The New Yorker's newest edition (subscription required) features a profile of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff. And today in the Vancouver Sun, columnist Barbara Yaffe explains why that might not be such a good thing. Essentially, Yaffe says, the contrast is unfortunate -- here are the Liberals, meeting in Sudbury right now and trying to cast themselves as a party in touch with beleaguered workers, while Ignatieff is portrayed in the New Yorker sipping cappuccino at a cafe in Yorkville and quoting Shakespeare.
In a similar vein, the Ottawa Citizen's Glen McGregor writes today on how Ignatieff's holiday home in France has become a liability, even if the Liberal leader spent zero time there this summer.
You don't need a degree in political communication to see why these stories are potentially damaging -- they play into the negative, "just visiting" picture being painted by Ignatieff's political adversaries.
You do need some communications savvy, however, to overcome that picture. The smartest politicians I've seen have made their alleged weaknesses work for them -- Jean Chretien's mangled English, for instance, was cast as proof of his common touch (and made him famously impossible to pin down for a precise position on anything; just the kind of skill a politician needs.) Former Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa turned his famed indecisiveness into "judiciousness" and managed, for a while there in the 1980s and early 1990s, to get the rest of Canada scrambling to see what he wanted.
So Ignatieff's major communications challenge isn't in playing defence on the "just visiting" attacks -- it's in finding a way to make them work for him.