Sympathy for Rob Ford

Rob FordSince early yesterday, I’ve been wanting to talk about Rob Ford’s admission that he smoked crack cocaine. But before I get to that, I want to clarify something. Ford is a terrible human being. He represents everything that is wrong with conservatism. In addition to everything else—but this is core—he shows no empathy for others. But I have a lot of empathy for him. I’m sure you’ve seen the video of him where he goes back to throw a football and then falls down. Or just look through Gawker’s 39 Breathtaking Photos of North America’s Most Photogenic Mayor. Despite everything, he’s most clearly a loser who doesn’t fit in anywhere.

So the fact that he gets shitfaced every night is hardly surprising. And as we all know, when you are shitfaced, you tend to do things you would not normally do: take illegal drugs, sleep with your sister-in-law, run for mayor of Toronto. So I’m more than willing to believe that Rob Ford only smoked crack once that he can remember. And I don’t doubt that he is not a crack addict, although some people want to define the use of any non-approved drug as addiction. He might want to get some help on the drinking or, you know, just cut back a bit. That’s up to him.

People have claimed that he lied before, but he didn’t. I remember thinking when the scandal first broke, “These guys are asking the wrong questions.” What does it even mean to ask Ford if he was a crack addict? That’s at best a value judgement. It seemed strange that I never heard anyone ask him the very simple question, “Have you ever smoked crack?” (Someone might have yelled it at some point, but I didn’t hear it.) Even yesterday, the question was, “Do you smoke crack cocaine?” Well, Ford had to finesse that question to make the admission he wanted. Because if he has only smoked crack once a year ago, then he does not, in fact, “smoke” cocaine; he “smoked” cocaine. I would think reporters would be smarter about this kind of stuff.

I don’t really see the outrage here. Let’s suppose he is telling the truth and he only did crank that one time. It’s a problem because it is a felony. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty minor. It’s not even up there with Eliot Spitzer going to prostitutes multiple times. And it is hard to see how it hurt his job performance. But the constant drinking? That seems far worse. The man has been making law in at least some state of inebriation. But as long as it never ended in a night of crack smoking, the media didn’t care. That strikes me as very messed up.

Look, I understand why the comedians are all over this. For one thing, can anyone watch Rob Ford for more than a minute and not think, “Hey, he’s a lot like Chris Farley!” But you know, Chris Farley if he had been drunk all the time. And the story is delicious. I think Stephen Colbert did a particularly good job of it:

But for the rest of us, I think a certain amount of understanding is in order. And I say this knowing full well that if the situation were reversed, Rob Ford would show me no such understanding. But that’s the thing about liberals: we’re better people. Conservatives should be restricted to work that doesn’t require empathy. Things like accounting and garbage collection. But the fact of the matter is that Rob Ford is just a very famous person who is being tarred by our ridiculous and hypocritical beliefs about drugs. And in that way, he is no less deserving of our sympathy than anyone else.


For the record, I don’t buy that Rob Ford only smoked crack that one time. The video of that one time was available? And what about the people he was with? They didn’t look like his normal drinking buddies. But it doesn’t really matter to me. Toronto needs a new mayor, but not because of his crack smoking.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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