We sure didn't expect one of 2013's biggest political scandals to come out of Canada, of all places — but when it comes to crack-smoking, city-running Rob Ford, things can't get much worse. On Thursday, a viral video showing Ford threatening to commit "first-degree murder" swept through North America, to which Ford responded by explaining, shocker, that he had been "deeply, deeply inebriated." That's not all: turns out that the Toronto mayor and inspiration for hashtag #InADrunkenStupor has quite the rap sheet of previous offenses.
Although Ford's scandal sheet extends way before 2010, the year he was elected mayor, he's behaved particularly badly since then: He was drunk on Remy at City Hall and swearing at aides on St. Patty's Day last year; he was reading and driving, "probably;" he was involved in a conflict-of-interest scandal involving football donations; he once rerouted a city bus to pick up high-school football players; he had his employees spend "a significant part of their workday" helping the teams of his private football foundation — a judge tried to kick him out after the conflict-of-interest scandal, but Ford fought the ruling and got to keep his job. And then there was the drunken spectacle Ford made of himself at a street festival in August.
And now there's this new video, published today on the Toronto Star's website, showing the mayor in a rage, threatening to kill someone. The circumstances aren't clear, nor is the date of the video, but there is this, and it doesn't sound great:
"I need fucking 10 minutes to make sure that he's dead," Ford seems to be saying. And later: "When he's down, I'll rip his fucking throat out. I'll poke his eyes out. I will, fuck, when he's dead, you help make sure that motherfucker's dead."
In a recent Salon piece, JB Saniforth writes:
Ford has staked his image on the illusion that he’s some run-of-the-mill hoser, just like you and me (provided that we’re both white guys who like football and hate the idea that City Hall is burning through our precious tax dollars). In doing so, he’s made himself Canada’s leading exemplar of the Tea Party model of identity politics; he’s a rich white guy who portrays himself as the angry little guy. In doing so he leverages phony right-wing populism to win working-class votes.
Ford's entire image, like most politicians, rests on the extent to which he can identify with his voter base. In reality, he's the son of a loaded businessman who was a member of Ontario's legislature for four years, and oversaw cuts to social programs. But as he's ascended in the hierarchy of government from city counselor to mayor over the years, this 'common-person' facade has been eroding away.
And then, of course, there's the crack-smoking thing. Not only was Ford (now famously) caught smoking crack on tape, he's admitted to it. (Oh, and by the way, there's a chance Ford might have been paying the utility bills for a crack house where he was photographed with some gang members. May or may not be the same place he went during his crack-smoking "drunken stupor." Who knows.)
Ford's decision to suddenly tell the truth after months of denial is not isolated to this crackisode, but is a repeat of 2010, when months before his Oct. 26 mayoral election, he initially denied charges of drunk driving and pot possession acquired while on holiday in Florida in 2009. And just like his hazy recollection of that one time "probably" last year he smoked crack, he then about-faced and said he forgot about the charges.
But Ford seems to count on Toronto continuing to forgive and forget, to continue marking the ballot for a politician who embodies the worst caricature of what a corrupt politician is.
"I sincerely apologize, there's absolutely no excuse, no one to blame but myself," Ford said Sunday. "I am going to fight like no one has seen before to win the next election."
The fact that he counts on this after all of that is shocking. What is baffling is that even as his credibility comes crashing down around him, there actually might be a possibility of reelection for Ford. As we noted, ever since the Toronto Police confirmed the existence of the videotape that showed the mayor smoking crack, his approval — far from coming down from a high — actually went up. By five points.
Who knows why. But are there really no other contenders for his spot? By rectifying actions of consequence with apologies without consequence, Ford does himself disservice as a person, and does his voters a disservice as the person they placed their trust in. Because when private life bleeds out from behind what should be closed doors, it becomes public. And when it's public, the public servant is in trouble. As Esquire wrote:
If you have no respect for others, if you have no respect for your own word, you can't have any respect for yourself. If you have no code, you have no discipline. And men without discipline can't do anything. Correction: They can do crack.