Why does he do the things he does? How does he get away with it? How does one man have enough gaffs to sink any 20 politicians, but can still stand well enough to be a contender and hold on to his job in the next election? I'm more than halfway though Robyn Dolittle's book Crazy Town, and I still don't know the answer to those questions and many more. What I do know is that no matter anything else that might be going on, Mayor Rob Ford just can't stop himself.
Meaning? Well, in a week that included the release of a not-so-flattering book that was all about him, the Mayor got busted jaywalking in Vancouver, got caught in repeated acts of drunken clubbing while supposedly being in B.C. to attend a memorial for a friend's mom, he proudly and pointedly stated his refusal to attend Pride 2014, and then made a fuss about the hoisting of a Pride flag at City Hall to protest Russia's anti-gay laws before taping up a Canadian flag in his office window in protest to the protest. And then today, there was this...
Yes, "Ford Nation" is back, and it's... Better(?) than ever. For probably the first time, the Ford Brothers - Mayor Rob and Councillor Doug - appear in a YouTube video that doesn't spotlight whatever accidental bits of insanity that befall them. Nope, this insanity is all scripted.
The show appears in a couple of 2 to 4 minute segments and covers a variety of topics including why Doug is so great, who will win the Stanley Cup, and, yes, why Rob lied about the substance abuse problem he doesn't, according to him, have.
The first video, which is embedded above, starts warmly enough with the Fords introducing themselves as if we've never heard about them before ever. There's a lot of love for Toronto, and Doug quotes an unnamed survey that says Toronto's the number one city to work in, and the number two city to live in, and guess what? It's all because of the Fords! That's when the lies begin. Rob claims that Toronto's taxes have been lower under his watch than previous administrations (they haven't), there hasn't been any strike or labour unrest (there has been), and that they've saved the city $1 billion (they haven't) and that's from the Chief Financial Officer (it isn't). He then promised three more subways in his second term, even though he hasn't yet fully funded the one he's already gotten approved.
In video two, Doug Ford bragged about being the only politician to donate his salary back to the community, which is part of the Ford mythology. Just like how Rob the Councillor would brag about spending $10 of his office budget while paying for office supplies out of his own pocket, Doug forgets one very important thing: he's rich, and most everyone else on city council isn't. To the Fords though, they're true blue. They put "Service above self" at all times even though Rob is "two steps to the right of Attila the Hun," in terms of his fiscal conservatism. "I look out for everyone," Rob added, it doesn't matter your political persuasion.
Following an ad for the toning apparatus Flex Belt (of all kakamimi things), the Fords went into parody mode. Doug has some questions submitted to them via e-mail, and some of them are hardballs, so Doug's going for one of those, just like the Toronto media. "We have some vicious media in this city," he opines. "No, no, they're all great," says Rob in a practical after thought-like whisper. "That's what you want to believe," snaps back Doug.
After claiming to have received thousands of e-mails from people around the world, they chose to read a query from "Sandra in Bankok, Thailand." I'm not sure if they meant Bangkok, or if there's a Bankok in Thailand (Google assures me I mean "Bangkok"), but it cued up the question a lot of people want to know an answer to: "Why did you lie about your substance abuse problem when you were initially asked?" Basically, it comes down to this: Rob Ford doesn't have a substance abuse problem, everybody lies, he was embarrassed, and that's the truth because "that's as straightforward as I can be," said Ford.
And after that brief 1 minute and 50 second segment, the Fords spent twice as long pondering the chances of various NHL teams at winning the Stanley Cup, and the state of Canadian hockey. For Rob, it comes down to a matter of Canadians not playing physically enough, "You've got to hit 'em," Ford says, but you know, cleanly. In fairness, I think this segment was the most lively for the brothers, perhaps because they finally got comfortable in front of the camera, or perhaps because Rob only really shines when he's talking about sports.
You can watch the rest on the Ford Nation YouTube channel, just don't expect to be able to post any comments or offer feedback. That's the nature of Ford Nation, of course, they're always right, and critics are haters who are drunk on the gravy train. But this is a strategy that works well for the Fords, shut everything out that focus on the echo chamber because if you say something enough times, just enough people will start repeating it without question. One of the most irksome things about Ford's recent scandals is that no one demanded of him an explanation as to why he was giving more access to the "Sports Junkies" radio show in Washington D.C. than all of the media outlets in his home town combined. There's a couple of answers, and they're both correct, but I think the question should have been right there in the mayor's face.
It remains to be seen if this latest experiment with direct marketing will work for the Fords. I think it's fair at this point to say that nothing much more can hurt Ford's chances, so the real question is if whether or not it will help. Can Ford appeal to the people in the centre that he needs to win the mayor's office once more? It's still a long race.