For a while there, it looked as if Mayor Rob Ford was making a comeback. His weight was down and he looked healthier and trimmer. He was working out. He seemed on the ball during the ice-storm crisis, appearing daily to reassure the public about relief and repair efforts.
Now this. The latest Ford video demolishes his claim that he is clean, sober and fit to lead the city. He curses the chief of police. He rants, rambles and slurs his words. He speaks in a Jamaican accent and peppers his tirade with crude slang.
It is another weird, embarrassing episode in the ongoing reality show that is the mayoralty of Rob Ford. The script is repetitive. Just when it looks as if things are getting back to semi-normal again, the Ford story blows up, late-night comics lick their chops and Torontonians shake their heads. Can this really be happening again? When will it all end?
In past blowups, Mr. Ford has at least apologized for his behaviour and asked Toronto to forgive and forget. This time he didn't even bother.
"What I do in my personal life and with my personal friends, that's up to me," he said as he pushed his way through the media horde outside his office. "This really has nothing to do with … you guys. It's my own time."
But, of course, his personal conduct is very much the issue and has been at least since he admitted last fall to smoking crack cocaine in a drunken stupor. He said then that he had done wrong and promised to clean up his act. He went further: He said he was giving up drinking altogether. "I'll guarantee that … guaranteed, 100 per cent," he told CP24's Stephen LeDrew. Now he admits that he was drinking and says it is none of anyone's business.
Mr. Ford is hardly the first person to fall off the wagon after taking the pledge to stop drinking. The bottle is a tyrant and few people overthrow it with a snap of the fingers. After the mayor's admission on Tuesday afternoon, city councillors were once again pleading with him to get help. Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said Mr. Ford should take a pause to tend to himself. "If it's happened once, it may happen again."
Indeed it may, and the results could be worse than another viral video featuring our infamous chief magistrate. Did the mayor drive himself to the fast-food joint where he delivered his rant? If so, he could have endangered not just himself, but others. If not, why did his driver and security guy let him go out in such a state? The mayor did not give clear answers in his brief encounter with the media, although he seemed to say he was not behind the wheel.
The incident raises other troubling questions. Where does Mr. Ford draw the line between public and private? Does he think it is all right to behave the way he did in public? Has he given up on his promise to quit drinking, or does he claim this was just a lapse? What was he trying to say about police Chief Bill Blair? Will he at least apologize for his vulgar attack on the city's top law enforcement officer? It is a relevant question as city council prepares to debate the city budget, including the allotment for police.
A second video, showing Mr. Ford meeting with pal Alessandro Lisi, casts still more doubt on his judgment. With his choice of associates already under such scrutiny, why on earth would he meet with a man facing drug and extortion charges? Can he be that reckless?
Tuesday's events certainly vindicate city council's decision last fall to strip the mayor of most of his powers. By rights, he should have stepped down long ago, or at least taken a leave to get himself in order. Instead, we have this ongoing civic drama – strange, more than a little funny, but ultimately tiresome and sad.
In this latest video, Mr. Ford utters the word "cha." The Urban Dictionary defines it as: "To show annoyance or frustration at a specified event or person, usually put onto the end of an aforementioned sentence, used as a verbal alternative to a sigh."
Toronto knows the feeling.