Watching the news last night I was struck by something in the coverage of this fiasco. I watched as increasingly influential Canadian politicians were asked about the Rob Ford situation. To a person they all played their roles perfectly. Premier Kathleen Wynne, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, Attorney General Peter McKay, former Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday all tactfully said some version of: “I hope he gets the help he so obviously needs”.
But while all of the other politicians played the game they’ve been groomed to play Ford stumbles on, making, at every turn, the wrong decision on how to proceed. Pundits and observers will ask themselves, what is he thinking? Why doesn’t he resign or at the very least take a leave of absence to deal with his issues? Doesn’t he understand the damage he is doing to his career? They are trying to apply their rational decision making skills to someone who seems very irrational.
Yesterday, standing at the podium, in his colourful NFL logo tie, Ford did not appear to be the mayor of the third largest city in North America. He seemed more like a scared little boy, painfully unaware of the damage he has done this city, willing now, to apologize — multiple times as if each additional sorry will go further in white-washing his mistakes.
As Hillary DiMenna summed it up here on Monday, smoking crack is actually not what makes him a bad mayor. It’s like tenth on the list probably, after homophobia, racist tendencies, lack of vision, lack of leadership, inability to understand mayoral powers, ignorance, unwillingness to compromise, and alleged spousal abuse—after all that, there’s smoking crack in a drunken stupor. Or as Bob Rae put it in a tweet yesterday:
It’s not the substance abuse, it’s the people abuse, it’s the lying, the bullying, the wasting of time, resources, because of a cover-up
— Bob Rae (@BobRae48) November 5, 2013
And while his attempts to turn this progressive city into some dystopic populist backwater have failed, he has moved the needle towards that end under the guise of saving taxpayers dollars and fighting for the little guy. This is really scary. This proves what can be done when a willfully uninformed population gives a man the responsibility to lead Canada’s largest city.
All of his political fallacies have been unearthed and discredited, most of his lies have come to light, but the only ones we seem to care about involve his personal life. Which is curious given who this man is. If you’ve followed his career even peripherally you would know Ford doesn’t exactly have a clean past. This was not Mother Theresa getting caught smoking crack on video, an event that would more properly require our rapt attention and moral hand wringing. This was a man whose repeatedly showed he lacks any sort of self control.
Still, the salaciousness of this story is undeniable. Nobody (in this office at least) got any work done yesterday, huddled around a live stream of reporters hearded into a corner nervously anticipating a “big announcement”. And I can’t help but feel that was Rob Ford’s ultimate fuck you to us all. I’m going to make you wait around all day, believing that I’ll finally bring some tact and dignity to this side show. I’m going to step to the podium with contrition written all over me. The entire world will be watching. And then I’m going to show everyone what this city has elected. I’m going to show the world who Toronto felt was best to publicly lead this city. An uncouth, parochial, bigot who will not step down and will continue to parrot the embarrassingly small town lines that got him elected. A man unable to grasp the gravity of this moment. That is what Toronto is to the world now.