Is Rob Ford really that stupid?
After hat four-hour performance on the witness stand last Wednesday (September 5) to answer to conflict of interest charges, more than a few observers in the filled-to-capacity courtroom were left shaking their heads. Among them, a handful of Ford Nation disciples there to see what the latest fuss enveloping their hero was all about.
It was a command performance by Ford alright, an infuriating, bewildering display of political doublespeak honed from years of messing with the truth, which at one point prompting Ford's chief examiner, legendary lawyer Clay Ruby, to describe it as "gibberish." Read: all lies.
Indeed, it was a confusing mess, like the tie of abstract shapes Ford was wearing.
For Ford, it should never have come to this. Conflict cases don't ordinarily see the inside of a courtroom. But so full of holes was the deposition given by the mayor at his lawyer's office back in June, that Ford was made to testify in open court.
When the moment of truth arrived and he was summoned by Justice Charles Hackland to the witness box, Ford walked across courtroom 6-1 at 361 University doing his best to look like the man in control.
The street fighter inside wasn't going to let Ruby, who belongs to the so-called "downtown elites" Ford so despises, get the better of him.
But despite his stony demeanour on the stand, the immensity of his predicament - and the fact he could lose his job for soliciting donations from lobbyists to his charity football foundation - wasn't completely lost on Ford.
It seemed to visibly weigh on the mayor when the incriminating evidence against him, the video of the council meeting at which the alleged conflict took place, was played on the big screen TV at stage left in the courtroom. It was at that moment that a rush of crimson came over the mayor's face. Or maybe it was the too-tight shirt collar.
Ford began the day acting not at all like a man backed by the courage of his convictions, ducking the shutterbugs and TV camera crews camped outside the courthouse to record his grand entrance, by slipping through a side door usually reserved for judges. Which left the media having to wait till the lunch break to get their pictures.
When that time came, there would be no backdoor escape for the mayor, no discreet getaway through some secret passageway in the bowels of the courthouse. Curious that. He's supposed to be top dog in this town.
Instead there was the spectacle, the so-called "man of the people" breaking into a jog to get away from reporters. And later, shuffling behind a phalanx of court cops to his getaway car, the black Caddy SUV parked illegally across the street, to take flight.
There were no words of assurances offered by Ford for loyalists who would be watching at home that this too shall pass. "I'd like to say something but can't," or "We're going to present our case and respect the judge's decision" etc..., would have sufficed, constrained as he was by the face legal proceedings were ongoing.
Instead there were only the devastating pictures which, even for those who don't completely get all the intricacies of the conflict charges against him, would leave the most lasting impression.
If in making Ford run the gauntlet, the intention of the high foreheads in the mayor's office was to make him appear the lone warrior, brave in the face of the leftist forces of evil surely conspiring to unseat him, it was a dangerous gamble.
Could this, would this, all be forgotten by the next election two years from now? No doubt the mayor's political enemies are already slicing and dicing the tape for those attack ads to remind voters, no doubt with a few harsh words from the judge that are sure to come.
The friendlies among the City Hall pack that follow Ford on a daily basis are beginning to bare their teeth. And how could they not, after having sat through his often contradictory, no preposterous, testimony?
Some might say the souring of that relationship was inevitable. If it can happen to media darling David Miller... But when Sun editorialists are taking shots, then clearly some among the Ford flock have lost patience.
There are still a few too many opinion makers who continue to downplay this latest transgression of Ford's, trying to minimize the fact the mayor may be guilty of influence peddling, selling votes to lobbyists in return for their support for his foundation.
The true believers choose to forget that it's a slippery slope where conflict rules are concerned. And that this is not the first time integrity issues have been raised about the mayor. It's part of a pattern of behaviour that goes beyond just using City Hall letterhead to solicit funds for his charity.
Not to go over that part of his dubious record, but let's not forget too that in this case some $60,000 donated to Ford's foundation is unaccounted for.
The mayor's credibility was front and centre in Ruby's submission to the court. How much of an impression that tack made on the judge we won't know until he renders his decision.
As an outsider, brought in from Ottawa to accord the case the appearance of fairness, Hackland was polite to a fault, not tipping his hand either way during the hearing, questioning lawyers on both sides on points of law.
But Ruby was constrained in making his case, denied permission by the judge to question Ford on the drunken tirade at Maple Leaf Gardens, which Ford famously lied about. As well as that pot charge the mayor conveniently forgot during the election, and then came clean about after it was also revealed that he got pinched drinking and driving while a younger man on vacation with the family in Florida.
While not specific to the conflict charges against Ford, they're arguably relevant from the point of view that Ford's not above telling a whopper or two when it suits him. And so it was in this case, which featured more than a few mind bending responses from the mayor.
Ford's lawyer made a point of letting the mayor tell the court right off the top during his questioning that the mayor only got as far as a high school education.
But the mayor can't hide behind excuses, having in the past taken fellow councillors to task publicly for far less than he's accused of now. He rode into office condemning not only government spending, but promising to clean up the "corruption" at City Hall.
At Ford Fest Friday, the mayor's annual backyard BBQ party, Ford declared the official launch of the 2014 election. A few thousand reportedly showed up for the free burgers and beer. Robocalls, targeting hotbeds of Ford support in the suburbs, were made inviting all of Toronto to the affair, the mayor and his peeps attempting to show that in the court of public opinion, Ford still rules.
Strictly speaking, Ford can't start campaigning for re-election two years out, and there were certainly Ford for mayor fridge magnets for the taking. If I were the judge presiding over his case, I might be a little offended by what looks like an attempt by the mayor to turn his legal troubles into a popularity contest, bribe the masses with food and drink to help them forget the entire mess.
More than a few City Hall commentators, including this one, have offered that tossing Ford from office would have the effect of further dividing the city, allow the mayor to play the victim card to win votes.
But that was mostly before he testified last week. After that one big FU delivered on the stand to Toronto, it's time for a little instant karma for the bully.