On any given day, I drink a glass of wine with supper. I do not show up at office parties in any state other than one of profound and sober resignation. And if, at any point in the evening, my wife asks me to leave with her, I am happy to oblige. Quietly.
For these reasons alone, I am fairly certain that I do not qualify to fill Rob Ford’s shoes.
If you’ve been off planet these past few years, you won’t know that he’s the mayor of Canada’s largest city, North America’s fourth biggest metropolis, the Centre of the Universe, Hog Town, Toronto.
You also won’t know that Mr. Ford admits that he has smoked crack cocaine and bought illegal drugs, that he knows people in low places, that, in a video, the 300-pound-plus baby throwing a tantrum over some sleight, real or imagined, is, indeed, his goodself.
He even admits that he might just need some professional help, even if that’s only a trip to beachfront bar in Fort Lauderdale this Christmas vacation.
The tragicomic antics of Canada’s very own Boss Hogg is not merely the biggest story in Toronto these days. It is the only story, numbing all who come within its orbit with vast doses of intrigue, mendacity and outright sleaze. If you’ve ever witnessed a train wreck in progress, you know that to look away is impossible.
“Did you hear the latest from that guy?” the cab driver asked me on the way in from Pearson International Airport last week. “He says he’s done all those things in a drunken stupor, and he still won’t resign. It’s like he’s proud of himself or something.”
I laughed and mentioned that his dear, old mum told an interviewer the other day that the only thing wrong with her sonny boy is that he’s packing a bit too much weight.
Without missing a beat, the cabbie quipped, “Yup, especially between the ears.”
Moments later, I found myself in the outer office of a Bay Street type, for whom I was doing some consulting. His assistant told me he had been delayed and asked if I would mind waiting. After ten minutes, my client emerged, red-faced and chuckling.
“Sorry,” he said. “I just had to see the end of the latest press conference. You know what? Television does not do justice to our colourful mayor.”
Of course, not everyone is laughing. The mayor’s public approval ratings, which actually shot up following his admission of cocaine use, are plummeting. Even his once ardent defenders and confederates are calling for his ouster.
Meanwhile, Canada’s national newspaper is beside itself with old-school Toronto opprobrium.
“How is this man still the mayor?” last Thursday’s Globe and Mail editorial beseeched. “He’s an admitted crack smoker, and an admitted liar about it. He’s been publicly drunk – ‘hammered’ and ‘extremely, extremely inebriated,’ in his own words – on several occasions. . .On Wednesday morning, he confessed to having purchased illegal drugs while mayor; by mid-afternoon, police documents ordered released by a judge were detailing a whole new series of allegations, by his own staff, of intoxication and drug use.”
In fact, there’s nothing especially instructive about any of this; no great lessons in civics and public administration may be plucked from this fiasco, save, perhaps, one:
It seems broadly absurd that Toronto, that most sophisticated of burbs, that beacon of commerce and culture, is utterly powerless over the machinery of its own governance. Why is there no code of conduct for elected officials, including the mayor, that makes things like illegal drug use, public drunkenness and bald-faced lying impeachable offences, the penalty for which is summary dismissal?
Rob Ford won’t quit for two reasons.
The first is he doesn’t have to.
The second is, despite his protestations to the contrary, he’s having way too much fun directing his own, personal psychodrama before the camera’s vacant stare. Every day that passes, he ups the ante by issuing fresh confessions, accusations or sundry pornographic observations lest the pot of public outrage and disgust stops boiling.
This is, after all, Rob Ford’s party and, apparently, we’re not allowed to leave.