Acceptably unacceptable
May 5, 2014
by Ivan Raconteur

This being an election year, we will all have to make decisions about which candidates will get our vote.

This might be a good time to stick a photo of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford up on our refrigerators to remind us that the decisions we make will have consequences.

Ford is one of the most outrageous characters to emerge on the political – or any other – stage in recent memory.

I can’t help but admire Ford. Anyone who can have as many misadventures as he has had and still be elected mayor of a major city must have something going for him.

Ford has more baggage than Amtrak, and yet he was elected councilman three times before being elected mayor of Toronto.

He is the Charlie Sheen of the political world. His drunken escapades are legendary, and the list of other allegations that have been made about him throughout his career make fascinating reading. It would be tough to make this stuff up. Just when one thinks the story can’t get any stranger – it does.

I suspect few people outside Canada could name Toronto’s previous mayor (David Miller), but Ford has brought international fame to the office.

Ford is a consummate politician. When he gets into a jam, his usual response appears to be stout denial. If that doesn’t work, he might say he made a mistake, and wants to move on.

My favorite Ford quote came when he was defending earlier denials of crack cocaine use. “I wasn’t lying. You didn’t ask the correct questions,” Ford said. I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves to Washington when his term as mayor ends. I’m sure he would be welcome there.

Despite his challenges, including a video that allegedly shows him smoking crack, Ford refused to step down, and announced he is running for re-election.

Ford recently announced he is taking a break from his job and campaign to seek treatment for alcohol use.

I wish him all the best in treatment, and hope he gets the help he needs.

The story of Ford’s rise to power brings up the concept “acceptably unacceptable.”

This concept applies to many things, including relationships. The always wise Jim Belushi once proclaimed on his sitcom “According to Jim” that the amount of crazy a guy is willing to put up with is directly proportionate to the hotness of the woman. This is not just a guy thing. I have heard ladies express essentially the same sentiment about men.

In the present case, however, we must consider the concept of acceptably unacceptable as it relates to elected officials.

Ford spent 10 years as a councilor before being elected mayor of a city with a population of about 2.8 million people.

It is clear that despite his rough edges, a lot of people thought the benefits of electing (and re-electing) Ford were worth the risk.

He did have some very sound ideas, and some of his actions showed a high level of fiscal responsibility.

Initiatives such as cutting the perks enjoyed by elected officials reduced the cost of government without cutting services to taxpayers.

Of course, the good ideas were mixed in with some completely loopy ones, and the way he carries out his activities is nothing short of bizarre, but that is where the determination has to be made. How much mayhem are voters willing to tolerate as the price of electing a representative who might do some of the things they want done?

It is possible that “safe” politicians who don’t rock the boat aren’t able to get much done in the current political climate.

Maybe in order to accomplish great things, a politician has to be unconventional in his approach.

There is, however, a difference between unconventional and bizarre.

This is something worth remembering when we go to the polls in November. That is why I advocate sticking Ford’s photo up on the icebox. We must remember that the people we elect will be with us for awhile, so we better be prepared to put up with the consequences.

If we elect extremists or unbalanced individuals, they may accomplish a lot, but perhaps not in the way we had hoped.

We must consider carefully how much unacceptable baggage we are willing to accept in our candidates.

Those who sow the wind are likely to reap the whirlwind.

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