Cheol Joon Baek
Ford Fest - 2012 - People surround mayor Rob Ford to get photos.
If I didn't have blogs and Twitter to mock Rob and Doug Ford, I'd probably lose my mind.
I know that nothing I say will actually get either Ford out of office, but at least I get to express my disgust in a public forum, going on record as paying attention and being very unhappy with this shit.
But more than my own personal moral or political posturing, I simply don't want Rob Ford to die.
I don't like Rob Ford. I've made no secret of that. He's an awful person - a bully, a pampered moron lacking any empathy or compassion for anyone he doesn't know personally. (And the people he does know personally tend to be, well, of questionable character.)
His brother is even worse; I'd be willing to put money on Doug having forced his better-liked brother to stay in a position he neither understands or much enjoys so that he - Doug - can ride his populist coattails into provincial politics. I would also wager that the only reason Rob hasn't allowed himself to be talked into stepping down and going to rehab is that Doug still thinks this whole disaster can be turned around.
It can't. Rob will only get worse, and for one reason: He has never been held accountable for anything he's done. Whenever he transgresses - however public and pitiful the display - his first response is always a lie. ("I wasn't even at the game," "I wasn't driving, I wasn't driving.") When evidence begins to surface, he attacks the messenger. When incontrovertible proof emerges, he goes penitent - apologizing for his behavior, saying he's going through some stuff, begging our indulgence and swearing he'll do better in the future.
I'm sure he thinks he means it.
But every time Rob Ford says he'll clean up, he winds up doing something even worse, because he can't help but escalate. Apologizing for unspecified behavior and announcing it's time to "move forward", as he did on Sunday's radio show, isn't the way to fix things; that's how a child gets out of trouble when he's caught red-handed. "Fine, fine, you got me. I don't want to talk about it anymore." It's not enough to say "sorry" and move on. You have to admit what it is you're sorry for.
And even here, Rob Ford came up short. It took more than an hour for him to clarify what it was he felt the need to apologize for -"the Danforth," he said, when he showed up shitfaced in public, leaving open the real possibility that he drove there drunk.
But no one can prove the drunk-driving thing, so he skated on that. Oh, there's footage from that night that picks up a minute or so after Rob got out of his vehicle, clearly blitzed out of his mind, but no one knows precisely how much time passed between him arriving and exiting his car, so there's no way to prove he was drunk beforehand. He's Schrödinger's Rummy, both smashed and sober until the car door opens.
Is it possible that Rob Ford drove himself to the Danforth sober, then gulped down the beverage of his choice alone in his car and waited for it to take effect before he got out? Yes. It's possible. It's also highly unlikely, given Ford's established behavior. We do know he's comfortable with drinking and driving -- it's what got him arrested in Florida in 1999, and it's what he was clearly planning on doing on St. Patrick's Day 2012, when security officers at City Hall poured him into a cab, drunk off his ass after an epic bender that involved being asked to leave the Bier Markt pub on the Esplanade, shoving one of his staffers and smashing his own cellphone in a drunken rage. (He had emerged from the garage at about 2:30 am, ranting that "they" had stolen the car he'd forgotten he'd left at home.)
Rob Ford has apologized for being drunk in public before. He begged our indulgence. And he went out and did it again, because Rob Ford is an addict who is enabled by his escapes.
And really, why wouldn't he be? In his mind, he's paid absolutely no price for his misdeeds; he likely doesn't even think they're misdeeds in the first place. He's just having a good time, downing a few pops, hanging out with his buddies. He can't see the larger pattern, because he's incapable of complex thought - a child who's figured out how to act out without being punished.
I take no pleasure in the mayor's self-destruction. It's a fucking tragedy, is what it is, and a terrible waste of a life. He's a man who would clearly be delighted to do nothing more than coach football for the rest of his days - whether he's good at it or not, he's engaged and involved - but instead, he was steered into a political career by a family bent on carrying on the work of a departed patriarch.
Never mind that Doug Ford, Sr. was a backbencher who never actually accomplished anything of note; he was known, he was a political figure, and so at least one of his sons must follow in his footsteps. Doug Jr. was running the business, Randy was doing whatever Randy does, and Rob - well, Rob liked shaking hands and returning phone calls. He was well-liked. (God help us, he was the charming one.) So they ran him for city council, and he won, and then they ran him for mayor, and he won that too. And from his very first day in office, he's been in over his head.
It was okay that he maybe had a drinking problem and maybe did a little weed now and then when he was a city councilor; that situation is not okay when he's the mayor of Toronto. Visibility and responsibility have never sat well on Rob Ford's shoulders; he's only really effective as a politician when he stands in objection to something. He's terrible at governance, which requires shaping opinions and building consensus. No wonder he's constantly ditching work to get drunk and/or high; it's the only escape he has left.
We cannot expect Doug to save him. Doug can talk a good game, but Rob is a substance abuser in the midst of an epic slow-motion immolation. Every time Doug turns around, Rob figuratively locks himself in his car and sets himself on fire. There have been moments when it was possible to change the course and maybe even come back stronger.
Earlier this year, when news of the video first broke, I joked that Rob was the only politician around who could convince people he'd smoked crack cocaine by accident - that he could credibly argue that he was trying to talk some kids out of doing hard drugs. You'd believe Rob Ford did something like that. He's an idiot, but if you believe he has a good heart - and people keep saying they do - you could easily see him endangering himself to help the kids. (God knows, Rob's used "helping kids" as a get-out-of-jail-free card before.)
Six months later, admitting guilt would involve real penalties; Rob would have to acknowledge that he spent all that time lying about the video, and his problems, but if he immediately sought treatment, he could still bounce back in time for the 2014 election. Speculation was running high that this was Sunday's strategy. But nope. If they doubled down and went on the attack in the spring, they tripled down this weekend, with Rob shaping his non-apology exclusively around the documented drinking incidents, and avoiding the drug allegations entirely.
He says he can't comment on the video because it's part of a court case, but that's a lie. There's no legal block to his discussing the case, and certainly he's involved himself in ongoing legal proceedings in the past -- he and Doug were only too happy to defame Shannon Everett after they invented an assault case against her, and then there was that time he called into a radio show to render judgment on a murder case the day before jury deliberations began. He just won't comment on this court case because he understands, on some level, that there's no way to spin it.
And stonewalling has always worked before. He's still mayor, isn't he?
That's the psychology we're dealing with. Impenetrable. Inflexible. Unwilling to admit what's really wrong, and unwilling to fix it. And it could kill him. Rob Ford will never understand he's in trouble because Doug is there to tell him the media is out to get him, that the police can't touch them, that everything is going to be okay.
But everything is not going to be okay. The mayor will get drunk again - he said as much on air Sunday - and he will probably try to get behind the wheel of his car. And eventually someone might be very badly injured or even killed. Maybe he'll drive into a bridge abutment on the Gardiner and take himself out; maybe he'll back over someone on his way out of an LCBO parking lot. Maybe he'll run over someone at a crosswalk. He's an accident waiting to happen.
To reiterate: I don't want this to happen. I want Rob Ford to get help and get better, because it must be miserable being Rob Ford. (I imagine it's no picnic being Doug, either, but I can't say I have any sympathy left for that guy.) It's not too late, except that it is, because Rob lacks the basic means to save himself.
The mayor loves to tell his listeners he's gearing up for next year's election, and I certainly believe that; he loves to campaign, because he gets to host events and shake hands and people line up to tell him how much they love him and everyone applauds when he finishes talking. No one challenges him; even in debates, he just zones out and repeats his talking points and his supporters make the noises he likes to hear. It's probably the only time he's truly happy, now that he's not coaching football any more.
But I don't think he's going to make it to Election Day, given his recent pattern of following each escape from scandal with some newer, bigger embarrassment a few weeks later. He's always bought into his own bullshit, and after the posturing on Sunday - and his subsequent, more belligerent interviews - he must think he's invincible. He apologized, didn't he? It's time to move forward.
I fear he won't get far.