoke-and-mirrors, because he reduced money to parents while he created this new program.

5. Health Care
Has Harper even done anything about this promise (other than talk, talk, talk)?


If We Shoot Them with Cameras, Will They Shoot Us with Guns?

Another lone gunman shot up another school in Quebec yesterday. It's no coincidence that Quebec is a hot spot for these events - not because of anything to do with Quebec, but because of the large copycat element to this particular crime. When an area has one, they tend to get more. A person who is disturbed for whatever reason - mental illness, traumatic social problems - feels compelled to do something to change his life. Feeling that he's seen as a loser and weak, and finding no other way to fix his life, he remembers the sense of power emanating from the two boys hunting their classmates in video of the Columbine high school shooting, and so he too effects a homicide-suicide with maximum exposure. He knows his picture will be broadcast and his name will be remembered. It always is.

Anna Maria Tremonti dropped everything to be in Montreal this morning to cover yesterday's shooting for the CBC radio show The Current. As always, she and her team did an admirable job; the show was both insightful and interesting. But I don't want to hear about it. It isn't interesting in any meaningful context. It encourages other sick people to commit similar crimes. It increases the trauma of the victims. There is no benefit from the media frenzy over this shooting, and lots of downside.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Me, Osama and the Blogosphere

My birthday's coming up, so I have been reflecting on my advancing years. I feel as young as ever, but in fact I'm the same age as Osama bin Laden. How did it come to this? The same age as a wrinkled old white-haired fella with a long white beard living in a cave with his dialysis machine plotting the destruction of western civilization. Whodathunkit.

The reason I mention my age is that I have to disagree with the many who think that the internet is for young people. I am a blogger, and as you can see, I ain't young. In this YouTube interview with Bob Rae and film-maker Robin Benger, interviewer Jesse asks what role the internet will play in the next federal election... Benger in particular seems to think that the internet is mostly the realm of youth and so does not have much relevance for serious politics.

That's a common comment, and yet it's not supported by the facts. Serious politics has a huge presence on the internet, in mainstream media, countercultural media, and blogs. Of course, gaming and other youth-driven things are even bigger presences, but then, the entire internet is apparently financed by pornography, so the rest of us are just riding the tail. (Pun intended.)


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Review of The Duchess of Malfi (Stratford 2006)

The Duchess of Malfi is a strange, dark play. The plot is not at all straightforward to modern audiences, and instead of the plot synopsis that Stratford provides in its program this year, we would have been better served by a brief section describing the background to the play: The Duchess, a widow, has inherited the lands and power of her late husband the Duke. Her brothers, a cardinal and a count, are anxious to keep her from remarrying as they scheme to get the lands and power for themselves. Many in the Stratford audience hadn't figured out this basic motivation by the end of the play; John Webster's audience in 1612 would have known the true story on which the play is based and would have been very familiar with this sort of situation, so he just plunges into the action.

As with conceptual art, you need to understand some theory to really appreciate a play like the Duchess of Malfi. It follows the form of Jacobean revenge tragedy, which, for example, prescribes the inclusion of a mad-person scene. Stratford presents the complete, pure play - which is admirable, but I'd prefer a slightly updated and truncated version, cutting the mad-person scene and shortening the scenes that follow the Duchess's death, among others.

Director Peter Hinton compensates for the inaccessibility of the play by putting on a pageant. He pulls out all stops. Peter Donaldson, Scott Wentworth and Steve Cumyn are, as usual, a delight. The costumes, sets and lighting effects are magnificent.

There is something else that Hinton brings to the play to keep us interested that is more controversial, and that is quite a lot of gratuitous nudity. The nudity is a puzzle. There are several fat, flabby and completely nude men. There is also one young, attractive naked woman. The difference in the treatment of the sexes is made even stronger by the fact that the woman has shaved pubic hair - not exactly what you'd expect in a play that is otherwise an historical costume drama. The nudity was an off note.

Lucy Peacock's Duchess is an imperial woman who spits out her lines. It works in her final scenes, but before that I'd have liked to see a little more modulation to create a sense of who the Duchess is. Paul Essiembre's Ferdinand, the Duchess's twin brother who lusts for her, is wonderfully over the top. As he's going mad he howled like a wolf and made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. His over-emotional creepiness is a perfect contrast to Peter Donaldson's Cardinal, a controlled and scheming monster of a different sort.

This play is not a crowd pleaser. It's challenging, long and very dark. As the woman behind me said at the end, "Right... that was great and all, but I guess I prefer comedies."


Review of Coriolanus (Stratford Festival, 2006)

One of the wonderful things about Shakespeare productions is the new ways that directors find to interpret the motivations of the characters. Placing them in different historical contexts, highlighting certain speeches, creating characters in new and unexpected guises - all serve to make the plays anew. Even so-so productions can be worthwhile when they bring new ideas to the text.

Coriolanus is not produced very often. The only other time I have seen it was in a production by the Royal Shakespeare Company several years ago. The RSC didn't seem to have an interpretation, and muddied the production with bizarre and inexplicable historical contexts (part Samurai warriors, part US gunslingers). It's a shame it doesn't get produced more often, because it's a great play with exceptional language (like "hyperbolic acclamations"). Arguably, it suffers from having too much text, and could be helped by a little pruning of some overly-long speeches.

The current production at Stratford Ontario is enjoyable and compelling with first-rate acting. Where it suffers, I think, is in the way it copes with Colm Feore as its star. Colm Feore is a brilliant actor, but he may be too old and is certainly too powerful for an easy interpretation of Coriolanus. Coriolanus is a simple hero with simple values who honors those values to the limit. As the play opens, his values are clear: Rome and family. But he is surrounded by powerful and crafty people with their own agendas (his adversary on the battle field, his mother, Roman politicians, the Roman people) who throw him into a situation where he has to cope with new objectives, and he doesn't cope well. The play is about a good man who is destroyed when he attempts to enter politics, and its relevance reverberates today.

Colm Feore was the obvious choice to play Pierre Trudeau in a recent mini-series. Feore is charismatic, subtle, powerful. He doesn't do the simple hero. To cope with this, director Antoni Cimolino reinterpreted the play with a strong and crafty Coriolanus who is not manipulated by those around him. Martha Henry as Coriolanus' mother is not crafty or evil - she's an overbearing but loving mother. Coriolanus's adversary Aufidius, played by Graham Abbey in a style that seems more to be reading lines than creating a character, is similarly a follower rather than a manipulator. The Roman senators who make Coriolanus Consul in recognition of his battle successes are nice guys. All of this seems forced by the casting of the lead character rather than a credible interpretation, and it tears the guts out of the play. It also left me feeling that Feore hadn't presented a believable character in his Coriolanus - there was too much disjoint between the play and his representation.

The Tribunes, played by Don Carrier and Bernard Hopkins, are left as the sole evil-doers in the play, and they steal the show. There is a catty gay undercurrent to their plotting that makes it almost delicious. It's a shame that the great Martha Henry couldn't have been given rein to flesh out the manipulative mother and do the same. Likewise, Colm Feore would have made a dynamite Aufidius.


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thoughts on Recent Doin's

Heartened as I was by the Decima poll showing Bob Rae as the popular leader of the Liberal leadership candidates, it means little. Polls between elections are like asking people what they want for lunch next March.

It's interesting though that the Globe & Mail is being pissy about Rae. The Globe powers-that-be (bless their pointy little heads) get really slanted sometimes, and it looks like they see a threat in Mr. Rae. Their article today, "No apologies, few regrets from candidate Rae" is a subtle but very effective smear. Another article, "Poll sees close race", doesn't even mention Rae until the end of the third paragraph, and then doesn't mention that he's in the lead till paragraph 5.

Fourteen months ago the Globe published a Bob Rae love-fest; now that he's a front-runner in the leadership race they seem to have dropped the line that he's "a respected and superbly talented elder... whose stature in the public square seems equalled only by that of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter."

I wouldn't be surprised to see the Globe pulling some anti-Rae stunts in the next few months. Bob's in good company if he's in the Globe's black book. It got to be hilarious how much they hated Pierre Trudeau. In totally inappropriate places they used to use a photo of him taken while he was on a canoe trip, unshaven and in grotty clothes, as if that was his normal workaday look.

On a related issue, I don't get the big hoo-ha about whether leadership candidates will run for office if they aren't elected leader. Rae said he'd run; Ignatieff said he wouldn't and then said he would. The only thing that bothers me is that Ignatieff's lack of political experience seems to be coming through again. I don't think any of the candidates should feel compelled to run for office if they lose the leadership race. Rae and Ignatieff are way too senior with too much to offer to be in the game and not at the top. Also, if a candidate doesn't agree with the new leader they might not want to be in the caucus. And depending on how the race goes, the new leader might not want some of the candidates to be in their caucus. It seems that the candidates have to promise to run no matter what, but I for one hope they don't feel compelled to keep that promise.