The political suicide of Harold Ford Jr.

I used to be a fan of Harold Ford Jr. When he was a Congressman from Tennessee, I respected his work ethic, his smarts, his ambition. And I admired his audacity in seeking the Senate from Tennessee — a high hurdle for any Democrat, but especially one who is black.

But he’s making a fool of himself as he tries out for a New York Senate race; he looks like an elitist, opportunistic flip-flopper — a caricature of his former self. As a conservative Democrat, he held positions with which I disagreed. But I gave him credit for at least believing in those positions.

I’m not only deeply disappointed. I’m embarrassed for him. He’s already been widely derided for an unfortunate interview he gave to The New York Times earlier this month in which he hit all the wrong notes: He allowed as to how he’s seen all of the city’s five boroughs by helicopter, with wealthy acquaintances; he admitted that he doesn’t take the subway much because he’s chauffeured to NBC’s headquarters for his talking head appearances on MSNBC; and he’s a fan of the Giants because co-owner Steve Tisch is a close personal friend.

Ford is also a Wall Street banker, at a time when Americans are not overly fond of Wall Street. All in all, that’s pretty poor start for a guy considering a primary challenge to Kirsten Gillibrand, New York’s junior senator.

But that’s not the worst. The worst part is Ford’s efforts to distance himself from every political position he held as a Tennessee Congressman. As a Nashville reporter puts it:

Instead, he’s denying any significant alteration of his politics. Ford asserts that he has not suddenly become pro-gun-control, gay-friendly, pro-choice, and pro-immigrant. . .
I covered Junior’s campaign for U.S. Senate against Bob Corker. In 2006, Ford wanted desperately to leave voters with the impression he abhorred gay marriage and thought it offensive to his faith. He wanted voters to believe that his few votes to restrict abortion amounted to a pro-life record. He wanted voters to believe he had no intention of making any moves against the NRA on firearms legislation. And, more than anything, he tried to get to the political right of his opponent with a fierce advocacy of clamping down on “illegals.”

For his flip-flops, the smart and eloquent blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates has compared Ford to George Wallace, who was a progressive on race until he realized he couldn’t win elections in Alabama that way. And the brilliant comedian Stephen Colbert ripped Ford to shreds, naming him “alpha dog of the week” for “knowing who you are and who you might be in 15 minutes.”

Watch:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Alpha Dog of the Week – Harold Ford Jr.
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Economy

Please Harold, give it up while you have a shred or two of self-respect left.

41 comments Add your comment

neo-Carlinist

January 26th, 2010
2:13 pm

call me a skeptic, but I don’t think he’s “committing suicide”. he’s applying for the jobe of mole (think double agent). he’s not sniffing around to “represent” the people of NY, he’s been “sheep dipped” and trotted out by Wall Street to save them a few bucks on lobbyists. all this talk about “flip-flopping on issues” is just a smoke screen. he’s a carpet-bagger alright, but it ain’t HIS carpetbag he’s toting.

ctucker

January 26th, 2010
2:29 pm

Interesting theory. neo-Carlinist. We’ll see

sam

January 26th, 2010
2:30 pm

when you run for office you check your self respect at the door…apparently no problem for mr ford

Ridgerunner

January 26th, 2010
2:38 pm

Tommy Maddox

January 26th, 2010
2:44 pm

Move to New York from your home state and run for political office? Who ever heard of such a dopey move as that?

Byron Mathison Kerr

January 26th, 2010
3:07 pm

“compared Ford to George Wallace, who was a progressive on race until he realized he couldn’t win elections in Alabama that way.”

I think few people know that about Wallace. He was a protege of Alabama Governor “Big Jim” Folsom. Folsom spoke out on the plight of black people as early as 1948.

And Wallace reinvented himself again after being maimed and successfully courted the black vote to become governor again. He was a strong education governor in the 1970s. Ironic, isn’t it?

TnGelding

January 26th, 2010
3:17 pm

I’ve always liked and admired Ford, too, and still do. I haven’t seen any of his recent appearences, but it’s ok to change your positions with me as long as there is a valid reason, and usually if you look back it has more to do with nuance than actual change. It’a a sign of good judgement and maturity. And there is nothing wrong with being a Wall Street banker. We need public servants that understand how our economy works and the importance of keeping a balance between Wall Street and Main Street, and I think he does. The media and the GOP are trying to say Obama is changing too, but they just haven’t been listening closely enough to what he has been saying over the years. I would have preferred Ford, but Corker has represented TN well.

The Woodstack

January 26th, 2010
3:34 pm

I’ve watched this as it has evolved. It wasnt until some of Ford’s supporters ’set him straight’ on his own views that he changed the path to a more party friendly approach. My theory is simple. Do you firmly believe that Gillibrand was as set on the issues when she first decided to run as she is now? The answer is no. She poll tested the public to find what platform she needed to run on. She knowlingy exploited the State, as all politicians do, in order to find a message that resounded with 50+1%. Do I blame Ford for his stupidity, yes. Do I believe that had he stayed with his original platform he would have lost, yes. Conformity is the democratic process. An ever evolving society defined us and will continue to as the hands of time continue to move oh so abruptly.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

January 26th, 2010
3:36 pm

Query, could Ford win in NY as a Republican, a la Scott Brown?

The Woodstack

January 26th, 2010
3:37 pm

And for all you spell-checkers out there, KNOWINGLY***

The Woodstack

January 26th, 2010
3:38 pm

Well he could possible win as a Repub if he would have stuck to his original Blue Dog message. It’s too late for that now.

The Woodstack

January 26th, 2010
3:39 pm

Possibly, good grief.

mikey

January 26th, 2010
3:41 pm

flip-flop flip-flop flip-flop. The sound of the left.

The Woodstack

January 26th, 2010
3:45 pm

LOL. What sound does the “opposing” side make?

ctucker

January 26th, 2010
3:49 pm

Ragnar Danneskjöl asks, could Ford win in NY as a Republican, a la Scott Brown?

Excellent question. Possibly. But he might also have run afoul of the tea-partiers, who would have demanded more ideological purity. Remember the recent Congressional election in New York?

The Woodstack

January 26th, 2010
3:54 pm

Or what about the way he treated Corker in ‘06? The Memphis Airport scene?

The Woodstack

January 26th, 2010
3:54 pm

Republicans dont seem to be as easy to forgive as they do forget.

neo-Carlinist

January 26th, 2010
4:13 pm

are we speaking English here? it’s not about “issues” or 51% of the vote. it’s about getting into office by hook or by crokk, and pedaling influence to the highest bidder. kudos to Ford, he obviously figured out that Wall Street pays better than Main Street when it comes to the highest bidder. the sad irony of American politics is; politicians float these “issue” balloons, like 2nd Amendment rights, abortion, or same sex marriage on Main Street, but they take orders from Wall Street (and by Wall Street, I mean ALL corporations, not just those based in lower Manhattan). again, my mentor George Carlin said it best, the current political doesn’t even feel the need to preten issues matter (”…I feel you pain…” (unless of course that’s AIG’s pain).

The Woodstack

January 26th, 2010
4:23 pm

Maybe I am out of touch, but issues are what the majority of the public attaches to particular candidates. Money does run and ruin elections, but surface issues define candidates.

jconservative

January 26th, 2010
4:27 pm

Interesting column. Cynthia check out the political positions of Gillibrand, the former conservative Democratic congresswoman from an upstate district. We now have the conservative, Democratic Leadership Council head, running against the conservative upstate representative. And both are trying to carrying the West End of Manhattan.

This is really comical. But if Ford does jump into the race, it will be the most entertaining race on the 2010 list.

william

January 26th, 2010
4:30 pm

If he can help the mess they have up there I say more power to him. The democrate leadership does not like it because it upsets their little puppet Gillibrand. Best of luck Mr Ford. If Hillary can move up there and do then who not someone else.

ctucker

January 26th, 2010
4:37 pm

I’m with you, jconservative. It would, indeed, be entertaining.

Mel

January 26th, 2010
6:11 pm

This was the first time all the comments were interesting, not rude. That’s great, what happened?

Chris Broe

January 26th, 2010
7:02 pm

Cynthia’s being awfully tough on Ford. It’s not like he’s sported a Yankee’s cap or anything.

john hushagen

January 26th, 2010
7:02 pm

Mr. Ford really is clueless about tax policy, as Paul Krugman correctly states. If Mr. Ford knew anything about American economic history he would realize that this country has seen some of the greatest economic boom periods when taxes were raised on the wealthy and corporations, and not lowered. To state otherwise is factually and historically incorrect. The wealthy have had their way in this country long enough. It’s time they paid their fair share of the load.

Chris Broe

January 26th, 2010
7:22 pm

Off Topic: Has anyone checked out Gary Coleman’s recent mug shot? You can’t write it, no police artist could sketch it, no casting agent could beat it. Priceless photo of a child star gone bad. Do you think he was overindulged as a kid?

not a CT fan

January 26th, 2010
8:06 pm

CT,

That video is tasteless. And you expect us to take you seriously?

Kevin

January 26th, 2010
8:16 pm

not a CT fan-

That video was many things– tasteless isn’t one of them. If you don’t “get” why Comedy Central rakes in the viewers and shapes their opinions, you must be of the geriatric variety.

not a CT fan

January 26th, 2010
8:27 pm

no Kevin, I am not of the geriatric variety. I just don’t take off-color humor as seriously as others,

Reader

January 26th, 2010
9:03 pm

Isn’t this the same Harold Ford, Jr. who is the head of the DLC? He represents the far right corporate arm of the Democratic party lobbyists. The DLC, like Ford, espouses completely illogical and self-contradictory statements while hiding the real agenda…more corporate power. Yes, it might be embarrassing for him as a person, but someone has to be the mouthpiece – that’s what the corporations pay the DLC for.

Buyer's remorse

January 26th, 2010
9:03 pm

“he looks like an elitist, opportunistic flip-flopper — a caricature of his former self. ” Is this a reference to Ford or PresBo?

Sidebar — tomorrow’s State of the Union — let’s count how many times PresBo says “I” rather than “we”, invokes “the sky is falling” crisis support for his agenda, and offers the moon and stars to the middle class (however in hades he defines “middle class”, and “tax cut”)…protecting our borders re: terrorism and illegals should be a hoot… This man is arrogance times ten!!!

JTex

January 26th, 2010
11:57 pm

“no Kevin, I am not of the geriatric variety. I just don’t take off-color humor as seriously as others,”

If it bothers you so much, then you apparently take it MORE seriously than others. What you, no doubt, MEANT to say, was that you aren’t as amused by it as others, that you are more offended by it than others, etc. etc. etc. Regardless, it shows that you are ignorant of the role of satire in, well, pretty much the political history of the West dating back to the Greeks.

Way to go! Uninformed self-righteousness FTW!

Cynthia Said Same of Obama

January 27th, 2010
1:01 am

Cynthia Tucker does the Atlanta Journal-Constitution a great disservice. Her take on Mr. Ford is just a wrong as she was when she criticized then Senator Obama. She was totally wrong on were Americans and black Americans would be when elections rolled around.

Its time for her to move on and stop attacking political figures who are black, just like she is!

Joel Edge

January 27th, 2010
7:04 am

I have to say. If that video was supposed to be funny, it wasn’t. I don’t see the attraction of Colbert or Stewart. A lot of what passes for humor these days isn’t.

EVIL REPUBLICANS TIME IS UP

January 27th, 2010
7:24 am

HAROLD FORD JR SOUNDS AND LOOKS REAL SUPER STUPID ON THE FLIP-FLOPS ISSUES!

Jimmy Carter

January 27th, 2010
7:42 am

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, the Harold Ford your are seeing in New York is closer to who he really is versus the guy you saw in Tennessee?

George

January 27th, 2010
9:18 am

From the AJC if you are ever confused that our political “leaders” are not in it for themselves as these fine lawmakers were above saving the taxpayers of Ga money. I can only imagine what Sonny does on a daily basis but compute his net worth.

Four of the five senators who skipped the furloughs in 2009 said they were confused by the process governing the way lawmakers take such days, and the two House members said they had no intention of taking them. All seven are Democrats.

Rep. David Lucas of Macon and Rep. Earnest “Coach” Williams of Avondale Estates said they oppose the furloughs on principle. Both said the leadership ordered the days without consulting members, who ran for the office with the expectation they would be paid a certain salary.

not a CT fan

January 27th, 2010
10:14 am

JTex,

It looks like you are the one who is offended here with your sophmoric name calling. I never said I was offended. You are spinning my comments. So I said something not-so-flattering about one of your obviously favorite comedians. Get over it.

I don’t really have an opinion of Mr. Ford since I hardly know anything about him, but I refuse to base it upon a satire that CT found. Maybe if I was a fan of CT, I might feel differently.

Sean Pgh

January 27th, 2010
11:35 pm

Joel Edge,

Let me guess; comedy to you is “Larry the Cable Guy” and “Two and a Half Men”.

Just another lemming you are.

Kevin Barry

January 29th, 2010
11:01 pm

When Robert f. Kennedy an millionaire from Massachusetts ran for the Senate seat in New York,was he not an elitist,or when Hillary Clinton a millionaire lawyer from Arkansas and wife of a former President,ran for the Senate seat in New York,was she not a elitist.Its obvious that this writer
has a liberal bias,don’t be liberal hypocrite,your readers are much smarter than you think.

Daniel Alsup

February 1st, 2010
11:56 pm

FLIP-FLOPPERS dont tell me what to do. Do what you will with NY.