10 Ways Rob Ford Can Repair His Cracked Image
With polls showing Torontonians evenly split between believing Rob Ford did or did not smoke crack, the embattled mayor has a solid shot at regaining leadership of Canada’s biggest city and possibly winning re-election in 2014. Like Marion Barry’s Washington DC supporters, Ford Nation have circled the wagons around their inartful anti-hero. To move beyond his 36% voter base however, the conservative mayor needs to regain the nine points he’s lost since his election victory by winning over left-leaning downtown Toronto where support has plunged to a paltry 24%. Otherwise, NDP MP Olivia Chow remains a safe bet to snag City Hall.
The last thing the mayor needs is a continuation of the last two weeks — an awkward PR debacle arguably more damaging than the allegations of crack smoking. Here are 10 ways mayor Rob Ford can fix his image problem, win re-election and go down as the dopest mayor in Toronto history, pun notwithstanding.
1. Take off 30 days for “personal reasons.”
Nothing elicits sympathy like the pox of an undisclosed “illness” so terrible we dare not speak its name. Watch as guilt-ridden Toronto Star editors back-pedal schadenfreude with feature reports like The Rob Ford We Hardly Knew We Loved.
2. Bring wife to the forefront.
There’s an well-worn rule in every damage control playbook: if the wife forgives the sinner, everyone else does too. Sure smoking crack has little to do with marital disharmony but just the image of the better half softens the bitter half of scandal.
3. Muzzle Doug Ford.
Despite the security blanket his pugilist style has to offer, councillor Doug Ford is a liability . Not only does his oft thuggish demeanor make the chief magistrate look weak, the mayor’s older brother has fueled — instead of defused — the quagmire at City Hall with drug-related dirt of his own. Case in point: dressing like Tony Montana isn’t particularly helpful when you’re defending drug trade allegations as the blogsphere pointed out.
Rob Ford is already a hot topic on all the US late-night talk shows. Strike while the iron’s hot and leverage newfound global celebrity to transcend Toronto politics much like Sarah Palin did with Alaska. Claim to have put Toronto on the map and start working on a New York Times best-seller.
5. Throw a bone to the media.
As shown by the ever-shrinking news cycle, the media is as ADHD as its audience. Request sit-downs with the editorial boards of The Globe & Mail, Toronto Star and even the rabidly anti-Ford Now magazine. Use the opportunity to promise a new level of transparency symbolized by an annual White House-style Correspondents Dinner where each and every city hall reporter will be fed, pampered, laden with swag and ultimately determined not to miss next year’s prestigious event.
6. Admit to smoking a pipe but deny crack by claiming it was weed.
Two-thirds of Canadians are in favor of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana. An admission of ganja-related guilt, coupled with a well-timed knowing wink, will cause the scandal to go up in a cloud of smoke. Accuse liberal elites of “harshing the city’s friendly buzz” and supporting the ill-fated War on Drugs.
Be the first Canadian politician to embrace the “hip hop generation.” In media scrums, start quoting local rap star Drake (and his mentor Li’l Wayne) and roll 10-homies deep with Somali-looking aides sporting hoodies. When reporters inquire about your new entourage, repeatedly respond with “haters gonna hate” and strut with the swagger of a pallid Notorious B.I.G. or any number of plus-sized rappers.
8. Use radio show to mend fences and offer real ideas.
While your talk radio show is basically preaching to the Ford Nation, it’s the Ford (Resig)Nation that needs to be won over to win re-election next year. Use the radio soapbox to exclusively to talk about future vision instead of past achievements or current beefs. And as tempting as settling old scores may be, remember an election is coming and the old adage applies: “friends come and go but enemies accumulate.”
9. Write your own tweets.
At the height of the crack scandal there was a huge, almost comical disconnect between daily events and official tweets from the mayor’s office. Toronto Life nailed it in this piece. Rather than trust a lowly aide to tweet generic announcements, speak directly to the people with the above points: an undisclosed but painful illness, copious hip hop quotes and various strains of weed. RT as many followers as possible even if they are bots giving away free iPhones.
10. Appeal to downtowners.
As this map shows, downtown residents never warmed to the idea of being led by a rotund, seemingly uncouth right wing mayor. Winning over this constituency is easy: endorse a city takeover of the Bixi bike sharing program, build separated bike lanes on at least one major east-west thoroughfare, explore works by your (suddenly) favorite street artists while strolling through Kensington Market’s Pedestrian Sunday and be seen obliviously reading The New Yorker on the TTC while sipping a soy-tinged Americano (fair trade of course).