“The Visitor” ad, above, seems to be a creation of a Liberal supporter and is being distributed on YouTube. It spoofs the “Just Visiting” spot, below, which is a creation of The Conservative Party of Canada and is being shown as a paid ad on Canadian network television.
It seems clear that Liberals (I assume they are Liberals) are having a certain amount of fun riffing off of the Conservative “Just Visiting” attack ads. Here’s one from the Libs that accuses Mahatma Gandhi of being a mere arriviste for Indian independence. I’ve put up the YouTube links to both ads here on the assumption that you need to see the original (on the bottom) in order to get the joke (on the top.)
Now, here’s a great article by a columnist for Forbes magazine in the United States. In her piece titled “Cosmopolitan Patriot – Michael Ignatieff’s love letter to Canada”, Elisabeth Eaves makes the point beautifully that I would make to the attempted equivalence made above.
If your country is plagued by chaos and autocracy, no one thinks there’s anything wrong with your spending many years abroad before returning to take charge. Witness the post-Soviet leaders who returned to Eastern Europe, or one-time exiles like Jose Ramos Horta or Benazir Bhutto. There is an acceptance that whatever ideas about governance one may have picked up abroad, they can’t be any worse than the modus operandi back home, and that in any case, if the returning politician had stayed home, he or she would be dead.
When you come from a thriving democracy with a high standard of living, though, and try to pull off the prodigal son routine, you have a little more explaining to do. Such is the conundrum in which Michael Ignatieff finds himself. British radio and television host; American public intellectual; author of 15 books of history, biography, memoir, politics and fiction, “Iggy” returned to Canada in 2005 after 27 years elsewhere, ran for office, and in 2006 became a member of parliament for the opposition Liberal Party
…the Conservatives would never run negative ads. Heck, we’d just surrender to a few more decades of Liberal rule.
On Macleans Capital Read blog, journalist Aaron Wherry breathlessly tells us what our betters think of the latest round of Conservative ads. Wherry headlines the article “Schoolyard tripe! Poisonous! Demeaning! Anti-American!” and proceeds to list criticism from non-partisan voices such as Jim Travers, Angelo Persichilli, the Edmonton Journal, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star! Who are these voices of reason? Reading them makes it so clear that to armchair political analysts, the Conservatives have made a disastrous misstep in running negative advertising, because nobody likes negative ads, and of course, such ads don’t work.
Thousands of dollars worth of focus groups studying the reactions of average, everyday Canadians would seem to indicate otherwise. The decisions that go into these sorts of adverts are not made on a whim. Political calculations are much more involved than started from one’s prejudices against conservatism and then spewing under-informed analysis in 750 paid words or less. There is a method to the Machiavellian madness. From the gender of the narrating voice, to its tone, to the imagery of the ads and the theme, it would seem that the Conservatives have concluded through some expensive research that Canadians seem to have a problem with Michael Ignatieff’s seeming self-serving interest in returning to Canada. “The ads will backfire”, “Canadians are turned off by negative ads”, “This isn’t the United States (oops)” are the sounds coming from the Parliamentary Press Gallery and other members of the media elite in this country. They claim to tell us what we think when it’s clear that they’re out of touch with the effect that those ads will have on us as Canadians.
The other elites — those that reside in the Liberal Party — tell us who should raise our kids, what kind of cars we should drive and whose feelings we should not offend, are of course the producers of these ads:
This may only be the first government that Mr. Wherry’s has covered, but some perspective please. The difference between these two ads and the latest round of Conservative advertising? The Grit ads were baldfaced lies; how’s your healthcare, your “scrapped Kyoto accord”, your right to choose and who was it that was prepared to work with the Bloc Quebecois? Where are the soldiers with guns in our streets?. In contrast, the Conservative ads are true. Michael Ignatieff was out of the country for 34 years, has mused that taxes will go up and the video wherein he says “you have to decide what kind of America you want, right? You have to decide. It’s your country just as much as it is mine” is undoctored. These are Michael Ignatieff’s own words. In fact, they’re so true that the only line of defense is to attack the process.
Funny that the Liberals are silent on this and it is the media who comes to their defense.
Within the last few minutes, the Conservative Party of Canada finally rolled out an ad defining a message track about Michael Ignatieff. Take a look:
The main message from the Tories here is that Michael Ignatieff has been out of the country and is only back in the country for his own ambition. The “Just Visiting” line is a good one because it will ring true to many Canadians and their perceived sense of commitment to country. In fact, Michael Ignatieff has already tried to pre-emptively blunt this form of attack by writing a book titled True Patriot Love wherein he outlines his mother’s family’s commitment to this country.
Narrator: Why is Michael Ignatieff back in Canada after being away for 34 years? Does he have a plan for the economy? No, instead he’s running attack ads hiding the fact that he hasn’t offered any economic ideas… just attack ads. With no long term plan for the economy, he’s not in it for Canada… just in it for himself. It’s the only reason he’s back. Michael Ignatieff: Just Visiting.
It’s interesting to note that the Conservative Party has framed “Grit Girl” Youtube vidoes as Liberal attack ads. Most observers note that the professionally produced though anonymously released ads are most likely being churned out by the Liberal Research Bureau or by Liberal HQ. Usually the videos first see wide distribution on the blog of Ignatieff’s war room captain Warren Kinsella.
The image is strong and cynical. It show an image of the Liberal leader simply drifting by and transitory. The Conservatives are also accusing the Liberals of running attack ads. The ad touches upon the #1 issue in the economy successfully underscores Igntieff’s main negative. Some observers will remember that Ignatieff once mused that if he didn’t ascend to the Prime Minister’s Office that Harvard would likely take him back.