Iggy’s Ivy League friends react to Liberals’ defeat

Former colleagues surprised by attack ads; point out Ignatieff was a popular and celebrated academic

Some of Michael Ignatieff’s past Ivy League colleagues were surprised the former Liberal leader was so relentlessly criticized during the federal election for the time he spent outside Canada, noting that he was a popular and celebrated academic during his time at Harvard, according to the Boston Globe.

Ignatieff left his position at Harvard to run for a seat in Parliament in 2006. He has also taught at Cambridge, Oxford, the University of California, the University of London and the London School of Economics.

“To me, it’s a puzzle why Michael, who is one of the most charismatic people I know, would be presented the way he was presented in Canada, as some sort of carpetbagger,” Fotini Christia, an assistant professor at MIT who was Ignatieff’s teaching assistant for four years at Harvard, told the Boston Globe.

Graham Allison, a professor and administrator at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, was angered that Ignatieff was portrayed as unpatriotic and “just visiting” by attack ads during the election. “He is a Canadian, he was a proud Canadian at Harvard, and would introduce himself as a proud Canadian, and he comes from a proud Canadian family, so that’s more of a political rap,” Allison said.

However, some admitted that they were worried when he announced that he was leaving the ivory tower to run for a seat in Parliament, and saw the criticisms launched against him as rather predictable.

“The biggest obstacle he faced was the perception that he was a recent returnee to his native land who wasn’t really qualified to run the entire country,’’ said Stephen M Walt, a Kennedy School professor and friend of Ignatieff’s. “[ … ] It did seem like something of a long shot to have been outside the country for so long and to go back with the clear intention of gaining the prime ministership relatively quickly.”

When asked by the Globe and Mail why he did not respond to attack ads, Ignatieff said that he and his party responded “with the resources we had.”

“I was aware from the minute I entered politics that I had to control the narrative of my life. I did my best to do that. There’s no question that I failed. But the idea that I sat there not trying to reply is not right,” Ignatieff said.

“I tried to reply with the resources I had personally and with the resources that the party had, and I’ll always regret that my inability to control that narrative had an impact on the fortunes of other people.”

Ignatieff has recently accepted a senior resident position with the University of Toronto’s Massey College. Notable politicians to hold the position in the past include Pierre Trudeau, former Ontario premier Bob Rae, and former Reform party leader Preston Manning.

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