I knew Rob Ford was lying as sure as I know the colour of my daughter's green eyes. I knew it because I'd heard him lie before, and also because the latest outrageous behaviour this councillor horribilis stood accused of -- being such a drunken lout at a Leafs game on Easter weekend that security guards removed him from the Air Canada Centre -- sounded typical.
But he denied the story outright when asked about it on Monday by both The Globe and the Star. Mr. Ford said he hadn't been to a Leafs game in months, and accused unnamed enemies of trying to smear him with outrageous slander.
I was even more certain he was lying after talking to his accuser, an out-of-towner who had never heard of Rob Ford before April 15 and thought long and hard before writing a letter of complaint to city clerk Ulli Watkiss. Titled "A Rare Night Out," it told of a big-city treat ruined by the "belligerence and obscenities" of a nearby spectator who, before security guards finally came up to get him, obligingly left behind a business card identifying himself as Councillor Rob Ford, City of Toronto.
"As soon as I checked out his picture on the website the next day I knew with 100-per-cent certainty it was definitely him," the complainant told me. "My wife felt the exact same way."
And if you read their letter, you'd know why they complained. In addition to recording lunatic rants about "right-wing Communist bastards," it described a personal attack launched when the letter writer asked "the large gentleman" to "tone it down a little."
"Who the fuck do you think you are?" the large gentleman responded. "Are you a fucking teacher?" Failing to get any response, he turned his attention to the man's wife. "Do you want your little wife to go over to Iran and get raped and shot?"
Obviously it was Rob Ford. Nobody who has observed the man in action could fail to recognize the authentic and inimitable voice of the biggest buffoon in Toronto. Obviously he was lying when he denied even being at the game.
As Tom Jakobek once proved, the short, sharp lie is a formidable weapon in local politics -- even when it only serves to buy enough time to enlist potential corroborators. But Rob Ford is no Tricky Tom, who kept a team of top lawyers and investigators busy for more than a year before they finally managed to nail him. When Rob Ford tries to think, you can almost hear the rusty cogs grinding.
Yesterday morning I figured one good day's dirty work would be enough to crack him. His published denial in the Star would get the rest of the pack up and yelping. So it was labour-saving, not to mention sensible, when Mr. Ford began the day by admitting the story told against him was 100-per-cent true, to the first reporter who asked him.
Sweaty and unshaven at city hall soon after, he apologized to the letter-writers and any others he may have offended with his drunken tirade, dozens of whom had cheered when ACC security led him away.
"I made a mistake. I'm only human."
"Why did you lie?" I asked him.
"I felt embarrassed," he said.
No apology for that, then.
The problem here is not that Mr. Ford was once again belligerent and appalling, constantly spouting what the letter-writer described perceptively as "extremely asinine comments." That's just normal. It's barely news. The problem is the lie -- bald and bold, as the automatic reflex of an elected politician sworn by many elaborate oaths to safeguard the public trust.
Is that the new normal?
In a better world, Mr. Ford would be voted out of office by outraged constituents. But this is city politics. Every incumbent's seat is always safe.
And just think, Premier Dalton McGuinty is right now extending the municipal term of office from three to four years -- with no limits on the number of consecutive terms any politician can enjoy. That is the tragedy of the Rob Ford farce.