Friday, March 25, 2016



There are hurricanes of facts and fictions about the flawed former mayor of Toronto and the fraudulent leader in the U. S. presidential race.
For once there is no need to spend any time regurgitating biographies to point out the holes and lies in  their supposed public histories.
Which is a relief since one of the curses of social media today, and in the activist world of NGOs and loudmouths, is that so many rushing to their judgment really don't know the basics of the performers and the issues.
Even in the media.
I am embarrassed hourly by the columnists and commentators who lurch to their keyboards and microphones to repeat ad nauseam the same old stuff without ever sniffing out a new insight.
There were weeks in my decades of journalism when I had to perform so often I was tired and hoarse and stretched -  six columns, seven editorials, one CBC radio commentary and one CBC TV show was not an unusual week.
Yet I always tried to go beyond the flavour-of-the-day in news. (Once when I cheated, the Sun president complained to the publisher that my column, editorial, and commentary were the same, and I felt really guilty because, after all, he was blind.)
So I will spare you a recitation of what you should know already if you actually have been paying attention and unlike the great majority, shoot your mouth off without having any bullets.
I want to emphasize the similar reality of the success behind Ford and Trump - the anti-politicians  perceived as not being phoney crooks like all the other candidates.
 It worked for Ford because he really was frugal with public money. It works for Trump because he appears to be so rich that he won't line his pockets too much with public millions.
The street guys and gals liked Ford despite his bloat, and Trump despite that silly and bizarre hair because it was obvious from those appearances that they really didn't give a damn.
So there was a loyal Ford Nation despite huge flaws as large as his stomach. And Trump rides high while cheating and exaggerating and bluffing more than a drunk at closing time.
The huge difference is that Ford's success was rooted in shyness while Trump probably performs for the bathroom mirror.
Ford was the anti-bullshitter, while having some talent for BS. Trump oozes bullshit but since so much of his bluster is aimed at what the ordinary Joe perceives as the Establishment, he is excused because he says what his fans would love to bellow in the official ear.
 Ford felt most comfortable with ordinary folks who needed help. That's why he returned calls for aid or showed up towing uncomfortable officials. He couldn't get hurt there, not like on the floor of council where his ignorance on an issue could be exposed. It soothed his soul to have people crowd him on the street or at games and events because he could perform in a protective bubble of goodwill and good spirits.
I think his dysfunctional family, led by a father they idolized but I thought one of the dullest politicians I ever met, and a rough, rude mother, and his failures in school and sport, that his shyness and distrust meant he trusted only himself.
Trump feels most comfortable when he's yammering and everyone else has to listen. That's when he's controlling the agenda and can reduce the number of questions that will reveal this would-be emperor has no clothes and very bad hair. Criticism and challenges roll off his back of confident ego because he figures his zealots really don't remember or really understand the complicated stuff. .
It doesn't come as a surprise to any journalist who has spent a lot of time around public figures, whether they be actors or premiers or super jocks, that away from strutting on their stage, some can be almost painfully shy and withdrawn.
I was among the many critics of grandstanding Mel Lastman and called him Supermouth so often, it was repeated by colleagues. Yet we would chat often in quiet peace in the corner at public events where all he wanted to do was go home and put his feet up and perhaps watch himself in Bad Boy TV ads.
Of course he had an enormous ego, the craving for attention so that he would not be ignored, but there was also a driven side, that often he forced himself to this public persona. Same with Ford.
So Ford sought his escape in addiction, and in the blue-and-white world of sports, preferring kid football (he pretended there had been college football) to being "bamboozled" - or so he thought -  by the experts with their degrees and their boasted credentials.
Ford was stubborn because he was wary of change that came from the Establishment and not his gut. He wanted to fight his battles on his turf and on his terms without oratory.
He rode hobbyhorses like getting rid of deals for politicians because they were safe. As CNE president, I would huddle with him after his usual spiels about stopping freebies for councillors and it would be a gentle talk without the bombast. He had done his bit and let's talk about something else.
Since the family was wealthy, it was an easy hit for him to be a tight-fisted conservative in public policy and personal spending, BUT it was also comfortable, the way he really felt.
Obviously the devils didn't just claw at him in the wee hours and he sought refuge for years, like so many, in drugs and booze and marching to a populist drummer. I was told about his curses by police sources years before the Star's front page because they feared his stubborn independence.
Now we will never know if his attempts to put this behind him was bedevilled  by his system being compromised by the birth of that deadly cancer.
Canada has had spectacular redemption in its major politicians beginning with our first prime minister, Sir John A., who was an obvious drunk. Yet his notorious binges ended and he didn't drink in his last years.
There is the famous shout by opponents at his supporters that their Macdonald was drunk during a speech. The comfortable reply from the Tories was that their Sir John A. drunk was better than any of their guys sober.
That is the way the Ford Nation felt about their champion. Unfortunately for this province and city, too often it was and is true.

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