Do you sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and wonder: Is it better for a politician to be an alcoholic or a crack smoker? (And what about crystal meth?)
To be frank, the molten mass that is Ford Nation apparently doesn’t seem to care one way or the other as long as the politician/alcoholic/crackhead pledges to lower taxes, cut spending and kick lefty ass.
But for the rest of us who wonder about these things, Britain’s ever-reliable Economist news magazine has taken a serious look at the question. The Economist’s answer may be a bit squiffy — and that seems to be, in large part, because renegade Rob Ford just keeps throwing off the equation, bless his dangerously palpitating heart — but at least they’ve taken a shot at it. Maybe even a double shot with chaser.
The Rob Ford freak show is the triggering mechanism for the world’s current interest in debauched politicians, but the Economist rightly points out that Toronto’s mayor isn’t the only politico who has been wandering the streets in search of a buzz with a paper cup full of vodka and a cranium full of addled, feverish impulses.
The Economist cites, as other examples of the breed, Florida Congressman Trey Radel (convicted of coke possession, currently in rehab and fighting to stay in office) and disgraced British politician-clergyman-banker Paul Flowers who … well, believe it or not, Paul Flowers actually makes Rob Ford look like a bit of a choirboy. (That would be a crack-smoking, stupor-chasing, wannabe-party-monster, infantile choirboy, but a relative choirboy nonetheless).
Pick you poison: Paul Flowers, above, or Rob Ford, below.
It’s really quite surprising we haven’t heard more of Rev. Paul Flowers on the westerly side of the Atlantic. He’s a public figure of gargantuan appetites, most of which are either unlawful or unsavoury. And, for those keeping score, he’s a lefty, a bosom buddy and (probably illegal) financial backer of the inner circle of Britain’s Labour Party.
Flowers — a Methodist minister, long-time municipal councillor, official advisor to the Labour Party and bank chairman — abused and defiled every one of his ecclesiastical, political and financial positions. In the process, he somehow “lost” about $2.5 BILLION for Britain’s member-owned Co-operative Bank (although it isn’t member-owned any more: It’s now controlled by the hedge fund that kept the bank from going under).
Of course, Flowers has been suspended indefinitely by the Methodist Church; he has been kicked off Bradford municipal council (for having really nasty porn on his council-supplied laptop computer); he was forced to resign from all positions at the bank and in Britain’s co-operative movement as a whole; and he is currently under investigation and being grilled by a parliamentary committee over his failings as bank chairman and his role in some very suspicious “donations” made by the bank to high-ranking members of the Labour Party.
And that was before the really bad stuff happened.
Because, you see, while all this other ghastly business was going on, Flowers was spending most of his free time and whatever spare cash and expense chits he had buying and consuming vast quantities of drugs with paid companions … to make the pain go away, I assume.
Just days after abjectly apologizing for his deplorable failings as a banker to a parliamentary committee last month, Flowers was out buying and using 1) marijuana, 2) crack cocaine, 3) crystal meth, 4)GHB (a downer club drug) and 5) ketamine (another downer), and partying with “friends” to whom he was bragging about “how he had put one over on them — ‘Tory c****,’ he called them.”
That last part is according to one of Flowers’ partying “friends,” who — shades of Rob Ford’s crack-dealing “friends” — surreptitiously used his cell phone to record Flowers ordering and paying for the drugs in question.
And, of course, the whole sordid tale — with pictures and links to the video — was splashed across the front page of the Mail on Sunday within a week. Take a look, if you want.
The “friend,” Stuart Davies, said he went to the Mail, video in hand, because he was “disgusted by (Flowers’) hypocrisy” — certainly not because of the substantial cheque the Mail editors handed Davies in return for the video, a load of incriminating text messages and a few choice quotes.
Unlike the Ford situation in Toronto, British police have laid a number of drug charges against Rev. Paul Flowers.
Here’s what author Frederick Forsyth (The Day of the Jackal) had to say about Flowers in a recent opinion piece in Britain’s Daily Express.
“The Rev Paul Flowers’ private life seems far beyond the odd pleasures pursued round the swimming pool at Cliveden.
“At three levels it appears to involve pretty relentless use of rent boys, use of five illegal narcotics and the alleged mass misuse of expense accounts. The last named, if true, involves large-scale embezzlement which is a form of theft. But is it all just one debauched man’s private life? No, it is more than that.
“This decadent cleric was also chairman of a major bank, brought to ruin under his auspices, which was created specifically to support and fund the Labour Party. As such he was a financial adviser to Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, both now trying to use the ‘nodding acquaintance’ excuse.
“In fact the Co-op boss was a close friend and, via the bank, supporter and funder of Labour. But a bank has trusting depositors who believe that their life savings are safe.
“On one occasion Flowers, via the bank, donated £50,000 (about $90,000) to Ed Balls’ private office. It seems not a shred of concern was shown for the character of the donor, or the friendship behind it which was not ‘nodding’ but close and warm.”
Whew! Doesn’t that make you feel better as a Torontonian? At least Rob Ford isn’t a minister of the church or chairman of a bank and he never chipped in $90,000 of Toronto public funds to subsidize Mike Duffy’s Senate activities in Ottawa. And he never lost $2.6 BILLION of taxpayers’ money down a fiscal “black hole.” And Ford has only admitted to using two or three illicit drugs, not the “five illegal narcotics” Flowers has copped to.
But let’s get back to our original question: Is it better for a politician to be an alcoholic or a crack smoker?
The Economist weighs both sides of the equation, consults experts and decides … to pass the buck.
Drugs, the Economist opines, are more harmful to the individual but overall alcohol abuse is more harmful to society. Or is it the other way around?
The Economist concludes:
“So is it better to have a politician who is an alcoholic or a drug addict? An alcoholic is a bit more likely than a crack-smoker to die, but the crack-smoker is more likely to have his judgment fuddled. Drinkers are also slightly less likely to slip into dependency; crack, heroin and meth are more moreish than alcohol (though no more so than tobacco). Drug-using public figures may also have more trouble maintaining the trust of voters. For one thing, taking drugs implies breaking laws, an undesirable characteristic in those who write them.
“There is also evidence that users of certain illegal drugs are slightly more likely to experience breakdowns in personal relationships than those who abuse alcohol. Professor Nutt and his colleagues found that on this score, meth and crack were the most damaging substances. That seems to have been borne out by Mr. Flowers, the “crystal Methodist”, who has been disowned by many former allies and whose appointment to the Co-op is to be the subject of an inquiry. Mr. Ford, by contrast, is doing his best to prove the researchers wrong. Still in his post, he has promised to run for re-election next year. One recent poll suggested that his approval rating had not been affected much by the scandal. Indeed, one-third of Torontonians intend to vote for him again.”
… Well, maybe that will change if, like Rev. Paul Flowers, he were to start bragging to rent boys about all the crystal meth, GHB and ketamine he’s done or is planning to do. Or maybe not. We certainly know it wouldn’t harm his standing in Ford Nation if he was recorded cocking (that’s cocking, not coking) a snoot at the “lefty c****” on council.
My oh my, I shall miss Rob Ford when he’s gone. The world may be a more wholesome place then, but it certainly won’t be as interesting.