Rob Ford and the wrong kind of attention

Sometime during my adolescence in my hometown of Toronto, municipal do-gooders began referring to the place as a “world class city.” The Canadian self-consciousness of the appellation was immediately apparent to critics, who pointed out that, say, Paris doesn’t bang on about being “world class” because it’s, y’know, Paris.

To wit, if you have to say you are a “world class city,” you probably aren’t.

Even so, Toronto is a splendid spot, the fourth largest city in North America, and has plenty of things to be proud of. While it has been almost 50 years since Toronto won a Stanley Cup, it boasts a couple of World Series championships and some Grey Cups (that’s football, played properly). It also has an NBA team, named during the heady 90’s when it was assumed people would never, ever cease to be fascinated by Jurassic Park.

At last, however, Toronto is receiving the attention it craves, but for none of the reasons it wanted. City fathers (or “city parents” as they would likely prefer to be called) wish they were being recognized for their nonpareil recycling programs, or for banishing automobiles from the roads in favor of streetcars and bicycle lanes, or for a flawless, carbon-neutral hosting of the Olympics (they have had to make do with something called the Pan Am Games instead).

But no, the eyes of the world are fixed, albeit briefly, upon this sleepy Hogtown (as Toronto was known well before this current pig-fest) because its mayor has admitted to smoking crack.

To the uninitiated, it may seem incredible that a character like Rob Ford could have been elected mayor in the first place. But, as urban dwellers across North America are aware, modern cities are overtaxed and hyper-regulated, with precious few leaders willing to be frugal with taxpayer funds and prioritize the prosaic needs of municipal governing, such as ensuring snow gets cleared and trash gets collected. In Toronto, the usual parade of horribles toward the mayor’s chair consists of tearful, lefty, bike helmet weenies who make New York’s Bill de Blasio look like Edmund Burke.

In this context, Ford was a welcome contrast. Since winning about half the vote in a crowded field in 2010, Ford has been the bete noire of the city’s leftists (essentially, the half who didn’t vote for him). Unable to claim his overwhelming victory was illegitimate, they have obsessed over and magnified his failings, real and perceived.

I recall attending a home game of Toronto’s NBA thunder-lizard squadron with a prominent liberal journalist pal a couple years back. Between educating me on player biographies and lamenting that they don’t call traveling anymore, he peppered me with questions about my feelings on Mayor Ford. I mostly shrugged in response and my left-wing interlocutor was flabbergasted that I was not as preoccupied and outraged by the man as he was.

At that point, while we could agree Ford’s bombastic style and nose-painting were a bit much, I never considered limited-government reforms at City Hall worthy of hyperventilation. In fact, I agreed with them. And, like many observers of the media, I am familiar with the phenomenon of journalists lambasting someone whose ideology they despise, while lionizing lightweights who share their values (example: George W. Bush is smarter than Barack Obama – discuss).

But smoking crack, lying about it, then claiming victimhood while clinging to your job like grim death are several bridges too far.