Now that there is nothing funny about the story of Councillor Rob Ford, every detail of his sickening slide becomes simply awful.
Coaching his toddler to say "no comment" in a doorstop interview after his arrest on a domestic assault charge; drunkenly abusing hockey fans at the Air Canada Centre, including one woman he suggested "go over to Iran and get raped and shot;" lying baldly about having done so, angrily accusing the same woman and her husband of character assassination; calling one colleague "Gino-boy" and another "a waste of skin;" condemning cyclists killed by cars for using roads; blandly carrying on business as usual while his lawyer goes on television to denounce the "irrational behaviour" of the woman he allegedly threatened to kill; two children in his custody.
The slide never stops. Try as they might, witnesses cannot look away.
Last month Mr. Ford revived the spectre of the Yellow Peril with comments about "those Oriental people" who "work like dogs" and threaten to take over the world. Called to apologize yesterday by Council Speaker Sandra Bussin, he doubled down into the muck.
"At no time did I ever offend the Asian community by giving them a compliment," he boasted, allowing only that he "might have" innocently used the word Oriental. "I'm not changing my views on the Asian people," he added. "They do work very hard and they are very, very aggressive."
To clinch his triumph, Mr. Ford produced a grocery store flyer. "At No Frills, they're advertising Oriental flavour 100 per cent pure corn starch," he said, his eyes gleaming hotly.
Mr. Ford said he would "proudly retract" his statement if, in fact, he had offended anybody. Informed by the Speaker that he had done that and more, he refused to do so. He squirmed and wriggled, arguing that retracting a word he "might have" used, but which was perfectly innocent in any case, was tantamount to an apology to the people who weren't offended anyway, and in fact had encouraged him not to apologize.
But it's not funny any more. Recent events confirm that the Rob Ford farce is the public face of personal tragedy. Watching is ghoulish, not watching impossible.
Worse, it's not over. There will be no discreet drawing of curtains at the disordered Etobicoke homestead, no agreed statement of facts, no quiet healing abetted by non-judging professionals. There will be a circus. Mr. Ford's lawyer has virtually promised it.
The Crown will almost certainly oblige.
Is that what the man's defenders really want? One can understand the loyalty of constituents Mr. Ford has helped. But the barstool philosophers who egg him on - transforming this sad, patently unintelligent figure into some kind of ideological hero - should think twice. Every power structure needs its unruly dissidents, but at some point, like now, encouragement becomes tantamount to abuse.
City hall won't miss Mr. Ford if he resigns - or, better still, takes a sabbatical of which nobody could disapprove. He made a lot of noise about spending abuses but never tried to reform them, alienating both those who shared his views and those he opposed. He preferred to lose votes in a blaze of dissipating glory to the hard work of winning one or two. He was a stage show for the amusement of the masses.
But it's not funny any more. The Rob Ford show is rushing to an ugly ending.