Mayor Rob Ford and his defenders want us to cut him some slack. The mayor admits he had "a couple of beers" when he visited the Taste of the Danforth festival on Friday night, "but you know what, I had a good time." If he "let my hair down a bit," then so what?
His outgoing deputy, Doug Holyday, says that the mayor is just "human like the rest of us." His brother, Doug Ford, says that "Rob and I are average guys ... We go down to the festival, we have a couple of beers."
The trouble, of course, is that Rob Ford is not just an average guy. He is the guy who sits in the mayor's chair.
What is more, he is a guy who has allegations of drug use and other dubious behaviour hanging over him.
Even though the allegations are unproven, many questions remain. You would think that at a time like this, the mayor would be bending backward to avoid any kind of trouble. Instead, he takes some drink and strolls down the street on his own, drawing a crowd as he goes.
If nothing else, this incident – the latest in a long series – shows a lack of judgment. It's not that a mayor should be prohibited from having a little fun. But all public officials have to take care how they act when they are out and about, and that goes double for an official with a history like Mr. Ford's, with so many people watching for what he might do next.
As city councillor Sarah Doucette puts it, "We are in public office. We know we are going to be watched." Besides, "he represents the city."
Mr. Holyday complains that Mr. Ford attracts more attention than any other politician. There's a reason for that. It's not that he faces a hostile media. It is that he keeps doing things that draw attention.
Each time things seem to be calming down for his mayoralty, back he comes again to squirt some lighter fluid on the dying embers of the fire. What kind of person in his position, facing persistent questions about his conduct, risks making a spectacle of himself at a public festival?
For that matter, what kind of mayor shows up at a jail unannounced after hours and asks for a tour? This is the second bit of news in the ongoing Ford telenovela.
According to a report in Monday's Globe, the mayor appeared at the Toronto West Detention Centre at about 7 p.m. on March 25 and asked if he could go on a tour. When he was told no, the report says, he asked to meet Bruno Bellissimo, an inmate of the jail at the time. That request was declined, too.
Despite questions put to him and his staff both verbally and in writing, the mayor has declined to explain. It is his response – or lack of it – that makes this such a mysterious incident.
If it was an innocent attempt to visit an old friend in times of trouble, why wouldn't Mr. Ford simply say so? His silence breeds suspicion. What was he doing at the jail that night?
Similarly troubling is his continued refusal to say what he was doing with three men shown beside him in a photograph that is associated with reports of a drug video. One of the men is dead, two have since been arrested. The man who was shopping the video around to the media, we recently learned, was later stabbed in prison.
Mr. Ford has repeatedly rebuffed questions about the whole business, though he said after the affair broke open that he does not use crack cocaine.
It would be easier to cut him some slack if he made an attempt to explain himself and clear the cloud hanging over him. Instead, he goes for a stroll on the Danforth and gets the whole city talking about his behaviour again. Once again, Rob Ford's troubles are of his own making.