Commentary Magazine


Topic: Harold Ford

Tennessee Harold Ford’s Not Your Ordinary “Joe”

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

Harold Ford isn’t scared of Chuck Schumer or Barack Obama, let alone Kirsten Gillibrand. That’s nice, but is it enough to supply the former up-and-coming African-American star of Tennessee politics a raison d’être to run for the Senate in New York?  There’s reason to be skeptical of such a claim, but judging from today’s New York Times profile on Ford, it appears he thinks “independence” from his party’s leaders is enough to topple Gillibrand in a primary.

Finding issues on which to oppose the woman appointed to the Senate by Governor David Paterson isn’t easy for Ford. Both he and Gillibrand have flipped from being moderates to espousing the sort of hard-line liberal positions on guns, abortion, and immigration that win Democratic primaries. But Ford touts his unwillingness to take orders from New York’s senior senator as his main qualification. That’s certainly a virtue, at least in the eyes of independents and Republicans, but do Democrats really care?

Even worse, though Ford appears on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television show from time to time, the story also paints him as anything but a regular Joe. According to the Times, Ford, who landed a seven-figure job at Merrill Lynch after losing a race for the Senate from Tennessee, lives a life that most New Yorkers wouldn’t recognize:

On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab. … Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city … Asked about his baseball loyalties, he responded: “I am a Yankees fan,” and added that he had yet to visit Citi Field, the home of the Mets. … He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures.

Of course, if leading the life of a spoiled member of the moneyed set were a bar to high office, most of the current members of the Senate would be forced to resign. But nevertheless, it does seem as if Ford is giving new meaning to the term “limousine liberal.” However, if supporters of his opponent are trying to disqualify him as a rich carpetbagger, that is more than hypocritical. This is Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat that we’re talking about. Ford may not be a native, but at least he’s lived here for three years, which is more than you can say about Clinton when she parachuted into New York to be anointed junior senator on her way to what she thought was a return to the White House. Put in that context, perhaps Ford seems like a regular New Yorker after all.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

From Fox News on your government at work: “The State Department is planning to welcome thousands of immigrants from terror-watch list countries into the United States this year through a ‘diversity visa’ lottery — a giant legal loophole some lawmakers say is a ‘serious national security threat’ that has gone unchecked for years. Ostensibly designed to increase ethnic diversity among immigrants, the program invites in thousands of poorly educated laborers with few job skills — and that’s only the beginning of its problems, according to lawmakers and government investigations.”

C-SPAN isn’t pleased with Obama’s reneging on his promise to televise the health-care debates: “C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb accused President Obama of using his network as a ‘political football’ during the presidential campaign, citing the president’s broken pledge to televise health care reform negotiations on the nonpartisan channel which is devoted to covering Washington.”

Harry Reid is trying to chase Harold Ford out of the New York Senate race.

Is Martha Coakley in trouble in Massachusetts? The New York Times frets: “The news that two senior Democratic senators will retire this year in the face of bleak re-election prospects has created anxiety and, even in this bluest of states, a sense that the balance of power has shifted dramatically from just a year ago. With the holidays over and public attention refocused on the race, Ms. Coakley’s insistence on debating her Republican opponent, Scott P. Brown, only with a third-party candidate present has drawn mounting criticism.” There is also that Rasmussen poll. The Gray Lady seems to be worrying that even a close race is bad news for the Democrats: “a tighter-than-expected margin in the closely watched race would still prompt soul-searching among Democrats nationally, since the outcome will be the first real barometer of whether problems facing the party will play out in tangible ways at the polls later this year.”

The Cook Report lists Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut as toss-up Senate races. North Dakota is “leans Republican.” Four GOP seats are listed as toss-up, but that includes New Hampshire, where the GOP candidate in the latest poll had a 7-point lead.

Max Baucus says health-care negotiations have “got a lot to cover.” Doesn’t sound like it’s a done deal yet.

Charles Krauthammer thinks Obama isn’t giving up his fixation on closing Guantanamo quite yet: “Obama will not change his determination to close Guantanamo. He is too politically committed. The only hope is that perhaps now he is offering his ‘recruiting’ rationale out of political expediency rather than real belief. With suicide bombers in the air, cynicism is far less dangerous to the country than naivete.”

But will anything really change? “The lesson of Abdulmuttalab is that rearranging the bureaucratic furniture is always the first resort of politicians who want to be seen ‘doing something’ about a problem, but it almost never works. A President has to drive the bureaucracy by making the fight against terrorism a daily, personal priority.” Yet one always senses that Obama has something else he’d rather be doing.

From Fox News on your government at work: “The State Department is planning to welcome thousands of immigrants from terror-watch list countries into the United States this year through a ‘diversity visa’ lottery — a giant legal loophole some lawmakers say is a ‘serious national security threat’ that has gone unchecked for years. Ostensibly designed to increase ethnic diversity among immigrants, the program invites in thousands of poorly educated laborers with few job skills — and that’s only the beginning of its problems, according to lawmakers and government investigations.”

C-SPAN isn’t pleased with Obama’s reneging on his promise to televise the health-care debates: “C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb accused President Obama of using his network as a ‘political football’ during the presidential campaign, citing the president’s broken pledge to televise health care reform negotiations on the nonpartisan channel which is devoted to covering Washington.”

Harry Reid is trying to chase Harold Ford out of the New York Senate race.

Is Martha Coakley in trouble in Massachusetts? The New York Times frets: “The news that two senior Democratic senators will retire this year in the face of bleak re-election prospects has created anxiety and, even in this bluest of states, a sense that the balance of power has shifted dramatically from just a year ago. With the holidays over and public attention refocused on the race, Ms. Coakley’s insistence on debating her Republican opponent, Scott P. Brown, only with a third-party candidate present has drawn mounting criticism.” There is also that Rasmussen poll. The Gray Lady seems to be worrying that even a close race is bad news for the Democrats: “a tighter-than-expected margin in the closely watched race would still prompt soul-searching among Democrats nationally, since the outcome will be the first real barometer of whether problems facing the party will play out in tangible ways at the polls later this year.”

The Cook Report lists Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut as toss-up Senate races. North Dakota is “leans Republican.” Four GOP seats are listed as toss-up, but that includes New Hampshire, where the GOP candidate in the latest poll had a 7-point lead.

Max Baucus says health-care negotiations have “got a lot to cover.” Doesn’t sound like it’s a done deal yet.

Charles Krauthammer thinks Obama isn’t giving up his fixation on closing Guantanamo quite yet: “Obama will not change his determination to close Guantanamo. He is too politically committed. The only hope is that perhaps now he is offering his ‘recruiting’ rationale out of political expediency rather than real belief. With suicide bombers in the air, cynicism is far less dangerous to the country than naivete.”

But will anything really change? “The lesson of Abdulmuttalab is that rearranging the bureaucratic furniture is always the first resort of politicians who want to be seen ‘doing something’ about a problem, but it almost never works. A President has to drive the bureaucracy by making the fight against terrorism a daily, personal priority.” Yet one always senses that Obama has something else he’d rather be doing.

Read Less