Toronto Mayor Singlehandedly Makes Canadian Politics Interesting Again

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford—Canada's Sarah Palin—is accused of smoking crack.

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Mark Blinch / REUTERS

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford holds a news conference at City Hall in Toronto, May 30, 2013.

Correction appended: June 4, 2013

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford certainly has had an impressive last three weeks.

First, the Toronto Star newspaper published a story claiming that two of their reporters had seen a video of Ford allegedly smoking crack cocaine.

Next, the Toronto police opened an investigation and interviewed members of Ford’s staff.

Then, Ford fired his chief of staff for suggesting he should go to rehab, trigging an exodus of six of his 12 aides.

Ford next held a press conference on May 24 denying using crack cocaine, being an addict or the existence of any tape.

But that didn’t stop Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School from firing Ford as their voluntary football coach, a job colleagues say he almost loved more than being mayor.

By this time, Ford was the butt of late night comics. “I’m Crack-man, eh, and I can fly!” squealed a Ford lookalike on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in a video that featured a dancing moose with a Canadian flag.

(MORE: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Accused of Smoking Crack)

It is perhaps easy to imagine Canada—and cosmopolitan Toronto—above such nonsense.  This is Canada we’re talking about, supposedly an endless land of clean water, maple trees, Mounties and French secessionists.

The reality is different. Toronto is the country’s largest city by far, home to 8% of Canada’s population – and the fourth largest city in North America. It is also fantastically diverse: a multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial city compared to most American cities.

That shift in demography is partly to explain for the rise of Mayor Rob Ford. In 2010, Rob Ford became the only the second mayor to hail from Toronto’s suburbs. In 1998, Toronto amalgamated its six surrounding suburbs into one massive metropolitan area. His district, Etobicoke, is a mix of manicured mansions—like the one Ford owns—and tenement apartments. The neighborhood is incredibly diverse with a Caribbean community dominated by Jamaicans on one block and South Asian kids playing cricket in the vacant lot on the next with burka-clad Somali women herding their children along a sidewalk nearby.

Ford was a right wing populist—a rarity for Canada—or, as his brother called Ford during the campaign, Canada’s Sarah Palin. His platform was stopping the government “gravy train.” In office, he semi-privatized the garbage collectors and barred transit workers from striking. He used the city’s surpluses to pay down debt. He slashed benefits to city employees and says he’s saved Toronto $1 billion since taking office, a claim many councilors dispute.

But Ford wasn’t a details guy. “During my time on his campaign and in the mayor’s office, I probably knew where he was about 50% of the time,” says Adrienne Batra, his former communications director who left to become editorial page editor at the Toronto Sun at the end of 2011. “He’d just disappear and you’d ask him where he was and he’d say, ‘Oh, around town.’” In recent months his behavior has become more erratic, former aides say. He skipped council meetings to coach football and wouldn’t show up to work until after 11am. A court in November threw him out of office for using mayoral letterhead to raise money for his gridiron charity. He won an appeal in February.

Ford comes from a colorful family. His father was a self-made millionaire who founded the family’s lucrative plastic labels business. His sister has openly struggled with drug addiction for much of her life and was shot in the head in 2005 in a drug-related incident. She survived. His older brother Randy was charged in a drug-related kidnapping, according to court documents. In late May, the Globe & Mail ran a story about how Ford’s other brother, Doug—who was elected to the city council in 2010—dealt drugs 20 years ago, a story he’s vehemently rejected. Earlier this year, a female politician accused the mayor of being high and groping her at a political event—charges he denied. And his alleged intoxication at a military ball in February spawned a spate of embarrassing stories.

The video surfaced from the most unlikely of places: from Somali gang members and drug dealers in the mayor’s home town. The gang members contacted the Star and the website Gawker. Two Star journalists and one from Gawker were allowed to review the video, but the Somalis demanded $100,000 from the Star or $200,000 from Gawker if they wanted to buy the video and broadcast it, the news outlets said. Neither news outlet had that kind of money on hand—and the Star had no intention of ever paying such a sum to drug dealers, Robyn Doolittle, one of the Star reporters who has seen the video, told TIME—but both published stories based on the video their correspondents had seen. In it, they reported, Ford can be seen inhaling a substance from a glass pipe, swirling a lighter beneath it. The right wing politician slurs his words, eyes half-closed, calls a Canadian left-wing leader a “fag” and dismisses the kids he coaches on a football team as “just [expletive] minorities,” the stories report. In the weeks since, Gawker has raised $200,000 from 8,000 readers online, but the Somalis have since gone underground raising the question if anyone else will ever glimpse the alleged video, the outlets say.

Ford denies the existence of any video, accusing the Star of shoddy journalism. The mayor, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has said he will not resign and intends to run for reelection in 2014.

But Ford has, at the very least, a spotty memory. During the 2010 campaign he claimed to have never been arrested. When confronted with Florida arrest records for driving under the influence and possession of marijuana, he said he had forgotten those incidents. He denied getting thrown out of a hockey game for hurling obscenities at a nearby couple until the couple produced one of his business cards that he’d dropped. “I’m not saying the allegations are true, but Rob has an unfortunate pattern of denial, confrontation and then admission,” says Councillor John Parker, whom Ford named deputy speaker of the council. “And the stakes are a lot higher here.”

Still, it is difficult to see how the tape—even if accurate—could lead to his removal from office. Toronto municipal politics isn’t a party system, so there is no party to force Ford to resign. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said at the end of May she might intervene, but it’s unclear what she could legally do. Observers say there is no precedent for a provincial government meddling in one of its municipalities. A video of someone smoking something is not evidence of law breaking: no one can prove what was being smoked.

And, for now, polls show his support is holding. “I’d much rather a crack addict,” one Torontonian told a local television news station, “than some Ivy League nepotist scum any day.” Explains Nelson Wiseman, a professor of Canadian government at the University of Toronto, “Not withstanding all this, a third of the public would still vote for him. They see him as a big dumb guy like them—a Rodney Dangerfield type who just can’t get no respect.”

But attention? Ford is getting that for Toronto in spades.

The original version of this article included the following inaccuracies: Mayor Ford was the second mayor to be elected from the Toronto suburbs, not the first; the court threw him out of office in November, not December; he was allegedly inebriated at a military ball in February not March; and in his May 24 press conference, Ford denied that he currently uses crack cocaine, not “ever using” crack cocaine.

139 comments
kevin1981
kevin1981

Toronto, do NOT ever send CTV reporters to London again if or when I win a millionare jackpot again. That is the most disrespectful thing you can do to another human being Toronto. The americans are getting fed up with Rob and his evil looking face. I'm the one here who should be pissed off USA. My money flushed down the toilet. That is a lot worse than a crooked mayor with a hate on for mankind. Another thing 9/11 was a lot worse alos. LIFE is very short and 3000 wondefful people were killed for no reason in New York. I feel really bad for those people and their families. Those people had no chance surviving the planes hitting the world trade centers.

kevin1981
kevin1981

When is Rob Ford and his brothers going to resign? They are marked for death.

kevin1981
kevin1981

If he was elected mayor of New York City, he be a dead man. You don't lie to the world about a crack cocaine habit yet other cities say likewise and continue to lie. He is making everyone laugh harder at Rob and he is the most hated man on earth right now. I am telling everyone there is so much corruption in Toronto USA and elected officials can't do the job honestly and they should not piss off lottery winners.  Anybody disaggree?

kevin1981
kevin1981

I wish people stop embarassing us canadians to the world. This is the reason why Toronto is the most hated and corrupt city in the world USA. I wish Toronto stop pissing the world off. There is something about Rob Ford that concerns me. He is a very dangerous man and would get a lot of people killed in that city north of the border. OWNING MAHONEY all over again. Why are politcians loaning money from people if they can't pay it back out of their own pockets. It is bad business with the family agree New York City and Chicago? I don't know where these people come from but they are worse than John Gotti or Al Calpone's family.

kevin1981
kevin1981

If Rob Ford was mayor of New York City, his body would have been butchered into several pieces.There would be nothing left of him and his body would be burned at the stake. He wouldn't last one week and I am the first to admit. Why get on camera and say I don't smoke crack cocaine yet NEW YORKERS say differently. New York, anyone disagree with me? 

kevin1981
kevin1981

Time, what's worse a mean fat mayor with a bullet in the head or his tongue chopped off and thrown off the Brooklyn bridge? He has made a lot of enemies with the world especially New York City and Chicago.

kevin1981
kevin1981

The New York Yankees have won more world series championships than any baseball team and they can't believe we are acting like nutcases. It takes a lot to win the world series and they still look at Toronto as a sports joke and they are Derek Jeter.  How about the yankees New York? 

kevin1981
kevin1981

Another thing USA, there is NO way Toronto will win another sports championship again. The 1992 and 1993 world series was won by an ALL american team. The Atlanta Braves were supposed to win the 1992 world series. WHY were the games os close? They were playing against each other. The Atlanta Braves were America's best and they got cheated out of a world series banner in 1992. Ted Turner, I am sorry Toronto got a little bit too arrogant to the world. If the blue jays were all canadian team we would hav egotten our butts kicked and I'm the first to tell everyone. Chicago was supposed to win the 1993 world series too. That is where President Obama is from when he was illinois senator. They got cheated out of a world series appearance.

kevin1981
kevin1981

I mind my own business, why can't other people mind theirs New York City?  At least the Mayors of New York earned their stripes Rudy Gulliani and Micheal Bloomberg. They have earned respect from the city. Mayors do not get on national tv and say they don't do drugs yet the biggest city in the world says differently. Why is Toronto angering the world? That is NOT what we do here President Obama.

kevin1981
kevin1981

I feel more bad for those wonderful people that worked at the world trade center than a crooked mayor here in Canada smoking crack cocaine.  My deepest condolonces to the city of New York. Thousands died for no reaosn. It was another day at work for those wonderful, hardworking people President Obama. That was very painful to see those people get burned to the ground.  What madman would fly a plane into the world's greatest structures? I FEEL REALLY BAD FOR YOU NEW YORK! Even Derek Jeter is still broken hearted.

kevin1981
kevin1981

If I was related to John Gotti, there would be a lot of blood spilled im downtown Toronto right now. I actually feel bad for the italians becuase people can't mind their own business. Why is our society so ignorant and NOSY NEW YORK?

kevin1981
kevin1981

Hey Chuck, are you the son of the great actor Charlton Heston? USA, this is the problem with us. Crack smoking mayors need to stop pissing you guys off. I thought Los Angeles and New York is supposed to be worse than Toronto. Not Toronto. I can't believe we are getting humiliated to the world Chuck and USA. What is worse? A reporter holding your winning lottery numbers on national tv or Time magazine making fun of the craziest, wackiest city in the world Toronto. That is where I was supposed to claim the money. BOTH VERY BAD NEW YORK CITY! We have a serious attitude problem here.

Chuck.Heston
Chuck.Heston

Hi Canadians! With problems like crack-smoking mayors, you need to have more guns. Just think how safe you would feel if your country, like the USA, had a thousand times as many handguns as you do now! It's a toasty, warm feeling that all of us Americans enjoy. Cold dead hands baby.Cold dead hands.

NadineLumley
NadineLumley

“Ford, Hudak and Harper: A trifecta cabal of republican-style, right wingers.”

Our Prime Minister Stealin’ HarperCon was behind Ford's appointment.

And Mike Harris as well was behind Ford's campaign (Rob Ford’s dad used to work for Mike Harris).With help from Guy Giorno, who happens to be Harper's ex-Chief of Staff -and Guy Giorno used to be chief of staff to former Ontario premier Mike Harris.Guy Giorno was also the campaign manager in May 2011 during Harper’s infamous Robocall scanadal.Makes you go hmmmm.

Are you starting to notice a neocon circle jerk going on here?

http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/428557

CanuckTwit
CanuckTwit

Sarah Palin isn't as corrupt as this jacka** is (allegedly). The suburbs voted in this buffoon, not the city. Maybe they're the ones doing crack.

kevin1981
kevin1981

Time, I think former New York Cirty mayor Rudy Gulliani and curent mayor Micheal Bloomberg would rather see the New York Yankees win this year's World Series than hearing about a mayor north of the border doing drugs.  I know new yorkers love baseball and the pin stripes at the Bronx, agree Rudy and Micheal? Baseball is more exciting than hearing about Rob Ford, I think.

kevin1981
kevin1981

Toronto used to have a good reputation up until the media here broke the news to the world about Rob smoking drugs.  Time down there can not believe how crazy we have become. I hope our reputation is restored but it don't look good. Even the president wants to know why Toronto is a very ignorant city. If Bill Clinton was still president he be laughing his butt off right now at him.

kevin1981
kevin1981

If I was mayor of Toronto and caught doing drugs I would resign and send my deepest apoligies to the world especially to the USA. We aren't supposed to be having a bad reputation to the world and New York and Hollywood knows this full well. I might be canadian but I can't believe the interest our cousins south of the border are intrested in Rob Ford. Toronto might have 5 million people but LA has 20 million people. Who is worse? I don't know right now. TO!

kevin1981
kevin1981

I wonder what Hollywood thinks about Rob Ford President Obama. KTLA gets off making fun of crazy politicians.  I thought the mayors of Los Angeles and New York City ar eworse than Toronto. How can Toronto be worse than America KTLA?

kevin1981
kevin1981

New York City is the meanest cities in the world and they can't understand why canadians are acting like a bunch of goats.  Rob, please don't get on camera to the world and say you never smoked crack cocaine yet the meanest city says like wise. New Yorkers don't lie and they are getting off watching you make a fool of yourself on national tv. This is not the canadian way President Obama.

kevin1981
kevin1981

I can't believe the reporters from Canada and around the world covering the most corrupt mayor in the world. The mayor of New York City or LA is supposed to be worse than Toronto. Now I know why we are getting made fun of across the border with the world's most powerful country on earth, the United States. New York has the mafia to deal with. Why is Rob humiliating us to the white house?

JohnZeger
JohnZeger

Most Canadians would rather not have Canadian politics be "interesting" as in scandalous. We'de gladly concede that honour to Americans.

emmatheed
emmatheed

Founder 1791  You're so ignorant. 

Matt__Roxx
Matt__Roxx

Too bad Toronto doesn't have a casino, they could lay odds on what the next Ford Folly will be - intoxication, traffic violation, abusive language directed at a woman, Conflict of Interest, or physical ailment.

valentine.godoflove
valentine.godoflove

I just learned in the documentary 'METAMPHETAMINE'.......which is crack cocaine......is actualy ......BENZEDRINE......the pills they gave pilots in WW2 so they would not fall asleep in their long bombing runs.......the same pills Elvis's Sargeant used to give him by the bottlefuls in Germany to stay awake during winter manuevers........WOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SO THIS IS WHAT IS DESTROYING SOCIETY IN A LOT OF CITIES BIG AND SMALL.......BENZEDRINE......CRACK !!!!!

Well.... THAT FAT TORONTO MAYOR WILL LOSE WEIGHT AND LOOK BETTER IF HE KEEPS SMOKING IT .......LOL......

vlentine, comedian

sweetkeet
sweetkeet

Well, Justin Trudeau isn't exactly a left-wing leader... he is like one of your more left-of-centre Democrats (he's the Liberal Party leader). The NDP is our left-leaning party. Just saying....

founders1791
founders1791

" ...Every journalist in the country knew that if you put Palin's name in an online headline or television segment, your clicks and ratings would soar..." - Howard Kurtz, failed CNN tabloid reporter

Once again we see the Obama Dept.of Propaganda shamelessly profiting from the good name of their arch enemy, the 9th Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, with despicable smears and attacks in 2008, '09, '10, '11, '12, and 2013.

Why? It's because this kind honest women with 17 years of exemplary stewardship running all levers of state government remains even more popular and determined to expose the endemic corruption in both political parties as she has since 2004.




kevin1981
kevin1981

Listen everyone, we canadians are not supposed to be getting made fun of to the world.  The world trade centers are gone and they are not in a good mood and americans hate it when politicians lie for no reason. Rob, please just stya off the camera. The mayor of Detroit is in far worse trouble right now and he is looking at prison time. WE NEED TO GROW UP MANKIND!  I FEEL ASHAMED TO BE CANADIAN BECUASE THE CITY OF TORONTO HAS WRECKED OUR IMAGE TO THE PLANET EARTH.  I wonder what Hollywood thinks1

curt3rd
curt3rd

Everything going on in Washington and not a single article about one of the scandals?  Instead Time has articles about Canadian politics.  Jay Careny must be proud.

kevin1981
kevin1981

I hope Rob Ford gets off the camera soon. New York is laughing at him and they have him in a lot of trouble.  I visited New York STATE not city and I would be very weary visiting the meanest city in the USA. The world trade centers are gone and they are not in a good mood down there in New York.

kevin1981
kevin1981

I feel ashamed to be canadian. The only break I get is looking forward to the Detroit Red Wings but they got eliminated by a fingernail Time. HOCKEY is my favaourite sport and I hate it when the mayor of Toronto has to get on camera and piss off the world. WE shouldn't be acting like the americans. This is Canada not the United States. Grow up Toronto. There are 15 million people that live in New York City and they get off making fun of the their cousin from north of the border. AGREE USA?

kevin1981
kevin1981

Why are we getting a bad reputation to the world? The americans are making fun of our craziest largest city Toronto. Mayor Rob Ford, please don't lie to the world Rob and say you didn't smoke crack, cocaine yet New York City is saying likewise.   He is caught on camera and New York is the meanest city in the United States. Another thing USA, when people like me win a lottery jackpot they get paid but with me here in London Ontario I was a very rare exception.  I said to  KTLA in Hollywood. Toronto has a serious attitude problem and they are trying to become the next big bad american city. We canadians do not or should not have the right to be upsetting the world. We are supposed to be friendly, peaceful people Leila Feinstein of KTLA.

CJTweed
CJTweed

Being MIA 50% of the time and showing up for work at 11 am are cause for serious concern. If Mr. Ford needs help he should ask for it. Addiction does not discriminate. Whether or not the video surfaces is irrelevant at this point. His behaviour will make it clear if this is an issue or not.

grape_crush
grape_crush

> Toronto..[...]...is also fantastically diverse: a multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial city compared to most American cities

Toronto is just a great city in general, alleged crack smoking mayor and real-life Peter Griffin aside.


Fordolini
Fordolini

This is a pretty comprehensive account of Ford's sorry history as mayor, but it does gloss over one salient feature of his "populist" style, an aspect that I would call distinctly "un-Canadian."

Torontonians (at least those not in the 34% who'd still vote for him) want a mayor who glories in the diversity, humanity and vibrancy that its diverse and multicultural communities create. The 66% don't want a mayor who is homophobic, racist and a name-calling bully. OK, some of us might even be proud of Don Cherry calling us "bike-riding, left-wing pinkos" at the Mayor's inauguration, but for the head of our city to continually and consistently demonize some parts of the polity and set communities against each other is sickening to watch and seriously damaging to the reality that Toronto is, in fact, a great and wonderful city to live in.

The last time that this kind of divisiveness was evident in civilized society happened in the 30s (I offer no comment on what has transpired in the States). Back then it was Jews, left-wing intellectuals, homosexuals and the disabled who were demonized. As a Canadian and a proud Torontonian, I am saddened and angered that a politician of that stripe can be allow to remain as mayor and be treated with respect by some members of the press and politicians. 

The presumtion of crack smoking is relatively unimportant: bluster, bullying, constant prevarication and name-calling demagoguery are not. This man is not worthy of our trust. He is not fit to be Toronto's Mayor.



NadineLumley
NadineLumley

Exploring the connection between Stephen Harper --> Jim Flaherty ---> Mike Harris --> Doug Holyday --- Rob Ford's dad Doug --- > Doug Ford (the real Mayor) ---> Rob Ford -->

It’s no secret Mike Harris, now chair of the auto parts giant Magna International, weighs in regularly with advice for the mayor.

Although the family places a high premium on loyalty, Doug Sr.’s went unrewarded when Mike Harris kept a campaign promise on redistribution that did away with his seat. In 1999, he retired without a whine. If he failed to leave much of a mark as an MPP, he did make friendships that would prove a boon for his son. In the legislature, he formed an unlikely bond with his seat-mate, Jim Flaherty, one of Harris’s brightest stars and now the federal finance minister who doubles as the Conservatives’ overlord for the Toronto area.

The Fords backed both of Flaherty’s failed provincial leadership bids as well as that of his wife, Christine Elliott, and in return Flaherty was the only federal minister to endorse Ford in the mayoralty race. Since then, he has been instrumental in forging the mayor’s ties to Stephen Harper. Last July, Flaherty helped arrange a private day trip for the Ford brothers and their wives to the prime minister’s official summer residence at Harrington Lake—or as Rob Ford prefers to call it, Harper’s “cottage.” That outing was widely regarded as a thank-you for the mayor’s efforts in helping the Conservatives win nine new Toronto seats, but a private tête-à-tête out in the prime ministerial motorboat—with Laureen Harper at the wheel—may have also offered Harper a chance to enlist the mayor’s help in the upcoming Ontario election.

http://www.torontolife.com/informer/features/2012/05/15/rob-ford-the-weirdest-mayoralty-ever/?page=all#tlb_multipage_anchor_1

DMAN
DMAN

You need to cool it with the periods, or at least save some of them for later. You may need them.

Heian
Heian

I'm glad you could shoehorn a complaint about Obama into anything. It really does wonders in proving how irrational you are.

As for Palin's "exemplary" service, it's hard to find a better example of a politician cashing in as hard as possible, and kicking intellectual discourse to the curb.

Tero
Tero

@kevin1981 

Take it easy dude, you're not helping. If anyone judges the entire city of Toronto, and all it's residents, on this one idiotic person, than they are not worth worrying about in the first place. Toronto is a great city full of wonderful people. Our mayor is just a loser, and I didn't vote for him.

Tero
Tero

@curt3rd 

Take note; this is what a REAL scandal looks like.

Also take note; the USA is NOT the centre of the universe.

ct99
ct99

@Fordolini

Nonsense! Ford is not homophobic or racist, that is completely unsubstantiated propaganda. He is a fiscal conservative, and thank God for that. It is clearly the Left that is engaging in demonizing, to suggest otherwise is purposefully insincere on your part. Get ready for 2014 - Ford will win again. You heard it here first.

emmatheed
emmatheed

@Heian  I agree with you! But "intellectual" is a dirty word with these fools--and "discourse" is way beyond the bounds of their vocabularies! Consider where they get their information about the world and the level of intellect that reflects! Founders 1791 is really just sputtering away and revealing his/her ignorance and pea-brained world view in the process. But it is good late-night comedy material! :-)

founders1791
founders1791

@Heian - The Shoe Drops - Obama scandals define his administrations abuse of power far more insidious than Nixon or any other.

Best Example - of cashing in is Bill Clinton with the record of over $80 million since leaving office and $500k from Israel just last week!

Personal attacks is all you got against Sarah Palin because delivered exemplary governance with record 80-93% bipartisan support, 3 of 4 fiscal year budgets delivered on time, under budget larger than Visa, Bank of Ireland, or Hershey's.

Time Magazine put Obama on 15 covers.  The managing editor is a former Democrat speech writer.  Current issue shills for failed Chicago May Rahm Emaneul, former Obama Chief of Staff, and on and on it goes.  Always positive puff pieces glorifying Democrats and negative portrayals of Sarah Palin. 

Kittykat
Kittykat

We judge Canadians by their craziness. I've been there. They are looney. eh.

curt3rd
curt3rd

Note taken.

Youre an idiot if you think the IRS attacking people for their political affiliations is not a scandal.

XanderLegere
XanderLegere

@curt3rd unfortunately the whole idea that it was only 'right wing groups' being targeted is bull, many groups of various political affiliations were scrutinized.

Tero
Tero

@curt3rd 

Get off the cross mary. They admitted that they targeted groups with certain keywords. Plus none of these poor victims actually had their status denied or revoked like liberal groups did under the Bush admin. These teabagger groups should have been denied tax-exempt status anyway. 

However it is a bad practice any way you slice it. Maybe if you Americans actually funded your government sufficiently this wouldn't happen.

curt3rd
curt3rd

Wow, you are delusional.  No evidence?  The IRS admitted that they targeted conservative groups.  stupid

Tero
Tero

@curt3rd 

I disagree with the lazy method the IRS used to filter out the tea-scammers, but I don't see any evidence that it was based entirely on political affiliation. I also don't see any evidence that Obama was involved.

You're an idiot if you think these tea-scammers are just poor innocent victims. You're also an idiot if you think this didn't go on during the Bush admin.