If there is one word I can use to describe the coverage of the Liberal leadership race, by the mainstream media and some bloggers (but especially by the MSM) it is arrogance. Pure, unadulterated, old-boys-club, haughty, high-school-gossipy, personality-cult-driven, vapid, presumptuous arrogance. I suppose I should expect nothing better from a group that just a month ago was fawning over Stephen Harper and now is eviscerating him, as if they had no role in putting him there - and keeping him out in 2004.
(This isn't directed at the entirety of the MSM - some of them, like Hebert, Travers and Coyne, have my deepest respect. But this applies to many if not most of them.)
The MSM is like the popular group in highschool - they're loud, arrogant and control everything, but only because people buy into their smug self-satisfaction, mistaking it for something admirable. (Those of us who did not buy into that illusion in highschool probably have an easier time seeing through it now.) And what's more, they get to decide who's "popular" and who's not, who's cool and who's not, and they have the gall to decide who's leadership material, and who's not.
With the early drop-outs of John Manley, Frank McKenna and Brian Tobin, the three men that the media decided were most well-suited to lead the Liberal Party, they've been in ultra-catty mode, dumping on the other potential contenders like a bunch of Mean Girls
, mocking everything from their perceived intelligence (as if Ignatieff is an idiot) to their charisma (as if Brison has none, and I may say, as if Manley was a fountain of it.)
The fact is there are several extremely qualified people who could lead this party, the list of suitable candidates is not limited to three retired politicians from the old boys club. (I can imagine the media's reaction if Manley DID run, though - he was a Chretien guy, in on the scandal. Instead of that, the story is, "No one wants to lead the Liberals." You just can't win.)
What the early withdrawal of these "front-runners" does is pave the way for a contest that can be about ideas, as opposed to Paul Martin-esque personality cults. After all, Trudeau's personality cult developed after he became leader, Martin's before - and look what each resulted in. A corronation of Frank McKenna (which is what the Martinite-controlled party establishment seemed to be looking for) is now impossible. Instead, we're going to have a real contest, for the first time since 1984.
This contest could include several contenders, some more well-known than others, but most well-qualified, despite what the "in-group" has to say about them. They include:Michael Ignatieff.
The spin/gossip: He's an egghead who's been out of the country for 30 years, supports torture and war, and hates Ukranians.
The reality: He's an internatinally renowned and respected scholar of human rights, and as such does not truly support torture, holds the suffering of Ukranians under Stalin in particular regard as being grotesque, and supported the war in Iraq on human rights grounds. He has remained, despite his absentee status, interested in and aware of Canadian issues. (One of the first things I read in a Canadian history class I took was written by him.) He is charismatic, deeply intelligent, effortlessly eloquent, highly principled and supports a policy of unflinching liberalism.Scott Brison.
The spin: He's a turncoat traitor with no appeal, is too right-wing, can't speak French, and isn't really that bright, kind of inexperienced (and psst, just between you and me, I don't think the country is ready for a gay leader, not that I care about things like that, really!).
The reality: Brison is under 40 and is already a successful businessman and politician. His French was decent enough 3 years ago to participate in French PC leadership debates, and it's only improved since then. His floor-crossing was a principled (and proper) reaction to the sublimation of his party into a new one that was and is openly hostile to him and his partner's (fiance's?) rights. He is actually quite bright and witty, immensely charismatic - he electrified the audience at the PC convention with his speech, increasing his delegate support dramatically - and to those who say he's not a real Liberal, he's just spent the past year and a half taking and deflecting bullets for the party during Question Period over a scandal that happened before he became a Liberal. People in the party who are fiscally conservative but socially liberal are quite excited that he may run, myself included. And as to "that" issue, let me put it this way - the National Post endorsed him for PC leader, while the TORONTO STAR said the country isn't ready for a gay PC leader in their endorsement of Jim Prentice. Frankly, the only people who wouldn't vote for a gay leader are Conservatives anyway.Martha Hall Findlay.
The spin: None, really. She's been almost entirely ignored by the media, which I think says something in and of itself.
The reality: A successful lawyer and businesswoman, Findlay is effortlessly bilingual, and a loyal Liberal, voluntarily giving up her nomination in Newmarket--Aurora to Belinda Stronach (which I'm sure to her must have been an extremely painful pill to swallow). All around one of the most solid candidates you could possibly find.
Among many, many others, including Gerard Kennedy, John Godfrey, and Ken Dryden.
Let's keep this race in perspective. It doesn't have the "glamour" of Manley, McKenna or Tobin, but that doesn't mean it's something to be scoffed at.