When I was a kid of six or seven, my folks piled my sister and me into the
family Rambler for a road trip to Niagara Falls. As kids, we generally traveled
pretty well, and aside from the mandatory “are we there yet?” every half hour,
we happily passed the miles with songs like One hundred bottles of beer and
games like “I am thinking.”
Unlike what we heard from so many of our
young friends after similar long-distance car expeditions, there was never a
need for Dramamine.
Almost the minute we crossed into Canada, though, I
was walloped by a wall of nausea that sent me straight to our motel room. Not
wanting to waste a 10-hour drive, my parents started splitting shifts. One took
my sister to get splashed on an observation deck next to the falls and even to
buy a neat snow globe with a winter scene of the place.
The other plied
me with cold compresses and warm ginger ale as I spent most of the next three
days observing first-hand the wonders of gastrointestinal
Canada had curling. I had hurling.
For the next couple
of decades, that would be the extent of my experience with the country, so it
should come as no surprise that for years, the general associations that came up
when thinking of our neighbor to the north involved little more than reverse
peristalsis and green bottles of room-temperature Canada Dry. I could not even
watch the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens slash at a hockey puck
without feeling a distinct sense of queasiness, it had been that
Unfortunately, the psychosomatic vestiges apparently remain. Of
late, Israel has been basking in the unseasonable Canadian warmth of Prime
Minister Stephen Harper, whose unbounded love professed for our nation has many
of us marveling like Sally Field at the Oscars: He likes us! He really likes us!
But me? For some peculiar reason, possibly because the flag involves a maple
leaf, all I can see is Toronto, that clean and tidy metropolis where just about
everything works except the mayor’s sense of propriety.
LIKE MANY others,
I’ve been watching Rob Ford. With his florid face, pendulum jowls and the belly
of two Buddhas, he certainly has a presence. Sadly for the mayor, though, that
presence appeared in a certain smartphone video.
The footage was
mentioned last May by the US political gossip blog Gawker and the Toronto Star
daily. In its coverage, the latter produced a still of the jovial Ford posing
with several young men in hoodies, none of whom seemed to be the type you might
find striding earnestly through the corridors of City Hall. There was also some
mention about the use of crack cocaine.
The denials were swift and sure.
“Not true,” was Ford’s vehement response to reporters the next day. “It’s
For months the mayor maintained this stance with a fierce
rigor, but on October 31, Toronto’s police chief admitted that the department
had the video. Not only that, the cops supposedly had a recording of one of the
young hoodied men talking about a crack deal he had made with Ford, the fruit of
a wiretap that was part of a wider investigation into local gangs. The recording
was said to have been made the day before two of the young men seen with Ford in
the Star photo were shot, one fatally, outside a local nightspot called the Loki
Still, Ford doubled down. But on November 5, at the height of a
media storm and after being deserted by key members of his staff, he came clean,
at least about his substance abuse.
“I have smoked crack cocaine,” he
told reporters. “Am I an addict? No. Have I tried it? Probably in one of
my drunken stupors.”
YES, FORD is utterly a buffoon. But look at our own
chambers of governance and authority and you’ll find quite a few people in power
who exhibit levels of buffoonery that far surpass his.
True, the guy
smoked crack and who knows what else, and he still blithely talks about binge
drinking like a freshman pledging for Animal House. But if you leave him (and,
presumably, his political career) out of the equation, his crimes have been of
the victimless variety.
That’s far more than you can say about many of
our own characters, who think nothing of abusing their power for purposes of
fraud, deceit and personal gain, victimizing other people in the process,
whether it’s a female employee or simply the taxpayer.
You also have to
give Ford credit for at least owning up to his transgressions.
we live, despite piles of surveillance tapes and wiretap recordings enshrining
in living color and Dolby sound the endless litany of their misdeeds, many pols
will go to their graves insisting they did nothing wrong. Statements like Ford’s
better-late-than-never “Have I tried it? Probably in one of my drunken stupors”
can certainly be viewed as a good, albeit lumpy, start toward contrition, and
perhaps even rehabilitation.
So while it might sound strange, I have to
admit that I actually would consider taking the mayor in trade for a few of our
own public servants and ward heelers. After all, there’s no shortage here of
those who pad their fiefdoms with relatives who failed to finish eighth grade,
who know where to go to ferret out funds to pay for lavish trips for themselves
and a retinue of insufferable hangers-on, who spend more time in back rooms
trolling for vote contractors than they do in the plenum casting their own
votes, who get cozy with lobbyists at the first indication of plummeting
popularity, or who don’t know how to keep roving hands and other appendages away
from the first female who walks through the door and happens not to be wearing a
burka – or any combination of the above and even all of the above.
them off, I say. Give them some fun money to enjoy a fine hotel and a lavish
meal in Toronto, and even to do the dry cleaning they’ve saved up for such
frolics at the public trough. Then cut them off.
And one more thing. From
what I gather, Ford can keep his city’s roads open and clear despite the bitter
weather of the season. As I look around Jerusalem at some of the remaining signs
of the Great Winter Storm more than two weeks after the last snowflake fluttered
to earth, I have to ask myself which is preferable – a fit and boyish-looking
mayor who can run a marathon backward each day on his way to work, or an obese,
florid-faced, loudmouthed crackhead who can at least keep his metropolis’s
traffic moving and its trash bins clean? It’s not really a hard
Mr. Ford, after they’ve run you out of town, drop me a line.
You might not be able to keep your nose clean, but you just might be able to
make our capital’s light rail run on time. Maybe you can even get the Red-Dead
Canal up and running or install an authority to prevent government waste. And
then there are the talks with the Pal...
On second thought, forget it.
Anyone who praises hard-working Asians by saying “I’m telling you, the Oriental
people, they’re slowly taking over” should probably be kept away from the
diplomatic front. If you don’t believe me, just take a few moments to watch a
certain foreign minister (who, by the way, has had a few brushes with the law
Beyond that, all I ask is no fond recollections of the old
country. They’re liable to make me feel almost as queasy as our local crooked