Megapundit: Concentrating the mind, wonderfully

Must-reads: Jeffrey Simpson on Michael Ignatieff.

Do you have him in plebeian?
Perhaps Michael Ignatieff could try saying “duh,” every now and again.

All of today’s pundits agree that the member for Etobicoke–Lakeshore is the clear early frontrunner in the Liberal leadership race, and all agree he’s in better shape than last time around. Nevertheless, they offer up the following insults/cheap shots/digs:

  • “egalitarian enough to talk down to anyone” (John Ivison, National Post)
  • “comes across, despite his best efforts not to, as a minor member of foreign nobility”; “his drawl, his practiced movements, the admonishing frown, the pained grimace, invite that politically-deadly label: snob” (Susan Riley, Ottawa Citizen);
  • “has some of the ‘to the manor born’ about him” (Jeffrey Simpson, The Globe and Mail).

Remarkable. Do people actually see this in Igantieff, or do they simply imagine other, less cultured people seeing it in him? Because he’s always struck us as about as sober, intelligent and genuine as politicians get in this country. And Riley, in particular, nearly made coffee shoot through our noses when she conceded, after all this snob-talk, that “to be part of an intellectual elite, or artistic elite, should be considered an accomplishment, not a barrier to political success.” Madam, what the hell?

Ivison’s column is far more balanced, we should stress, but Simpson’s is the best of the Ignatieff-themed material today, in our view. His weakness, Simpson argues, is on the economy. “If for whatever reason, the public begins to turn against the Conservatives for their (mis)management of the economy, will a former university professor and writer reassure them?” But the three things that held him back two years ago—Iraq, accusations of hubris over his sudden return to the motherland, and advocating Quebec nationhood—have all either faded into the mists of time or (in the case of the latter, for better or for worse) made him look prescient. It’s tough to see Bob Rae making up the gap.

Don’t mess with Jean Charest
A national securities regulator is “an idea whose time has probably come,” L. Ian MacDonald argues in the Montreal Gazette, but it would throw a wrench in the gears of the Quebec election campaign were Stephen Harper to announce it in next week’s Speech from the Throne. “No Quebec government would ever agree to cede its authority over markets, least of all in the middle of an election campaign,” he notes. “The story would also be a gift to the Parti Québécois, and the Harper government should not be in the business of helping the separatists.” Right, got it. The Harper government should be in the business of setting aside the national interest to ensure the Quebec Liberals get elected at all costs. Who’d like to join us in a rousing rendition of O Canada? A one, a two…

Elsewhere in the Gazette, Josée Legault observes that Quebeckers are stubbornly refusing Jean Charest’s orders to vote only according to economic concerns, and are instead worrying also about “increased privatization of Quebec’s health-care system” and the fact they don’t have a family doctor. Indeed, Léger Marketing’s poll suggests some of Charest’s subjects may be impudent enough to punish him for calling this election in the first place!

Troubles, we’ve got a few
Richard Gwyn
continues the Toronto Star’s gripping is-it-a-recession-or-is-it-a-depression op-ed series by arguing, like fellow columnist Thomas Walkom, that we’re definitely in a depression. Oh, calm down. It’s not a great depression, necessarily, just a depression—“a bad and prolonged recession or economic downturn, almost always preceded by wild speculation and excessive consumption.” Gwyn then abruptly switches gears, however, and argues that “almost no one understands what’s now going on.” No one accurately predicted this calamity, for starters. (Yes, yes, Mr. Krugman, we see you there waving your arms. Please take your grievance to Mr. Gwyn.) And now that the calamity is here, he says “just about every optimistic forecast has proved to be exaggerated, and every pessimistic one to be too rosy.” So why does it matter what name we give our fresh new hell? The d-word, Gwyn suggests, “would concentrate everyone’s minds wonderfully.” Okay then.

The United States has nearly as huge a problem with public health spending as Canada does, John Robson observes in the Citizen. “I know, I know, people say the U.S. doesn’t have a public health care system,” he writes. “It’s time to wonder what else such commentators don’t know, since Medicare and Medicaid already consume 20 per cent of the American federal budget, with much worse to come.” And … and well, that’s kind of his whole point, as far as we can see, other than to restate for the umpteenth time that our current rate of healthcare spending growth is completely unsustainable.

Canadian justice
The Globe’s Christie Blatchford reports from the murder trial of “S.M.,” who’s accused of stabbing 22-year-old Michael Oatway to death aboard an Ottawa city bus in 2006 for no reason except he wanted Oatway’s iPod and he wouldn’t give it to him. “In an unusual but not unprecedented move, the actual bus itself—No. 6102—was brought to the courthouse yesterday so that the jurors could see for themselves what was once a crime scene,” she reports. To Blatchford, their painstaking examination of “the available sightlines, the seating arrangements, the close-quarters nature of the rear [seats]” where Oatway was sitting represented “an unusual glimpse of the magnificent heart and soul of the criminal justice machinery.”

The Star’s Rosie DiManno very eloquently and gruesomely describes the 2003 murder of Eric Levack by Justin Morton, who “became, at age 15, the first youth convicted of first-degree murder under Canada’s new Youth Criminal Justice Act and sentenced as an adult.” And she quite clearly deplores the fact that yesterday, when Morton was ordered transferred to an adult prison, Corrections Canada agreed “not to place [him] in a wing usually reserved for the worst offenders” and to “fast-track [him] toward another, medium-security prison.” It just seems to us that her three word kicker—“joke’s on us”—isn’t a very helpful suggestion for what we might do differently.

Duly noted
The Toronto Sun’s Peter Worthington can’t understand why all these Republicans are being so ghastly to Sarah Palin—lying about her not knowing that Africa’s a continent or who’s in NAFTA, for example, and bitching about her expensive, GOP-bought wardrobe. Why, it’s almost as if the party was “hopelessly at odds with itself”! By George, we think he might be onto something there…

In the Globe, Rick Salutin suggests Canadian journalists pull their collective head out of their collective arse and stop worrying whether a double standard was employed by not reporting on CBC journalist Mellissa Fung’s kidnapping in Afghanistan. The real double-standard is the relative security Westerners enjoy in Afghanistan, he argues, while everyday citizens can be blown up or kidnapped or worse at any moment—which is all thanks entirely to our decision to invade in the first place and topple the “security and stability” of the Taliban. Will it get better? Not with Barack Obama on the warpath, says Salutin. “The U.S. commander there has requested 20,000 more troops, which will still leave them with far fewer than the Soviets had when they were chased out. But it should be enough to bomb some more weddings.” Charming, as always.

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