Rob Ford: Guilty of What?

Toronto City Mayor Rob Ford sips out of a straw during an Executive Committee meeting at Toronto's City Hall on Thursday December 5 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Disgusting. Shakespearean. Embarrassing. Incredible. Fascinating in a sick way, like a traffic pile-up.

However you want to describe what’s happening to Rob Ford and the City of Toronto, there’s probably not a lot more to say until the police have completed their investigation.

Is it possible that the Mayor is a criminal who has broken the law? Without a doubt.

And every new revelation and allegation makes that possibility more predictable.

But is it also possible that he’s innocent of any crime that can be proven, that he’s guilty only of poor judgment in his personal life?

It’s a possibility we can’t rule out — at least until charges are made.

And even if that does come to pass — and it looks more and more likely every day — we need to take a deep breath and remind ourselves that we live in a country where the rule of law is respected above all. And that, in this wonderful country of ours, the court is where judgments about criminality are made.

Long gone is the time when someone suspected of a crime was tried by fire and water. We don’t do the rack anymore to extract confessions of guilt.

It is true, however, that ever since O.J. Simpson’s white Bronco led police in a slow chase along the freeway in Los Angeles almost 20 years ago, we’ve been getting better and better at doing trial by media.

Meanwhile, instead of focusing on what the Mayor did, or didn’t do or may have done or shouldn’t have done, we can take great pride in the integrity and circumspection of Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and Police Chief Bill Blair.

Some people, quite a lot, actually, are also taking a perverse pride in the attention Rob Ford is bringing to Toronto.

An election promise he didn’t make but could have fulfilled in spades is putting Toronto on the map.

Admit it: there’s a little bit of a thrill in notoriety. The news that the Mayor of the biggest city in bland, functional, healthy Canada has been doing hard drugs, driving under the influence, consorting with gangs and generally behaving as badly as possible without being arrested (so far) is amazing and amusing the world. That he still has devoted and followers and could conceivably win an election if he’s not convicted of any crime is astonishing the world and horrifying the Toronto elite.

As for Ford himself, well, fan or foe, you can’t say the guy doesn’t have guts.

And if you think I’m making a snide remark about his beer belly, you’re wrong. Because that would be, er, hitting below the belt.