A Tale of Two Politicians

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I have made known how I feel about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.  The cliff notes version is that I think he is a joke.  My colleague Annaliese wrote a pretty funny sendup of him as well.  He has been discussed ad nauseum in the media as of late, mainly for being a mess of a politician and human being.

A few hundred miles away, a different city has been talking about a different politician. Rep. Radel is a freshman congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives and represents Florida’s 19th Congressional District.  In October, he was arrested for purchasing three-and-a-half grams of cocaine from an undercover police officer. This activity, of course, is frowned upon.

Ok, I have to be honest.  I did not bat an eye when I read about Radel and his nose candy purchase.  Person in a position of power decides that, in their free time, they want to play Tony Montana; also, today ends in “Y.”  Next controversy?

I got to thinking why I was so incensed about Mayor Ford, and so indifferent regarding Rep. Radel.  Here are my findings:

Their positions

Trey Radel is in his first term as a U.S. Representative. He was sworn in ten months ago, and is at the bottom of the Congressional totem pole.  In addition, there are literally 434 other people who do  the exact same job as Rep. Radel. There is enough of a buffer that a coke binge would not stop the wheels of legislation.  However Radel’s arrest has drawn the ire of many because he recently voted to drug test recipients of public monies like food stamps and welfare (the gall!). His reasoning: if you receive government money as a public benefit, you cannot do drugs. If you receive government money as a result of a job that you are doing, drugs are okay.

Rob Ford, on the other hand, is the executive of Toronto. You know, Toronto, the largest city in Canada.  Imagine the uproar if the mayor of a city like New York said that he was really drunk when he smoked crack?  Bloomberg would never. New York would also have de Blasio’s head.  It would not fly in any major American city: not Los Angeles, not Boston, not Washington, D.C.—oh wait.  Nevermind. Additionally, a mayorship inherently has more immediate power than a member of Congress could have from their job, and the duties of a mayor’s job has a more direct effect on constituents.

Their Images

Trey Radel is a 37-year old Floridian and former news anchor. The guys is good looking. Unfortunately, that helps.  Look, this is not the first time looks have been advantageous to a politician.  He is a favorite of the tea party, hip enough to tweet, and has a young family. Finally, cocaine has a different social connotation than crack. This dates back to the Reagan Administration and the war on drugs.  Drugs are still drugs, of course, but cocaine is more widely accepted as recreational or social.

Rob Ford, on the other hand, looks like a cartoon character.  He has been a public figure long enough to have many televised gaffes that have since been turned into .gifs many times over.  Additionally, crack is embarrassing. When Whitney Houston was accused of crack cocaine use, she explicitly stated that she made too much money to ever smoke crack cocaine.  The Chapelle Show’s Tyrone Biggums character was a hilariously accurate rendering of how most people imagine users of crack cocaine. To imagine the mayor of Toronto smoking crack, then, is particularly jarring.


Rob Ford, courtesy of Shaun Merritt via Flickr.

Their Reactions

Almost a month after his arrest, Radel’s office released statements that seemed to follow the tried and true “politician in trouble” response.  He acknowledged that he had a problem and wanted to take a leave of absence from the House of Representatives.  He mentioned that he’d let himself, his family, and his constituents down. His actions immediately after the arrest made it seem like he thought that the incident would remain under the radar.  This hypothesis is bolstered by the fact that, according to reports, he did not tell senior Congressional officials until recently. In the days since the widespread dissemination of his arrest details, Radel has vowed to seek treatment for his addictions.

Rob Ford’s reaction was atypical, to say the least.  He took Bill Clinton’s “definition of ‘is’ is” and ran it sixty yards to a touchdown in the game of “most ridiculous political excuses”.  You’ll recall that the Mayor said that he never lied, but instead was asked the incorrect question, which subsequently elicited an improper response.  Had the obviously inept reporter simply asked if he’d ever smoked crack, well then the answer would have been a resounding yes.  Duh.  Why? Because it’s the truth.  THE TRUTH.  Not habitually, and not voluntarily- he was just blackout drunk.  This nonsensical response is what one would expect from a crackhead.  With Ford, the jokes right themselves.

The Aftermath

What it comes down to is the potential for redemption. In America, we love a good comeback.  This is Radel’s first public slip up, and if he is smart it will be the last.  In addition, he is not the first member of Congress to be in this position. He can make a successful political comeback, and if he plays his cards right could even run for higher office.  Oh America, you truly are the land of dreams!

Ford, on the other hand, is in uncharted territory.  His behavior since the admission of smoking crack has gotten worse, believe it or not.  I mean, the man tried to tackle someone during a vote of no confidence of the Toronto legislature. He has taken the ultimate step towards irreverence and signed on for a reality television show. There is really nowhere for him to go but down- let’s just hope he puts the pipe down.

[Washington Post] [Post] [CNN]

Featured image courtesy of [F l a n k e r via Wikipedia]

Peter Davidson II
Peter Davidson is a recent law school graduate who rants about news & politics and raves over the ups & downs of FUNemployment in the current legal economy. Contact Peter at



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