Act 1 Contrition and conversion
When we heard he wouldn't be taking questions at the Monday, June 30, press conference marking his return from rehab, we should have known the mayor-in-name-only would deliver something short of a full mea culpa. No act of self-immolation (figuratively speaking) or 30 lashes in Nathan Phillips Square for his sins.
Instead, we got a big production wrapped around another Ford apology that was billed as a can't-miss show but failed to live up to the hype. The entire scene was oddly anticlimactic. Now can we please go back to ignoring Rob Ford?
The mayor has never been good at coming clean, and Monday was no different.
One reporter dared to interrupt the carefully choreographed proceedings to ask about the "kikes," "wops" and "niggers" slurs caught on tape, which was the real reason for his unceremonious departure for rehab. The mayor ignored him.
He talked about the suffering he's caused his family, but there was no mention of the wife or kids he's used as a political shield in the past. They were absent from the press con-ference.
The one person Ford did single out for a special apology was... Karen Stintz. That's right, the woman he's said he'd like to "jam" in one of those drunken stupors, but more importantly the candidate whose votes he might need to push him closer to front-runner in the race for mayor. Rob's gotta plan. Stintz said she'd make her mark on the race before it's over. And Ford knows the last thing Stintz wants to see is John Tory become mayor.
Act 2 The inevitable fall from grace
For a second, a decidedly brief one, it looked like Ford's apologia just might fly. "We all know someone who has suffered from this terrible disease," he said.
But then he jumped back on the gravy train rhetoric, and you could feel the air leave the room even if you were watching on TV.
Asking for forgiveness would seem a good place to start to make a clean break from the past. But Ford said it's not forgiveness he wants. It was hard to figure out exactly what the mayor does want, save for your vote, because he went into Ford-speak at that point in his speech. What is clearer is that if he's going to do this healing thing, it's going to be on his terms. Meet the new and improved Rob Ford, same as the old Rob Ford.
Aside from a few generalities, Ford disclosed very little about the nature of his treatment except to emphasize that it was "intensive." How intensive? There were numerous sightings of Ford outside of rehab during his treatment. He said he learned about triggers and cravings, and that hearing the stories of others gave him "strength and helped me deal with my own mistakes." But is that any more believable than Ford's claim that he was "blind to the dangers of some of the company I kept"?
And then there was this: "I used poor judgment, and I take full responsibility for my ac-tions." Of course, he has done nothing of the sort. Dereliction of duty is a firing offence. Ford has not been held accountable for his actions.
What can be gleaned from Monday's performance is that hubris, more than shame, is driving Ford.
He still feels hard done by and thinks he's being held to a higher standard. It's right there in line 33 of his speech: "At GreenStone [rehab] I accepted that in my position, I am held to a higher standard." It's not a higher standard we expect of Ford, who has set a very low one for himself. Two months of rehab later Ford's still playing the victim.
Act 3 Doug Ford runs for mayor
It's bound to happen; Rob Ford is setting us up for it. He warned in his speech that he's only "begun the process of taking control of my life." Don't hold it against him next time he crashes and burns.
In the meantime, his top priority is "rebuilding trust with the public and my fellow members of council." It's way too late for that. The public overwhelmingly thinks he should resign. Most members of council agree.
And big brother Doug has gone on record: no more catching Rob next time. It'll fall to Doug to pick up the pieces of what's left of the family's political legacy. Rob's been put on notice. Hard to miss the mayor's absence from an opening ceremony for a playground in the park dedicated to the old man, Doug Sr., over the Canada Day long weekend. Or, for that matter, Doug's conspicuous absence from little bro's presser.
Ford doesn't want to dwell too much on the possibility of failure. He's resolved "to work harder than ever for the taxpayers of this city." He's going in circles, of course. That's what he promised the night he was elected in 2010. But we don't have to go there with him.