Not any more

Chris Selley: Rob Ford team reveals its dirty laundry while on a high

In Canada on November 9, 2010 at 09:50

Comment

The outrage in certain quarters at the Rob Ford campaign’s post-election revelations has been a bit precious. In case you haven’t heard: When the campaign learned that Mr. Ford had been caught on tape offering to help Dieter Doneit-Henderson score OxyContin (whoops, sorry, I just burst out laughing typing that sentence. Seriously, how amazing is it that Rob Ford is going to be mayor of Toronto?). Anyway, when the campaign learned about the tape, and that the Toronto Star was sitting on it, deputy communications director Fraser Macdonald set out to win Mr. Doneit-Henderson’s confidence, using a Twitter account he set up under the handle QueensQuayKaren, aka Karen Philby, who was purportedly a George Smitherman supporter.

It’s also since emerged that someone from Team Ford, masquerading as the fictional Ms. Philby, called the John Tory show in July and urged him, rather rudely, not to run. This was part of a co-ordinated campaign to keep Mr. Tory out of the race, Mr. Kouvalis explained on Friday, when he and Mr. Smitherman’s, Joe Pantalone’s and Rocco Rossi’s campaign directors sat down at a Public Affairs Association of Canada event and aired their dirty laundry.

Certainly it was a good idea to target Mr. Tory. Had he entered the race, it’s safe to say Mr. Ford’s chances would have been drastically slimmer.

But did they cross a line with their impersonations? “Did Ford campaign’s tricks knock Tory out?” the Star asked. Mr. Tory scoffed at the notion, as you’d expect. The idea that a random phone call would convince a seasoned politician to stay out of the race, or for that matter that a Star story about the OxyContin affair — shoot, I’m giggling again — would have sunk a man who seemed to actually have been buoyed in the polls by a DUI conviction, is preposterous. This was no dirtier than politics as usual.

That doesn’t make it right, of course. “I look at this stuff as being part of a much broader malaise infecting the political world right now,” Mr. Tory said last week.

And that’s the interesting thing. Mr. Ford capitalized on disdain for politicians even as his team partook of the tactics that contribute to it — and then they bragged about it. Why would practitioners of political dark arts reveal their magic? Especially when the magic is so garden-variety, and when convincing Mr. Tory not to run — which they probably didn’t even do — was so integral, by their own admission, to their win? “I’ll win you the election, sir, unless Joe Blow runs, in which case we’re screwed,” isn’t exactly what I’d want to hear from my campaign manager.

Clearly, Team Ford is rather pleased with themselves, and I don’t blame them. But partly, too, I suspect they’re blabbing because they know how much uncontrollable events and dumb luck have to do with success and failure in political campaigns. If Rob Ford can win, anyone can, assuming they capture the zeitgeist as well. Better get your name out there when you’re on a high.

But whatever the reason, I’m glad they’re running their mouths. The more ugly behind-the-scenes information we have about politics, the more likely people will be to demand better.

National Post

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