Musings —06.14.2011 09:34 AM—
I’m surprised, a bit, that The Walrus published online the entire piece I did for them. In any event, it allows me to share the link with you. Comments, as always, are welcome.
Davey and I and others had been attempting to convince Ignatieff that he desperately needed a winning ballot question. His late-summer promise to defeat the Harper government and force a general election had sent the party into a tailspin. Whatever popularity we had enjoyed was slipping away. Simultaneously, the government had been equivocating on ending Canada’s military presence in Afghanistan in 2011. Despite an all-party resolution favouring the conclusion of our combat role, it was clear that many among the hawkish Conservatives wanted us to stay.
Davey — the son of the legendary Grit rainmaker, Keith Davey, and a friend who had brought me to Ottawa to run the Liberal war room — thought an election fought on extending the war could end badly for the Conservatives. Even better, it would banish a few ghosts for the Liberals. Ignatieff had secured the leadership months earlier, and was still dogged by concerns from the party’s left wing. In his writing and media appearances, the former Harvard professor had been an enthusiastic proponent of the war in Iraq, unambiguously pro-American and, seemingly, an advocate of “coercive interrogation” with terror suspects. His position had put him at odds with others in the party. After nearly a decade in Afghanistan, some of us felt we had done our share, with too many Canadian lives lost. We thought it was time for other Western nations to step up. In the coming election, Liberals should be the ones favouring an end to the war. Let the Harper regime, with its bellicose military rhetoric and its willingness to give the generals whatever shiny new toy they desired, become the party that favoured war with no end.
“We can banish the pro-American, pro-torture, pro-Iraq war stuff in one move,” I had said to Davey and others in the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. “We’d pick up a ton of NDP and Bloc support. And Harper will be caught in the quagmire like John McCain was. It’s perfect.”
But Ignatieff wouldn’t do it. Not only would he not even discuss the notion, Davey said; he was angry that we had suggested it in the first place. When I asked Davey what he’d said to Ignatieff, he replied, “I told him we just wanted him to, you know, win the fucking election. That’s all.”