05.03.2014 02:20 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: Rob Ford ain’t beaten yet, Toronto

On a typically cold January day, the man steps into room 727 at the hotel, which is located right downtown. He has come there, a bit reluctantly, at the request of his former girlfriend.

He wants to have sex, she doesn’t. So they lounge on the bed, reminiscing about old times. He asks her about sex, and possibly having sex with her travelling companion, too. “Does she mess around?” he asks.

She thinks he is asking about drugs, not sex. “She has some,” she says. “Yeah, sometimes. She doesn’t do a lot. She toots [cocaine] more than she’ll do anything else.”

“Mmm,” he says, absent-mindedly, then adds that he doesn’t “have anything.” He asks her: “What about you?”

She goes to the bathroom, and finally returns with some crack. They urge each other to go first. She demurs, saying the crack would make her too “hyper.” After a moment or two, he takes two long drags on the pipe. He then puts it down and reaches for his coat.

“Let’s go downstairs and meet your friend. Come on,” he says. And – just as he is calling his security detail, to tell them that he is ready to leave – men carrying guns swarm into the room. They grab him and put him in handcuffs and read him his rights. He, the mayor of the big city, is going to jail.

Oh, it’s not who you think it is. It’s not him.

It is, instead, what really happened on January 18, 1990, at the Vista Hotel – now the Westin – in Washington, D.C. The woman was Hazel Moore, a former addict who found religion and became an FBI informant. He, of course, was Marion Barry, mayor of Washington, D.C. Caught on a grainy, black-and-white video, smoking crack cocaine.

Everyone in the world, pretty much, would later see the video, and marvel. Lots of editorials and letters-to-the-editor would be written, none of them particularly complementary to Marion Barry. Because the police in the United States don’t mess around about these things, Barry would be charged with counts of perjury, and drug possession, and conspiracy.

He continued as mayor, however. Shortly before Election Day in 1990, Barry was sentenced to six months for one of the drug possession counts. He served his time, and was released from a federal prison in April 1992.

A few weeks later, Marion Barry filed papers to run for a city council seat. Guess what? He won. And he’d go on to win again and again and again – as a councilor, as mayor. He won even when reports started to circulate, yet again, about cocaine and other drugs being found in his possession.

It’s amazing, the Marion Barry story. But – perhaps, maybe – it also isn’t.

Politics is war without bloodshed, someone named Chairman Mao once said. Journalists come down from the hills after the battle is over, someone named Murray Kempton once said, and shoot the wounded. Politics, with its war rooms and whatnot, is replete with metaphors about war and killing.

The people, meanwhile, are apparently more forgiving than politicians or journalists. They have a better understanding of human failings. They are wired differently than the hacks or the flaks. The people get weary of all the political bloodshed, and all the shooting of the wounded. They forgive and forget.

Marion Barry probably didn’t expect that, back in January 1990 in that hotel room at the Vista. The FBI agents and police officers leaping over the bed to get at him probably didn’t expect that, either. They – the mayor, the cops, even poor old Hazel – probably thought Marion Barry was royally screwed. That he was done like dinner.

Well, he wasn’t.

Something to think about, as the madness and the mayhem continue, unabated, here in crazy town.

Something to think about.



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    Matt says:

    I just shook my head when I saw some clips of people like Toronto councillors Paula Fletcher, Janet Davis and Joe Mehevic barely able to contain their glee at the news Ford was taking a leave to go to rehab.

    His detractors on comment boards calling the people who voted him in knuckle draggers, uneducated rednecks, ect.

    That kind of stuff is a good way to ensure people will go out and vote for him again.

    Fletcher was almost orgasmic in her delight that if Ford misses three consecutive council meetings he loses the mayors chair unless council votes to grant him an exemption, which the most certainly would not. That would be a massive mistake IMHO.

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    Andy says:

    New Ford saga item > leaves for rehab > Ontario Election called > mayoral campaigns go into holding pattern > Ontario Election > end of school year > To electorate tune out for summer vacation in July – Aug > mayoral campaigns start up full force in Sept > New/reformed/penitent RF paraded in City > TO Election >> Result ???

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    Paul Brennan says:

    Toronto the new Washington….

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    Steve T says:

    The situation with Marion Barry proved the occasional hiccups with democracy. Put more bluntly, sometimes voters are f**king idiots. You get the government you deserve, I suppose. I’ve always been curious as to why someone who has gone to rehab (or has given up gang-banging; or has been paroled) is more deserving of adulation than someone who never made those bad choices in the first place.

    If Toronto re-elects a clean, shiny, re-habbed Rob Ford, they too will prove their idiocy.

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      Just askin' says:

      Most simply put:

      “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'” – Luke 15

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        Bob says:

        I’m all for celebrating someone who has come home after being lost. But as the story goes, the son only gets a celebration; he has squandered his inheritance and does not get it back. He probably shouldn’t be reelected as Mayor either.

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      davidray says:

      Bingo. That’s why I could never watch “The Soprano’s”

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    JH says:

    Right on Warren! I always cringe everytime I read comments insulting voters who support a particular party. The though always occurs, ‘ do these folks think they are convincing people to vote for their guy or gal when they continually insult them like this?’ I think not.
    In terms of forgiveness or not: candidates, elections, whatever – for the average person, not the loyalists, the academics, the big guns, those hoping to profit in some way or another, the whole voting decision is often a matter of relateability. Remember all politics is local, so who among my choices on the ballot in front of me do I relate to best? Who do I feel best represents my needs, my wishes, my ideas?
    As for the press, talk to any 10 people on any street in Canada and you’ll find how low they rate in public esteem. Never used to be like that, but in the 24/7 news cycle they all talk about, their pettiness and nastiness has become quickly evident. Talk about familiarity breeding contempt!

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    Pat Jackson says:

    The Cult of Expediency. In the documentary, the Nine Lives of Marion Barry, Jesse Jackson says, “Marion was one of us, he was a marching picketing protesting freedom-riding risk-taking young man who had that fire.” Jesse Jackson likes risk. After 909 Peoples Temple members died via “revolutionary suicide” at the urging of Mao-inspired Jim Jones, Jackson refused to disparage Jones, stating that he still considered Jones to be a man that “worked for the people.” (One speculates that this risk culture is the psychological driver that led Jesse Jackson Jr. to “misuse” close to a million dollars from supporters; he was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.)

    None of the Liberal elites that supported Jones publicly denounced him. Mayor Moscone defended his appointment of Jones as Chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority, stating that Jones’ reputation was that of a man who believed in social justice and that the Peoples Temple had initiated programs for drug rehabilitation. Moscone became angry (an actually diligent press is always a problem for the powers-that-be) when a reporter asked him if he was culpable; Moscone stated, “I’m not taking any responsibility, it’s not mine to shoulder!” Activist Harvey Milk stated that “Guyana was a great experiment that didn’t work. I don’t know, maybe it did. “Willie Brown continued to praise Jones and stated he had “no regrets” over his past association with the Temple and that he would not dissociate himself from it. “They all like to say, ‘Forgive me, I was wrong’, but that’s bulls—t. It doesn’t mean a thing now, it just isn’t relevant.” Denial is everything.

    By the end of Nine Lives, there is no sense of triumphalism. Barry’s 14-year-old godson Dennis Harvey can’t hide his disappointment and is disturbing to watch. Admitting that his friends give him a hard time because his godfather is a crack addict, Dennis adds, “He apologized, he said he would never do it again, which he did.” The boy’s face reveals his pain, and his utter belief in the promise. The entire exposé of the Peoples Temple was a lone article produced by two investigative journalists – Marshall Kilduff and Phil Tracy – against a blizzard of puff pieces. Rob Ford may bluster on like Barry. Or, if things get too hot, he may, like the paranoid and drug addicted Jim Jones, self-destruct, perhaps taking down a whole bunch of people with him. It may be that as shocking as Rob Ford’s transgressions seem, his opponents may have their own even darker transgressions that put them offside with greater powers. Anyway, only children believe promises; adults should look carefully at the promisor. Investigative journalists? They trust no one, follow the money, (Deep Throat was FBI) and live to watch another illusionary political juggernaut implode before it consumes more human sacrifices. The eternal struggle I suppose.

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    islandcynic says:

    This isn’t just about addiction. It’s about Ford’s personal belief’s around racism, misogyny and homophobia. If that many voters relate to that then Canada is in real trouble.

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      TrueNorthist says:

      This is where Ford is most vulnerable; his racism, homophobia and deep-seated bigotry. As Warren points out there are many things one can be forgiven for, but any one of those are fatal, regardless of politics. If I were running against Ford I would hammer him on these areas immediately and constantly, using his own words and little else.

      I can envision an ad, showing slow pans of 2 or 3 shots of Ford in one of his stupors, while his own spoken words are played back, with subtitles. Have a warning at the beginning for the graphic graphic nature of the ad (will grab full attention) and insert at the end: My name is (x) and I fully disapprove of this man’s thinking, or something along those lines. Run them now, while he is off on his secret bender. Don’t give him or his friends any breathing room. Rest assured they would do the same to you if they could.

      Another thing to be sure of — he will not be clean nor sober when he gets back. He may be on the wagon for a short time, but he will never, ever be sober. He just does not possess the self-control to do that. He will always sneak off and get hammered if given the chance.

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        debs says:

        very True, True!

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    Laura says:

    Exactly. Nobody cares about the crack and the alcoholism – addiction is a disease and I truly wish Ford well in his recovery – we care about the pathological lying (does he ever tell the truth?), the misogyny, the racism, the homophobia, the fact that he barely shows up to City Hall, his juvenile behaviour during council meetings and, my personal favourite, the drunk driving. If he wants to smoke crack, well, it’s only his life he’s putting at risk but when he drives drunk he is risking the life of every single other person on the road or sidewalk. That I can’t forgive.

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      debs says:

      its baffling how he ever made it this far, Money really can buy alot in politics.

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