The lifelong New Democrat, who rang up a resume deficit as Ontario premier that should have banished him from politics forever, has successfully converted to become inside Ottawa's best bet for the Liberal title on Dec. 2.
While the final four all have ugly negatives, Rae claims the lesser liabilities. Michael Ignatieff has deep intellect and a superb organization, but suicidal political instincts. Stephane Dion has federalist francophone credentials, but lacks the clout to grow in English Canada. Gerard Kennedy has caring ideas, but not the right stuff to appease Quebec.
In the battle to find a leader boasting the highest winnability quotient, Rae seems poised to soak up enough pragmatic support on the second, third or fourth ballots to become the SpongeBob shocker of the convention floor.
The geek is gone. A reasonable, white-haired facsimile of an elder statesmen has taken his place, relaxed and effortlessly churning out quips and quotes to suit every question. Trouble is, Rae always uses many grand words to say very little.
He has visited Iraq twice, for example, but unlike Ignatieff, refuses to venture a personal opinion on the U.S. invasion, insisting that nation-building there should not have been attempted until orderly, non-partisan, post-conflict conditions prevailed. He neglects to mention which decade that might happen in this violently divided country.
On that great Canadian divide, our military deployment to Afghanistan, Rae suggests "less rhetoric and more realism." This, he says, means Canada should debate more (rhetoric) and focus heavily on reconstruction instead of military action (hardly realistic until the insurgency is under control).
His Middle East policy is simplistic enough to rate a bumper sticker: "Canada needs to say 'yes' to Israel, Lebanon and to Palestine and 'no' to terrorism," he writes. Pause. "This is a world where slogans and bumper sticks aren't really effective." Enough said.
Looking at Rae's cure for what ails Canada domestically, the wish list would suit a Santa on speed. He wants Canada to build on strengths, break down silos, generate more jobs, raise minimum wages, cure poverty, fund research, improve innovation, rebuild infrastructure, support arts and culture, provide national daycare and clean drinking water for every Aboriginal First Nation, deliver catastrophic drug coverage and -- puff, puff -- stay within a balanced budget while lowering income taxes.
Critics may scoff at Bob Rae's laundry list of spending promises and snappy slogans as being devoid of vision or content. But what need has he to offer them? The Liberal Party faithful couldn't care less as long as he holds out the promise of a quick return to power.
And more importantly, Power's quick return to power.
Read the rest of Don Martin's analysis here.