Unlike many Torontonians (yeah, yeah, I’m a suburbanite asshole now, but once a Toronto boy always a Toronto boy) of my class and background, I don’t have a hate-on for Rob Ford. On the contrary, compared to the NDP assholes who used to run this city, his administration has been a refreshing breath of fresh air, and a significant improvement over that of his predecessor, David Miller. If nothing else, the fact that he started privatizing garbage pick-up – ensuring that Torontonians won’t be held hostage by their public “servants” every few summers – represents a real win for the City (a point conceded by even his fiercest critics at the Toronto Star). That he drives the editorial board at the Star and the downtown cognoscenti nuts, well, so much the better. Sure, he’s boorish and stubborn and he might over-indulge in fried chicken and booze (although I can’t criticize on that last point), but compared to the usual blow-dried and manicured phonies who pass themselves off as politicians, those rough edges contribute to his appeal. In short, I’m a member of Ford Nation.
Or was. But…. if the Toronto Star’s allegation, that they’ve seen a video showing him smoking crack cocaine, is true, yeah, stop the train, I’m getting off.
Part of it, obviously, is the illegal drug use. Let’s face it, while illegal drug use is generally not considered to be a sign a particularly good judgement, illegal drug use by public officials is surely a sign of absolutely disastrous judgement. You don’t want public officials to be drug addicts. Moreover, that the video allegedly shows him smoking crack only adds to the point. If the video showed him lighting up a fattie, nobody would much care – this is Canada, pot comes third after beer and rye as a drug of choice. Hell, if the video showed him snorting blow off a hooker’s breasts, well, he wouldn’t be the first Canadian politician with a penchant for the Bolivian marching powder (Andre Boisclair, I’m looking at you). But crack, well, bad enough that it’s illegal, but it has the added disadvantage of being de-classe. It’s the drug of choice for no-account losers. Be honest, how many successful crackheads do you know? (I suppose it could be worse, he could be a tweaker). For a politician to be caught smoking crack, wow.
But, set aside the drug angle for the second. The video was reportedly filmed by a couple of self-confessed Somali coke dealers (I’m not sure why the fact that they’re Somalis is important, but the Star reported it that way, and if nothing else it adds a little colour – no pun intended – to the story). Think about that for a second. What does is say about the Mayor of Canada’s biggest city spends if he’s spending his afternoons in a Rexdale drug den bitching about Justin Trudeau and “minorities” with a couple of drug dealers. Hey, I get it, as a politician you tend to meet a lot of shady people, that’s part of the business (although, somehow, I doubt the two gentlemen in question were campaign contributors). But when you socialize with drug dealers on your own time, well, that’s a problem.
Now, let’s be fair to Ford, so far no one other than Kevin Donovan and Robyn Doolittle, two Star reporters, and Gawker, have seen the video. So maybe, it’s too soon to judge. But let’s look at what we do know.
First, the alleged video was accompanied by a picture of a guy who looks an awful lot like a moist and garrulous Rob Ford with his arms draped around a couple of guys who look like… I’m not quite sure how to say this without coming across like a stone-cold racist… a bunch of drug dealers (my white guilt is assuaged somewhat by the fact that (i) one of the young “gentlemen” was the target of a (successful) recent gangland-style hit and was apparently “known to police” (to use the favoured euphemism) and (ii) according to the source, the picture was taken when Ford showed up for a drug buy). OK, the mere fact that the picture seems to show Ford spending his evenings getting ripped with a bunch of drug dealers doesn’t mean he smokes crack, but it doesn’t help. And the mere fact that it seem to show Rob Ford spending his evening with a bunch of degenerates suggests that Ford doesn’t have the common sense God gave a goose.
Then there’s the video. Sure, we haven’t seen it yet. But the fact is that Doolittle and Donovan are a couple of Canada’s best investigative reporter. That they’ve seen it, and feel strongly enough about it to run a story outlining what they’ve seen, is damning. Sure, they work for the Star, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re first-rate investigative journalists, a point recognized by every commentator on this story. Moreover their account of the video is, substantively, the same as the account given by Gawker. They might be wrong in their conclusion that the video shows Rob Ford smoking a crackpipe, but if they’re wrong it’s because the video is a clever fake, not because they’re trying to put something over on Ford. And does anyone believe that Gawker, who probably hadn’t heard of Rob Ford before they heard about the video, is out to get him? Sorry, but between taking the word of a couple of solid investigative reporter (well, and Gawker) and the non-denials from the Ford Camp (which I’ll come to next), I’m siding with the journalists.
Which brings me to the final point, where’s the denial from the Ford camp? Think about it for a second, picture yourself as an honest, god-fearing, politician who is wrongly accused of smoking crack, what do you? Do you: (a) call a press conference denying the claim, state unequivocally that you’ve never smoked crack and that anyone who says otherwise is a liar, and then sue the bejesus out of the Toronto Star and anyone else who says otherwise,
(b) say nothing other than to offhandedly dismiss the allegation as “ridiculous”, send your cut-rate lawyer (Seriously, he’s got a hotmail address?) off to the Star to quibble about whether the Star can prove that the person in the video was smoking crack with the CRACKPIPE (really, counsellor, is there anything else that he might be smoking with a crackpipe that makes this story less bad?), while sending your brother (an impartial source, to be sure) out to say that he’d never seen you smoke crack, all while you disappear from public sight for the weekend. (As an aside, my choice would have be (c) call a press-conference, announce that “yes, I smoke crack, and if you had to put up with people like Adam Vaughn all week, you’d smoke crack too”. I bet people would be able to relate to that.) If you picked (b) you’re either the dumbest politician the world ever laid eyes on or a lying crack-smoking degenerate. In either case, you shouldn’t be the Mayor of Toronto.
Still a better mayor than David Miller, though…
Update: Still nothing from Rob Ford, but Doug Ford came out with an empty-sounding statement to the effect that: “Rob is telling me these stories are untrue, that these accusations are ridiculous, and I believe him.” Umm, that’s great Doug, but no one gives a shit whether you believe him (you’re his brother, idiot), what matters is whether WE believe him. And, you know what, we might be more inclined to believe him if it were ROB Ford making concrete denials to the pubic (“I have not smoked crack cocaine”, “I do not spend my afternoons in the living room of Somali drug delears bitching about Justin Trudeau”) rather the sending out his brother to make vague and passive denials for him. Robin Sears, a crisis communications expert, called Doug Ford’s press conference one of the worst damage-control efforts he has seen in 40 years.