Getting personal with Rob Ford

Robo doesn't want to be judged on his personal shortcomings, but it's the dirty details of his private life that tell us all we need to know


I wouldn’t pay to see Rob Ford in a foot race with Ben Johnson. But apparently someone thinks people will shell out to see the sideshow mayor take on the disgraced former Olympic sprinter. If it’ll raise a few bucks for charity, why not?

One-time athletes have done some strange things to stay in the spotlight. The former fastest man in the world, who was stripped of the gold in 88 for using performance-enhancing drugs, once raced a couple of horses for charity, in the tradition of athletes who became circus acts. Johnson also did a commercial for the energy drink Cheetah. The punchline in that one: “I Cheetah all the time.”

Now it seems Ford, like some trained bear, has become fodder for the biggest-loser celebrity circuit. Apparently, there’s also a film in the works based on Star reporter Robyn Doolittle’s recently published book on the Ford family, Crazy Town.

Seriously. People say Ford is a complicated man, or fascinating. Whatever. Maybe he’s just a clown.

But after last week’s flap at City Hall over whether to fly the rainbow flag over Nathan Phillips Square in solidarity with gays in Sochi, we have finally achieved a new clarity about who he really is.

Ford sided with the homophobes, and his council colleagues, reticent in the past to call the mayor out, left no doubt this time about where they stood. Shelley Carroll compared Ford to Russian president Vladimir Putin, who’s become the subject of worldwide scorn for that country’s treatment of gays.

Kristyn Wong-Tam, council’s only openly gay member, said everyone has known about Ford’s anti-gay convictions all along. They’ve never been secret.

Ford warned us that the upcoming election campaign would be ugly. All I can say is, it’s about time we lost our illusions about his being some benign oaf.

I won’t call the mayor an idiot, because I don’t believe him to be a stupid person even though he has certainly said and done some idiotic things. But here’s the thing: most people haven’t attributed those things to malice, just ignorance: maybe he just didn’t know any better.

The fact is, Ford is more calculating than people wanted to believe. A more seasoned bullshitter you’ll never meet.

Robo says he doesn’t want to be judged on his personal shortcomings, the behaviour captured on cellphone videos for all to see. He knows he’s crossed the line for many of his supporters. He says he wants to be judged on his record it’s his catchphrase for the 2014 campaign.

Of course, we have plenty of time to parse that record, and overall it’s a mess, just like his personal life. The three-stop “stubway” extension in Scarborough just about sums it up. It leaves most in that part of Toronto stranded and everyone on the hook for a big tax increase for the next 30 years.

But politics is personal. Ford’s underlined that fact, and not just by failing to show up for work for days and weeks at a time while recovering from his drunken stupors. The personal, in fact, tells us a lot about him. It tells us he’s a lying scumbag. It tells us he’s irresponsible. It tells us he holds noxious opinions about gays and people of colour.

That’s the thing about Ford. Many who identified with him thought he was a sweet, unpretentious guy, maybe without social skills but a decent person deep down.

Now we all know he is none of those things. The real Ford votes against nutrition programs for kids. The real Ford calls the chief of police a “cocksucker.” The real Ford is a belligerent drunk. Immigrants and faggots? It’s all Greek to Robo.

Ford’s political modus operandi has never been about furthering the interests of the people he claims to represent. If he cared about the folks who live in social housing, TCH wouldn’t be in a bigger mess today that it was in 2010. Instead, it’s a photo-op quid pro quo: he’ll get that plumbing fixed for you if you put a Ford sign in your window.

If you’re looking deep into the heart of darkness trying to find the method in Ford’s madness, that’s all there is to it.

There’s no nuance. He’s as one-dimensional as it gets. Folks just didn’t want to see it. Homophobe, xenophobe, sexist, racist, anti-poor people. Try all of the above. That’s a problem in a city whose strength is its diversity.

enzom@nowtoronto.com | @enzodimatteo

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