DRESCHEL: Terry Whitehead ‘was pretty distraught’ during debate

Opinion Jul 11, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

We all know Coun. Terry Whitehead has "unconditionally" apologized for using the word "raping" in reference to Hamilton Health Sciences moving jobs from the Mountain to the lower city.

But few are aware of the personal stress he was under when he made his controversial remark.

What follows doesn't excuse or justify Whitehead's misjudgment. But it does add context and, perhaps, a touch of human understanding to the issue.

First, you could tell Whitehead was upset even before he began ranting about HHS shifting staff from the Chedoke site in his ward to vacant office space downtown.

In fact, the Mountain councillor prefaced his tirade with an apology for arriving late for the council committee meeting, explaining he had spent the morning dealing with a family health issue at a hospital in Oakville.

To anyone paying attention, Whitehead already seemed disproportionally emotional before he blurted out his contentious statement that "we're ripping and raping parts of this community of jobs to bring it to the lower city."

After facing blasts of criticism across a broad front, Whitehead last Friday publicly apologized for using "raping" in a context that was insensitive to sexual assault victims.

He thanked those who supported his right to use the word in its wider meaning, but noted leaders need to be sensitive to victim issues.

"I want to ensure that I am championing the sensitivity issue with the victims of sexual assault so I … apologize for the terminology I used the other day," he said.

That was a marked improvement over the tepid apology/justification he originally issued, which had been drafted by an assistant. The fact Whitehead clumsily released that first apology without deleting the assistant's own comments may also speak to his agitated state of mind.

Here's why he was distressed: When Whitehead appeared at council he had just left the hospital bedside of his mother-in-law who had suffered a stroke several days earlier.

After initially responding well to treatment, she'd suddenly taken a turn for the worse. A series of small strokes impaired her ability to speak and move. The family was deeply upset. And though she had stabilized, Whitehead was still shaken when he dashed into City Hall to speak to the issue of health services on the Mountain.

"I was pretty distraught when I came in,' he admitted.

By the way, Whitehead didn't volunteer any of this. I asked because I was struck by how rattled he seemed at the time of his "ripping and raping" harangue.

"I think the culmination with what was going in my personal life and coming in at the last minute to deal with that issue had some play in the passion and language that I used," he said.

Again, this doesn't excuse his choice of words. People don't apologize if they don't think they've done something wrong. And it's no secret Whitehead can be hasty and hotheaded. After all, this is the same guy who publicly called the former police chief a liar. Yes, he was provoked. Yes, he later apologized. But plainly when there's tension in the air his mouth has a tendency to outpace his judgment.

Still, it does no harm to occasionally remind ourselves that public officials also have to deal with the stresses and strains of daily living. And lord knows we all handle sudden emergencies and escalating pressures in our own way.

For example, I know someone who after being T-boned in an intersection — airbags deployed, car all but totalled — calmly rented another car and within an hour was carrying on with his business day as if nothing had happened.

On the other hand, I know others who routinely book mental health days off work when the world throws too much at them at once.

Being piled on for mistakes and missteps is an occupational hazard for all politicians, of course. But it might be a good thing for all quick-draw political critics — including yours truly — to remember from time to time that we never really know what's going on in other people's lives. The best we can do is be aware of signals.

Andrew Dreschel’s commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel

DRESCHEL: Terry Whitehead ‘was pretty distraught’ during debate

Opinion Jul 11, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

We all know Coun. Terry Whitehead has "unconditionally" apologized for using the word "raping" in reference to Hamilton Health Sciences moving jobs from the Mountain to the lower city.

But few are aware of the personal stress he was under when he made his controversial remark.

What follows doesn't excuse or justify Whitehead's misjudgment. But it does add context and, perhaps, a touch of human understanding to the issue.

First, you could tell Whitehead was upset even before he began ranting about HHS shifting staff from the Chedoke site in his ward to vacant office space downtown.

In fact, the Mountain councillor prefaced his tirade with an apology for arriving late for the council committee meeting, explaining he had spent the morning dealing with a family health issue at a hospital in Oakville.

To anyone paying attention, Whitehead already seemed disproportionally emotional before he blurted out his contentious statement that "we're ripping and raping parts of this community of jobs to bring it to the lower city."

After facing blasts of criticism across a broad front, Whitehead last Friday publicly apologized for using "raping" in a context that was insensitive to sexual assault victims.

He thanked those who supported his right to use the word in its wider meaning, but noted leaders need to be sensitive to victim issues.

"I want to ensure that I am championing the sensitivity issue with the victims of sexual assault so I … apologize for the terminology I used the other day," he said.

That was a marked improvement over the tepid apology/justification he originally issued, which had been drafted by an assistant. The fact Whitehead clumsily released that first apology without deleting the assistant's own comments may also speak to his agitated state of mind.

Here's why he was distressed: When Whitehead appeared at council he had just left the hospital bedside of his mother-in-law who had suffered a stroke several days earlier.

After initially responding well to treatment, she'd suddenly taken a turn for the worse. A series of small strokes impaired her ability to speak and move. The family was deeply upset. And though she had stabilized, Whitehead was still shaken when he dashed into City Hall to speak to the issue of health services on the Mountain.

"I was pretty distraught when I came in,' he admitted.

By the way, Whitehead didn't volunteer any of this. I asked because I was struck by how rattled he seemed at the time of his "ripping and raping" harangue.

"I think the culmination with what was going in my personal life and coming in at the last minute to deal with that issue had some play in the passion and language that I used," he said.

Again, this doesn't excuse his choice of words. People don't apologize if they don't think they've done something wrong. And it's no secret Whitehead can be hasty and hotheaded. After all, this is the same guy who publicly called the former police chief a liar. Yes, he was provoked. Yes, he later apologized. But plainly when there's tension in the air his mouth has a tendency to outpace his judgment.

Still, it does no harm to occasionally remind ourselves that public officials also have to deal with the stresses and strains of daily living. And lord knows we all handle sudden emergencies and escalating pressures in our own way.

For example, I know someone who after being T-boned in an intersection — airbags deployed, car all but totalled — calmly rented another car and within an hour was carrying on with his business day as if nothing had happened.

On the other hand, I know others who routinely book mental health days off work when the world throws too much at them at once.

Being piled on for mistakes and missteps is an occupational hazard for all politicians, of course. But it might be a good thing for all quick-draw political critics — including yours truly — to remember from time to time that we never really know what's going on in other people's lives. The best we can do is be aware of signals.

Andrew Dreschel’s commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel

DRESCHEL: Terry Whitehead ‘was pretty distraught’ during debate

Opinion Jul 11, 2016 by Andrew Dreschel The Hamilton Spectator

We all know Coun. Terry Whitehead has "unconditionally" apologized for using the word "raping" in reference to Hamilton Health Sciences moving jobs from the Mountain to the lower city.

But few are aware of the personal stress he was under when he made his controversial remark.

What follows doesn't excuse or justify Whitehead's misjudgment. But it does add context and, perhaps, a touch of human understanding to the issue.

First, you could tell Whitehead was upset even before he began ranting about HHS shifting staff from the Chedoke site in his ward to vacant office space downtown.

In fact, the Mountain councillor prefaced his tirade with an apology for arriving late for the council committee meeting, explaining he had spent the morning dealing with a family health issue at a hospital in Oakville.

To anyone paying attention, Whitehead already seemed disproportionally emotional before he blurted out his contentious statement that "we're ripping and raping parts of this community of jobs to bring it to the lower city."

After facing blasts of criticism across a broad front, Whitehead last Friday publicly apologized for using "raping" in a context that was insensitive to sexual assault victims.

He thanked those who supported his right to use the word in its wider meaning, but noted leaders need to be sensitive to victim issues.

"I want to ensure that I am championing the sensitivity issue with the victims of sexual assault so I … apologize for the terminology I used the other day," he said.

That was a marked improvement over the tepid apology/justification he originally issued, which had been drafted by an assistant. The fact Whitehead clumsily released that first apology without deleting the assistant's own comments may also speak to his agitated state of mind.

Here's why he was distressed: When Whitehead appeared at council he had just left the hospital bedside of his mother-in-law who had suffered a stroke several days earlier.

After initially responding well to treatment, she'd suddenly taken a turn for the worse. A series of small strokes impaired her ability to speak and move. The family was deeply upset. And though she had stabilized, Whitehead was still shaken when he dashed into City Hall to speak to the issue of health services on the Mountain.

"I was pretty distraught when I came in,' he admitted.

By the way, Whitehead didn't volunteer any of this. I asked because I was struck by how rattled he seemed at the time of his "ripping and raping" harangue.

"I think the culmination with what was going in my personal life and coming in at the last minute to deal with that issue had some play in the passion and language that I used," he said.

Again, this doesn't excuse his choice of words. People don't apologize if they don't think they've done something wrong. And it's no secret Whitehead can be hasty and hotheaded. After all, this is the same guy who publicly called the former police chief a liar. Yes, he was provoked. Yes, he later apologized. But plainly when there's tension in the air his mouth has a tendency to outpace his judgment.

Still, it does no harm to occasionally remind ourselves that public officials also have to deal with the stresses and strains of daily living. And lord knows we all handle sudden emergencies and escalating pressures in our own way.

For example, I know someone who after being T-boned in an intersection — airbags deployed, car all but totalled — calmly rented another car and within an hour was carrying on with his business day as if nothing had happened.

On the other hand, I know others who routinely book mental health days off work when the world throws too much at them at once.

Being piled on for mistakes and missteps is an occupational hazard for all politicians, of course. But it might be a good thing for all quick-draw political critics — including yours truly — to remember from time to time that we never really know what's going on in other people's lives. The best we can do is be aware of signals.

Andrew Dreschel’s commentary appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. adreschel@thespec.com 905-526-3495 @AndrewDreschel