Judith Timson

Memo to Bob Rae: You’ve still got lots of life left in you

Special to The Globe and Mail

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae receives a standing ovation during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 13, 2012. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

This week, Bob Rae announced that he would not seek the permanent leadership of the Liberal Party. But he did not go gentle into that good night. He struck a blow for silver-haired boomers everywhere.

There will be commentary on the “age question,” Mr. Rae said pointedly, “and I think it’s bullshit.” He added, “My hair is white but I still have a lot of fire in me.” He even implied that his wife, Arlene, could testify to that.

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What people didn’t know is that last week he received a memo from his public-relations consultants telling him what he would have to do to appear “youthful,” especially in light of the Justin Trudeau threat.

We were able to obtain this memo, leaked from one of his image shapers, hoping to persuade his boss to run.

Hey Bob:

Justin Schmustin! If I hear one more word about whether Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s eldest is “ready” to assume the mantle of the Liberal leadership, because he is the “only” person who can lead our party out of the wilderness, I will scream fuddle duddle.

Let’s get real! This youth-o-mania thing is out of control. Justin may look good in his boxing shorts (or in his boxer shorts, for that matter), but that doesn’t mean he is remotely ready to be prime minister. Justin’s got years to ripen. Let him grow up and deserve his destiny, if that is what he thinks it is.

In the meantime, Bob, you are the man the country can’t do without. But let’s deal with the fact that, nearing 64, you are considered too old for the job, yesterday’s man, a geezer’s geezer.

That shock of white hair? Disaster! That dazzling résumé that winds its noble way through law, literature, politics, premiership and distinguished public service? Nothing more than the calling card of a relic carrying more baggage than the hold of a 747. That searing wit? Grumpy old man!Bob, this is ageism, pure and simple. How dare they dismiss a man in his prime – because that’s what you are, never mind Paul McCartney and John Lennon whingeing 40 years ago about no one wanting them when they’re 64. John is gone, and Paul is married to a new babe and still serenading the Queen.

So we came up with five ways to make you look young and cool again. Sadly, you’re not going to win the Liberal leadership by playing the age and experience card. You’ve got to show you’re a fresh guy with new moves.

1. Great hair

You’ve got more than some twentysomethings! You just need to tweak it. At first, we were thinking burnt-caramel lowlights to distract from that blinding mass of white, but let’s face it, dying your hair can be obvious and cheesy. Reshape it. You can grow it longer, like Justin’s. (Fight fire with fire?) Or clip it really short and come off all I’ve been to the gym and I’m sleek and I’m suave. Just don’t go with your current post middle-age preppy look. It’s droopy.

2. Name game

Justin has more name recognition than you. How can that be? Your name was an epithet before he was out of short pants. You need to change it up. Your real name is Robert Keith, so maybe a rapper ethos. RK-Bob! Or Bobby? Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for our future prime minister Bobby Rae! Love it. Even K-Bob has it going on.

3. Rock your musical talents

Even more than you have. Your forebears were vaudevillians, for heaven’s sake. You sing, you play keyboard, you probably tap dance. If Barack Obama can channel Al Green and slow jam the news, you can too.

You’re too white for Al Green, but you’ve definitely got a Michael Bublé aspect, or if you go with the short hair, a Sting thing. Slow jam Hansard. Robo-call, singing Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never (Gonna give everything I have/ ’Cause this is my destiny)

4. Shrink your clothing

Smaller jackets, tighter pants. As Ryan Gosling says to Steve Carell in Crazy, Stupid, Love, when he sees him in a bar forlorn and lonely, “You’ve lost sight of who you are as a man. You’re wearing a 44. You should be wearing a 42 regular.” Streamline. Show off. Strut like a man!

5. Bring out those daughters

You are surrounded by fabulous women, including, of course, Arlene. But you need some young female ambassadors to the land of the new. Your daughters, Judith, Lisa and Eleanor, should be tweeting their heads off about the coolest piece of advice they ever got from Dad. And how you are the real deal.

It’s all doable, Bob. Plus we’ve got some great numbers from that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind poll on how many people have “forgotten” you were ever NDP premier of Ontario. Looks like we’re good to go!

Is it any wonder that Mr. Rae decided that he would rather quote Shakespeare and do sudoku with Arlene over the breakfast table? Oh, and continue as interim leader with no strings attached, the MP for Toronto Centre, one of the country’s most engaging elder statesmen, a leading intellectual, and a not-so-bad tennis player?

Rest in peace, K-Bob.

And here’s to enjoying your fabulous life, Mr. Rae.

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