Hartley: Cracking the lies of the Canadian Marion Barry
I’m going to start this week’s column with an admission: To the best of my knowledge, I have never smoked crack. I suppose there’s a chance I may have smoked some involuntarily, but since I have never seen crack, wouldn’t know where to look for it in the first place and don’t smoke, I think it’s unlikely crack made it into my lungs without me realizing it. Still, you never know.
There exists the possibility, however remote, that I unwittingly inhaled crack smoke one time at a party when I wasn’t paying attention enough to say, “Holy crap! People are smoking crack at this party. What the hell am I doing here?” I like to think that had I ever been at such a party, I would have had sense enough to leave rather than partake in the smoking, but that’s just me.
I can totally understand why someone else — say, a heroin addict, meth-head, Uzi-toting gangsta or mayor of a major city — might feel right at home in a crack house. I’ve always imagined crack houses to be inhospitable places with rotting furniture, a palpable air of danger and perhaps a dead prostitute or two in the corner, but the truth is I don’t actually know. Maybe they’re like Four Seasons resorts, only with more drugs and worse dental hygiene.
So why am I talking about crack so much this week? It’s because I am so proud of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for finally coming clean and admitting to the world that he did, indeed, smoke some. It takes a big man (I mean that figuratively, as the portly Ford is plenty large enough already in the literal sense) to admit to doing something so colossally stupid, but what really impressed me was the chutzpah with which Ford disclosed the information.
If you’ve been following this story, you may recall that allegations of Ford’s drug use first surfaced in May when a writer for Gawker.com reported that he’d seen a video of Ford smoking crack. At the time, Ford dismissed the story, saying, “These allegations are ridiculous.” One week later, Ford had this to say on the matter: “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.”
Fast forward to last week, and Ford, under persistent questioning from Canada’s notoriously polite and friendly media, finally cracked (get it?). Standing in front of his City Hall office, the thick-necked Ford admitted to smoking crack “maybe a year ago,” while he was the mayor of Toronto.
When asked why he’d lied about his drug use, Ford said — and this is where the chutzpah comes in — “I wasn’t lying. You (the media) didn’t ask the correct questions.”
Really? How awesome is that? That’s right out of the Bill Clinton “define sexual relations” playbook. The media asked the wrong questions. So “Did you smoke crack?” was somehow not the right question to ask to ascertain whether someone smoked crack? That’s rich.
Obviously, we can expect there to be some political fallout over this whole affair, but I don’t think Ford needs to be terribly concerned. If history is any precedent, this whole crack-smoking thing might amount to little more than a speed bump in Ford’s career.
Some of you may recall back in 1990 when Marion Barry, then the mayor of Washington, D.C., was videotaped smoking crack and ended up spending six months in a federal prison on drug charges. Normally, one would expect such a transgression to be the end of someone’s political aspirations, but not only did the people of D.C. not care that much, but they actually re-elected Barry in 1994, and he was named “mayor for life” by an alternative weekly publication called the Washington City Paper.
Now I’m not saying Ford is like Barry, who is so popular in D.C. that the Washington Post wrote, “To understand the District of Columbia, one must understand Marion Barry.” The people of Toronto might despise Ford as much as Canadians are capable of despising anything, but they’re still Canadians, dadgummit, and they can’t really be separated from their compassionate attitudes and impeccable manners.
So expect Ford to weather this particular storm just fine. Sure, an outraged citizen or two might refer to him as a “hoser” for the next few months or so, but when he comes up for re-election, don’t bet against him. If the cynical residents of D.C. can forgive a guy like Barry, Ford should have no problem winning back the sweet, earnest people of Toronto.
Todd Hartley reminds you that if you have a crack problem, wearing a belt could help. To read more or leave a comment, please visit http://www.zerobudget.net.
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