Over at Torontoist, I have written a bandwagon-jumper’s guide to the Toronto Raptors and also participated in the fact-check for the first televised Toronto mayoral debate.
You can go over to Torontoist and read my three nominees for Heroes and Villains 2013: Tatiana Maslany, the Toronto Zoo’s elephant move, and The Raptor. (The Raptor piece was written before the Toronto Raptors went on a serious tear and actually look like a for-real basketball team for the first time in a loooooong time.)
None of them won Superhero of the Year or even came close in the voting, but unsurprisingly, Rob Ford took Supervillain in a walk.
Another op-ed at Torontoist about Rob Ford (which in part incorporates a bit of yesterday’s post, because the editors asked if they could do and why not, but it’s mostly new material).
Norm Wilner, who I like and respect greatly, recently wrote a screed regarding Rob Ford and why he needs to be saved. It’s not an uncommon sentiment among those who do not like Rob Ford. If he’d only get some help is said so often with respect to Rob Ford that it deserves to be acronymized, frankly, and it’s not surprising that this is the case: after all, if you consider addiction to be a disease (which it is), then it becomes harder to assign Ford moral fault for suffering from that disease. Diseases need treatment, not condemnation, and this is why so many political enemies of Rob Ford have been urging him to go seek treatment, even if it only means a temporary leave from office rather than the permanent exile from politics Rob Ford deserves.
1/2 i was told three years ago by a t.o. city councillor that they all knew ford was drunk at work every day, and that he bought a mickey…
— torquilcampbell (@torquilcampbell) November 4, 2013
The problem is this: addiction is morally neutral, but how a person chooses to deal with that addiction is not. There is a way to live with addiction responsibly and soberly (or at least as soberly as possible – part of addiction is the constant threat of relapse). Rob Ford, as Norm rightly notes, has never dealt with his obvious problems in a responsible manner. Even now, when he publicly admits to having been flagrantly smashed in public, he’s not admitting to any real problem. “I’m just going to stop” is not the answer of someone who admits to addiction. It’s the answer of someone pretending he’s not. This is vintage spoiled-child Rob Ford, and it was what most of us expected him to do.
2/2 at the dundas lcbo on his drive home each day and poured it into a slurpee cup and drank it as he drove home.
— torquilcampbell (@torquilcampbell) November 4, 2013
Here’s the thing: we expected him to do it because Rob Ford is not a good person. I don’t just mean he’s weak – although he is weak, that much is certain – because weakness, in and of itself, could be forgiven. But in addition to being weak, Rob Ford is a bully. He’s mean. He’s not just stupid; he’s proudly ignorant. He’s arrogant. He’s rude. He’s a hypocrite. He’s a liar. He has a pronounced violent streak that he barely controls in public; Norm says Rob Ford is an “accident waiting to happen” but the police have responded to multiple domestic disturbances at Ford’s home over the years and there is a fair case to be made that the “accidents” are potentially not theoretical at this point.
And if you think that last sentence is speculative, you have to understand this: Norm works in journalism, as do I (well, as a sideline), and we talk with our fellow journalists all the time, and here is the thing: what is being said, publicly, about Rob Ford is quite literally only the tip of the iceberg. Rob Ford’s public alcoholism has been an open secret for literally years; drug use falls into the same area, where everybody knows it happens but nobody can report on it because, after all, if the mayor purely hypothetically speaking stumbles out of a bathroom with white powder on his face, you can’t prove it’s cocaine, and if you don’t have a picture then you can’t even prove it happens. If it had happened, of course. Similarly, if one of the videos the police recovered off those hard drives was the newest candidate for “worst four-word sentence in the English language,” by which we mean “Rob Ford sex tape,” then that’s strictly hypothetical too. Completely hypothetical. And we certainly can’t say if Rob Ford hypothetically uses the services of prostitutes.
And that’s just the light hypothetical stuff. I’m not going to go into the heavier stuff. That way lies madness and accusations of open, active criminality.
this cnclr. also said ford slept in his office all day, usually taking one meeting. he said they all thought he would be dead within a year.
— torquilcampbell (@torquilcampbell) November 4, 2013
I understand compassion and most of the time I preach it. But compassion, when applied to the cold hard necessities of politics, cannot and should not be an endless well. (Hell, even outside of politics someone who actively commits harm – and Rob Ford does commit harm, on many levels – cannot be given compassionate treatment when you need them to stop.) Rob Ford does “not need to be saved.” He needs to be put out of his political misery and exiled from public life. Permanently. I have no sympathy for him, no pity; so many people have done so much more with so much less than Rob Ford it is just sort of laughable. He has been given every chance and he has squandered all of them. He deserves only scorn.
PaulW: in comments previously:
nice artwork, but does it have anything to say about the current reports that the Ford Crack-smoking video has finally been secured by law enforcement?
Not really, but this op/ed I wrote for Torontoist does, so there you go.
Socraticsilence, in the recent Doug Ford post, asks:
So admittedly this is an outsiders perspective but I’ve always gotten the idea from you and other Canadian political commentators that Rob Ford is an amiable boob, a well-meaning moron with a bit of a mean streak but not overtly cruel and/or calculating- kind of a fat Canadian Dubya– right down to the inheriting everything and not realizing his privilege. So I guess what I’m asking is, and I don’t want to stretch the analogy too far here- is Doug, Rob’s Cheney– the competent, cruel, bloodless guy behind the power?
If that is the idea you have gotten, then Canadians have misrepresented Rob Ford to you. Ford is not an “amiable boob.” He is friendly enough, I suppose, but not so dramatically that he is one of those people who engenders joie de vivre in all he meets or anything like that. Ford is extremely stupid but he is also very mean – a callous dunce who doesn’t have the imagination to even consider other people’s viewpoints much less sympathize with them. His goodwill is essentially predicated on his own unmerited high self-opinion; he lives in a black and white world where he is always the good guy and can always, always justify the stupid shit he pulls off. I am quite sure that right now he totally believes he is being wronged in this crack video scandal, despite that it is pretty obvious now that A) the video exists and B) he is lying through his teeth about that.
As for Doug, he is not bloodless and he is barely competent. Cheney thinks about what he says before he says it. Doug Ford doesn’t think about anything and has most of his brother’s faults. He is only “competent” when compared to his idiot brother, who really does set a new low for all things related to governance, and any buff in reputation he gets is largely the result of being “the less stupid one” so damned often.
Now, you might be thinking “but wait, you have no respect for the Ford Brothers.” And that is not precisely true. Rob Ford is excellent at constituent service, for example – he genuinely loves it and takes pride in it, it is quite possibly the best thing about a generally awful person. You can at least respect Rob Ford on that basis, and there are clearly other elements of the man that are respectable, which makes him such a tragic figure in so many respects.
But Doug Ford? (Who, for non-Torontonians, is Rob Ford’s older brother and who took over Rob’s seat on city council when Rob ran for Mayor.) Holy crap, fuck Doug Ford. He has, with this scandal, proven himself to be a truly worthless human being, on the basis of one sentence:
“Rob is telling me these stories are untrue, that these accusations are ridiculous and I believe him.”
Not “Rob doesn’t smoke crack.” Not “Rob would never do those things.” Not “there’s no tape, this is just crap.” Not even a “oh, fuck you.” Doug Ford just threw his own brother under the bus, because according to Doug Ford, Doug Ford is just an innocent bystander in all of this. If the Rob Ford crack video eventually does emerge (and it looks at this point fairly likely to do so) and Rob Ford is indeed smoking crack and calling Justin Trudeau a fag and all the rest of it, well, that’s not Doug’s fault, because Rob told him he doesn’t smoke crack and why wouldn’t you believe your brother?
I get that Doug Ford is in a difficult situation: when you are a politician, you can be loyal to the public or to your family in a situation like this. If Doug knows there is no video or doesn’t know if the video exists, his response should have been a simple “Rob doesn’t smoke crack.” If he does know about the video, then he has two choices: either stand with the city and say that Rob needs to stand down, or double down, stand by his brother and say “Rob doesn’t smoke crack.” And frankly, given that last option, I think most people would (eventually) forgive him, because this is the man’s brother. I’ve had judges tell me on numerous occasions that they discount testimony from family members of parties/accuseds because, well, they’re family and it’s to be expected that family sticks together. And they’re not going to go attacking those people for perjury. We’re supposed to be loyal to our families.
But, when the chips were down, Doug Ford made his choice: not to be loyal to the city or to his own brother, but instead to be loyal to Doug Ford. That is the amoral and craven act of a truly worthless human being – and one, frankly, that if Rob and Doug’s roles in this were reversed I think Rob Ford would not have chosen – and I think people need to remember this, because Doug Ford is going to do his damnedest not to go away and continue to be a blight on the political landscape. And conservatives in Ontario need to remember it more than liberals, because it is now quite obvious that Doug Ford does not give a shit about his fellow conservatives. If Doug Ford isn’t willing to go to the mattresses for his brother, then he’s certainly not going to do it for his fellow party members.
Torontoist asked me to discuss how Canadian libel law would work if Rob Ford wanted to sue the press over the “crack-smoking story” so that is what I did there.
Now here is that GIF of Ford trying to throw a football again!
Allan Gregg is confused:
If negative advertising is so effective, maybe the media and politicians should ask themselves why other big advertisers (who are far more experienced and savvy) do not employ these same tactics. Just like the electoral process, it is safe to assume that McDonald’s wants to take market share from Burger King. They also know that the quickest and most immediate way of doing this would be to launch an ad campaign that claimed their competitor’s product contained botulism. Burger King could neutralize McDonald’s advantage by countering that Big Macs are rife with e-coli. This attack and counterattack might “work” to the extent that it would affect market share but it is not employed by McDonald’s and Burger King because they know it will destroy the category and pretty soon no one would ever buy a hamburger again. In other words, they are smart enough to know that the business they are in is not just about taking market share from the other guy … it’s about making consumers believe in eating hamburgers.
So while focusing on your opponent’s weakness rather than your own virtues might lead to a short term electoral advantage, over time, it will create a cascade of political cynicism. If you say “politician A is a crook” often enough, it is only a matter of time before the public comes to believe that all politicians are crooks. That is what is happening now and these are the seeds that defenders of negative advertising are sewing.
But Allan “oh, by the way, it was me who pushed for the infamous let’s-make-fun-of-Jean-Chretien’s-palsy advertisements in the 1993 campaign which bombed horribly” Gregg is completely skipping past the point, which is that creating political cynicism is not a cost of negative advertising; it is a benefit, because reducing the amount of politically engaged citizens makes elections easier to predict and manipulate. McDonald’s doesn’t do vicious negative advertising because if they taint the process of eating a hamburger they lose money; the Tories do negative advertising because if they taint the electoral process they effectively save money, to say nothing of making it easier to gain or maintain power.
This is really staggeringly obvious.
Mike From Nowhere asks: I have my ballot for the Liberal Party election and I’m still making up my mind. Thoughts on the candidates?
And Mitchell Hundred asks: Justin Trudeau is going to become the next leader of the Liberal Party of Canada (let’s be realistic here). Is this a good thing?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, because Trudeau is a smart, capable politician who nonetheless comes across as human – which many politicians do not. His “gaffe” about saying that Quebecers are better at running Canada than Albertans isn’t a big deal to anybody normal because Quebecers agree, Albertans weren’t going to vote Liberal anyway and everybody else doesn’t really care, but it reminded everybody that Trudeau is a for-real guy who occasionally says something a bit ill-advised, but everybody does that. All it did was remind people of his father (who was a famous mouth and which is a net plus for Justin). But getting back to the main point, Trudeau knows what he’s doing and will re-invigorate the Liberal party. His support for fossil fuel extraction is probably just cynical campaign noise so that he can be competitive in the west more than anything else.
No, because Trudeau has ruled out cooperation with the NDP, which (although this may only be a campaign tactic and he may change his mind once he is in power) means Trudeau has refused to deal with the central problem in Canadian politics, which is that the electoral national landscape is composed of one right-wing conservative party and three centre-left parties, which is why the fucking Tories keep winning fucking elections even though they will most likely never again get a majority of the popular vote. Until Canada’s other parties decide to engage with this fact they’re going to continue to be at a disadvantage, and it probably does not matter how smart and capable Trudeau is because if he never gets in power then who cares. Stephane Dion was ten times smarter and more capable than Trudeau is (seriously, Dion is like a friggin’ wizard) and he never got to be PM either.
For that reason and that reason alone, I would recommend voting for Joyce Murray over Trudeau, since Murray has openly campaigned for inter-party cooperation with the NDP and Greens and because she actually stands a (very small) chance at beating him. I don’t think she will, but if it takes Trudeau more than one or two ballots to win, hopefully he realizes the demand for actual, you know, victory for the left in Canada and changes his position.
And my Villain for Torontoist this year is the same as it is every year. There is a longstanding theory that people learn from experience, but Rob Ford seems dedicated to demonstrating that this theory does not have to be universal.
Torontoist does its yearly Heroes and Villains at the end of every year, and my hero was the Toronto Marlies, for their equality pledge.
(My Villain is still forthcoming. Regulars can, uh, probably guess.)