In an interesting article in the New York Times, Michael Ignatieff retreats from his earlier, unpopular position on Iraq, admitting that he was misguided in supporting the invasion.
Ignatieff says that, "The philosopher Isaiah Berlin once said that the trouble with academics and commentators is that they care more about whether ideas are interesting than whether they are true." I think that this is a problem for too many of us and not merely for academics and commentators. It clearly is a problem for Giorgio Dubaya Borgia's administration, which went beyond misjudging the status of Iraq to deliberately lying about the situation.
Ignatieff goes on to clarify that, "The attribute that underpins good judgment in politicians is a sense of reality." This is the attribute that underpins good judgement in all of us, particularly in voters. Voters need to understand that too many politicians care only whether they can sell an idea rather than caring, or knowing, whether the idea represents reality.
Ignatieff is far too kind about Dubaya's mismanagement, stating that those who accurately predicted the outcome did not "suppose, as President Bush did, that because they believed in the integrity of their own motives everyone else in the region would believe in it, too."
Ultimately, political events stem from the individual psychologies of the players, and a good politician must understand people. I watched Dubaya's barely disguised excitement after 9/11. While most of the world was dismayed at this blatant squandering of human life, Dubaya had a glint in his eye and an unsuppressed smirk. In other words, Dubaya appeared delighted by the opportunity to become the War-on-Terror-President. I very much doubt that even Dubaya believed in the integrity of his motives, though the American public appears to have been deluded along those lines for far too long. I can say this, but a politican could not afford to be so overtly critical.
Of course, Ignatieff presumably wishes to achieve more success in politics than his failed bid for the Liberal leadership and he admits to having learned that, "The slightest crack in your armor — between what you meant and what you said — can be pried open and the knife driven home."
During the leadership campaign, it was painfully obvious that Ignatieff was accustomed to having his listeners attempt to understand the drift of his ideas. He appeared unprepared for the media tactics of attacking strawman misrepresentations of his position. Ignatieff is such a bright fellow that many listeners would have had difficulty discerning what he actually meant to say. To succeed in politics he will need to learn to be more succinct and not to appear to be prevaricating on his position.
Sadly, most voters are deluded by media tactics and cannot comprehend the meaning beneath the message. The media filters content through a ratings-motivated distortion because the livelihood of too many members of the media depends upon exaggerating conflict or selling the network's politics rather than assessing reality.
Adding to the problem, voters are often poor judges of character and motive, and these are the determinants of a politician's performance.