Is Toronto's mayor Rob Ford the new Marion Barry?

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“Yes, I’ve smoked crack cocaine” isn’t exactly something that the voting public wants to hear from their elected officials.

On Tuesday, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford finally admitted to smoking crack, after a lengthy saga involving sources connected to the drug trade shopping a video of the mayor smoking the drug.

Ford has now finally admitted to smoking crack, “in one of my drunken stupors, probably approximately about a year ago.”

For the uninitiated, Mayor Ford is not the only politician to get caught on video smoking crack cocaine. Ford’s admission caused former Washington, D.C. mayor and current D.C. City Councilman Marion Barry to briefly trend on Twitter.

In 1990, Councilman Barry, who was then in his third term as D.C. mayor, was arrested in an FBI sting operation for crack cocaine possession and use, after the FBI captured the D.C. mayor on camera smoking crack.  Unlike Mayor Ford, Barry was arrested and charged for his drug use, eventually doing a brief stint in federal prison, while the Toronto’s mayor’s admission is garnering mostly ridicule from the international press.  The comparison to Barry only works when you consider Mayor Ford’s actions.  While Barry was held accountable for his illegal conduct, by being put on trial and sent to prison, Mayor Ford is refusing to resign and so far has not been held at all accountable for his behavior.

After five minutes on Mayor Ford’s Wikipedia page, a theme emerges; drinking heavily, belligerent conduct in public while intoxicated including sexual harassment and driving under the influence, followed by repeated public denials.  When questioned about the existence of the now-infamous crack smoking video, Mayor Ford said,  “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine. I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.  It is most unfortunate, very unfortunate, that my colleagues and the great people of this city have been exposed to the fact that I have been judged by the media without any evidence.”

Then another time when asked about the video, Ford said,  “Number one, there is no video, so that’s all I can say. You can’t comment on something that doesn’t exist.”  The fact that the mayor was caught on video smoking crack really isn’t the story as much as how power can protect those from consequences for criminal conduct.

Politics seems like the only job in America where can you be caught on video smoking crack, give a half-hearted “apology” for your hard partying ways, and still show up the next day for work as if nothing happened. Mayor Ford’s free to live it up during his off time, but his repeated episodes of public intoxication and drug use should have before now created the necessary political pressure to force his resignation from office.

This is a moment in political history where congressmen resign in disgrace over shirtless pictures in the bathroom, like former Congressman Chris Lee, or over naked pictures sent to women on Twitter, like former Congressman Anthony Weiner, but Mayor Rob Ford is still in office, and his constituents must be wondering why.

Follow Zerlina Maxwell on Twitter at @ZerlinaMaxwell.

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