Liveblogging Bob Rae at the National Press Theatre


Liveblogging Bob Rae at the National Press Theatre

… which is starting to become inextricably linked in my mind with the comings and goings of Liberal leadership candidates, y’all. According to the advisory, he’ll be offering up his latest musings on pretty much everything — the state of the race, the state of the economy, the state of what he is now quite cleverly referring to as the “parliamentary coalition” between the Liberals and the NDP, which could be interesting, if hard on the berrythumbs, because if there’s one thing Bob Rae can do, it’s talk. Anyway, check back around 11:00 a.m. 3 p.m. for full liveblogging coverage.

UPDATE: Okay, so now it’s at 1pm. Maybe Ignatieff sent a wolfhound sled to TO to rescue him from the airport lounge, and that’s what finally pushed him over the edge. Don’t worry, ITQ will still be there!

12:41:45 PM
And – we are! Here, that is – at the National Press Theatre, which is slowly but surely filling up with reporters suffering the journalistic equivalent of jet lag after yet another morning of news breaking all over the established (as of, oh, sometime yesterday afternoon) narrative.

Just to make sure everyone is caught up: What we originally thought was going to be Barnstormin’ Bob Rae rallying his troops to the barricades will now be his swan song, at least as far as this leadership race. Barring yet another twist in the plot – and don’t rule it out, y’all; if there’s one thing the last week and a half has taught us, it is that nothing is impossible in the wacky world of Canadian politics – Michael Ignatieff now appears destined to become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. Unless, of course, he is suddenly named as heir to an obscure European principality. It would be just like the Princess Diaries, y’all! (Note to disgruntled grassroots Liberals: Start combing through those lists of succession!)

In any case, we need new theme music. What about “Last Caress”? Too gritty? I await your suggestions in the comment section.

12:51:19 PM
The big question – well, one of the big questions – when did he decide to extract his hat from the ring? Was it late last night, when he got word of the party’s decision on the whole “broad consultative exercise”? Or this morning, when he woke up to the realization that even if he had gotten what he wanted – one member one vote – it likely wouldn’t have been enough? Or was there a fateful discussion between the two ex-roommates that led to a truce? I wonder if we’ll ever know the real story.

12:55:26 PM
At least the earpiece still fails to in any way fit onto my ear. It’s sort of comforting to have something work out as expected amid the chaos.

12:57:47 PM

Three minutes! Okay, that was my three minute warning, not the official word from the gallery, but he’ll probably be on time, right?

12:59:22 PM
He will! We just got the countdown!

1:00:49 PM
Click click click – he’s here! And he’ll make a brief statement, he says, before taking our “positive and searching questions.” Rueful chuckles from the gallery, and then he gets started with a recap of the last few weeks – short version: Wow. That was intense – which led him to make some “tough decisions”. The big one? “I am not a candidate for the interim leadership,” he says – and he won’t be a candidate for the permanent leadership in May. “The national executive will make that decision – who will be leader, that is – and if it is Michael Ignatieff – his friend for many years – he will support him. “He will make a great Prime Minister.” He hopes his supporters will come to the same conclusion, although he wants to see the party move to OMOV for the next leadership contest. Which will be in – oh, two, two and a half years if it follows recent tradition.

1:05:54 PM
A call for reconciliation – aw, it really did sound sincere – and a heartfelt thank you to his constituents, and his wife – and then he opens the floor to questions.

First up: Joan Bryden – again! She always manages to get her hand up first – who wonders whether this will further disenfranchise party members, who haven’t even had the chance to watch a single leadership debate. Rae is surprisingly candid – he admits that he would have loved to be the leader, but it depended on a lot of new members – and a campaign – “which we didn’t have.” He then segues to the issue of the Absent Man of the Hour – Ignatieff – and notes that he will be a formidable candidate, and his leadership is “constitutional, legitimate and appropriate.”

Wait, where is the anger and bitterness? He’s totally not sowing lasting dissent that will tear apart the party for years to come. Hasn’t he paid attention to history?

1:09:41 PM
Another shot at Harper and his fiscal update “that became a suicide note within thirty minutes” and a pledge to work with the new leader however he wants.

1:11:24 PM
Another reporter tries to trap him into contradicting Ignatieff over the coalition – hasn’t the leader presumptive been less “categorical” about its future? Has he not indicated that Harper should “continue to govern”? (Uh, not that I can recall.) Rae reiterates his intention of working for the coaliton within the caucus, and dismisses the question with a wave of his folksy rhetoric.

1:12:58 PM
Isn’t this antidemocratic, another reporter asks. Rae doesn’t worry about “last year’s snowstorm” – he’s all about renewing the party, and ensuring a strong base. “We’re going through some extraordinary times,” he reminds us – the statement, the coalition, the prorogation – these were all events that happened very quickly. Yeah, we were there. We know.

As for the looming January vote – does he think they should bring down the government, come what may? “There are two reasons why we believed last week – and I believe this week” that the government must be brought down: Harper’s inability to play nicely with others, or “the democratic front” and his lacklustre response to the economic crisis. “That’s why I say ‘Time’s up, chump,” he notes, his trademark twinkle back in his eye and his vote.

As for whether he would have stayed in the race if it had gone to OMOV? Sure – but this is, after all that, just politics. It’s not the end of the world – and when he found out the party’s decision this morning, his way was clear. “It was the right thing to do,” he notes.

1:19:32 PM
Aw, I love Cranky Bob. Asked what the party is losing by not having a race, he snorts, ‘It is what it is’ – and notes that he knows we’re just trying for a clip of him saying something else, but he won’t be do that. Well, the Conservative Party’s ad agency will be disappointed in his restraint. He sort of practices media metarelations – he doesn’t just dodge the trap questions, he points them out, and disarms them.

1:22:42 PM
More mostly unsolicited praise for Ignatieff – he’s intelligent! He’s endlessly curious! He knows philosophers and ordinary people! He “likes the idea of Canada”! There’s your attack ad, Little Shop of Tories!

1:24:15 PM
Asked about money, he manages to work in a pitch for donations to retire his leadership debt. Maybe they should put him in charge of fundraising. He has that effervescent air that makes it seem like he’s not just asking you for money.

1:24:40 PM
“Suck it up” is his advice to Liberals and NDP MPs that are balky about working together after fighting each other for so long.

Was his past life as an NDP premier a problem for his leadership? Oh, come on, is sort of the upshot: the Tories have been going after him since the mid-70s. He has a long history of fighting “right-wing Tories” – although he likes them as people. He even has had breakfast with them! That tangent cracks up the room. “Hope you can use that for something,” he grins.

1:29:53 PM
Will he run in the next election? Of course – he loves being an MP – “and I look forward to going to your retirement party, Roger,” he snerks at the aforementioned Roger Smith, who asked the question.

Oh, and he hasn’t talked to Ignatieff yet today. Make of that what you will (and I know we all will.).

1:31:22 PM
More coalition questions – coalition if necessary, not necessarily etc. Rae points out that, actually, we did end up with conscription – and he thinks it will be easier to work towards consensus with a leader.
“We’re going to be the most boring political party to cover ever,” he promises. All love, no venom.

Aw, where’s the fun in that? I hope some other party is willing to pick up the slack.

And with that, he sails off – not into the sunset, but to a caucus Christmas party, which is likely to be a considerably more festive occasion than otherwise would have been the case.