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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff waves to spectators as he takes the stage at Laval University in Quebec City on November 26, 2009. (MATHIEU BELANGER)
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff waves to spectators as he takes the stage at Laval University in Quebec City on November 26, 2009. (MATHIEU BELANGER)

Hot and Not

Big thinker or oddly irritating? Add to ...

Hot: Michael Ignatieff. The Liberal Leader is No. 64 out of 100 Top Global Thinkers in the current issue of Foreign Policy magazine. You can find him between, Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa and Francis Fukuyama, a political philosopher at Washington's Johns Hopkins University.

The citation about Mr. Ignatieff reads: "for showing that not all academics are irrelevant" and goes on to say that he is (clearing of throats can be heard) "poised to become Canadian prime minister next year, only five years after leading Harvard University's Carr Centre of Human Rights Policy."

It also notes (and this may be something that Mr. Ignatieff might want to play down) his "writing on the some-time necessity of 'violence … coercion, secrecy, deception, even violation of rights' to fight terrorism has made him a singular voice among Canadian liberals. His 2004 book, The Lesser Evil, made the case that targeted violence was necessary to prevent the possibility of falling victim to greater violence, but stressed that democratic states should not employ torture or be motivated by national pride or revenge."

Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, is No. 1 and President Barack Obama is No. 2 for "re-imagining America's role in the world." Stephen Harper did not make the cut.

Not: Michael Ignatieff. The January/February edition of The Walrus has a cover story about the Liberal Leader, written by prolific and well-known political author Ron Graham. "The Stranger Within" traces Mr. Ignatieff's journey to Canadian politics (it talks about the Ian Davey-Alf Apps-Dan Brock troika that convinced him to leave Harvard) and then examines his character and politics.

"There's something oddly irritating about Michael Ignatieff that's hard to pinpoint," Mr. Graham writes. "It's expressed obliquely in countless forms: his mid-Atlantic accent in English, his Parisian French, his languid delivery, his patrician air, his supercilious regard, the brass buttons on his blue blazer, the way he wants to ingratiate himself with the plebeians by slipping into slang or dropping his Gs. It's probably a reflection on the Canadian spirit (maybe commendable, maybe not) that after a few minutes in his company many experience an almost irresistible urge to push him off his pedestal."

The article ends on a bit of a high note for Mr. Ignatieff. Mr. Graham concludes that a beaten Michael Ignatieff - "he looked barely able to keep his eyes open while standing bizarrely, in a sunlit forest" - found enough energy to clean out his office, throw out the gang who brought him there and then hire former Jean Chrétien spin doctor Peter Donolo. Mr. Graham expects results from Mr. Donolo.

(Photo: Mr. Ignatieff takes the stage at Laval University in Quebec City on November 26, 2009. Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)

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