For some reason, former Tennessee Representative Harold Ford, Jr. is mulling a Democratic primary run, chasing after the New York Senate seat currently held by the appointed Kirsten Gillibrand. His candidacy comes completely out of the blue. It does not make any sense. And based upon a recent interview, where the New York Times basically allowed Ford to stage his own political autoerotic asphyxiation, it will not be making any more sense, to anyone, anytime soon. Democratic Party, meet your very own Sarah Palin.
When I first heard that Harold Ford was mulling challenging Gillibrand, my first thought was that we were talking about some entirely different Harold Ford, whose existence had not been previously disclosed to me. Gillibrand, herself, was a flexed-to-the-center representative who immediately had to start moderating her positions leftward in order to garner and maintain the statewide appeal she would need to retain her seat. To her credit, she did this rather seamlessly. Still, one could see the possibility of a primary challenger moving in on her left flank, to exploit her political opportunism.
However, that candidate was not the Harold Ford I knew about. The one who ran the hyper-timid incrementalist bullshit shop known as the Democratic Leadership Council? The pro-life Democrat? Who supported the Iraq War? Who voted for the bankruptcy bill? Who supported federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case? These are the sorts of positions that Gillibrand wisely vacated.
Of course, Ford is dabbling in the same sort of Gillibrandian moderation. He wants you to know he's pro-choice, now. Just in case it wasn't clear. And he's recently decided that he's on board with the whole gay-marriage thing. But he's still a terrifying supporter of Wall Street's fundamental shitheelness. And he seems to think that defying Harry Reid and being to the right of Ben Nelson on health care reform is the smart way to endear himself to New York voters.
Anthony Weiner captured it best: "If he thinks that it's an appealing argument to position yourself as being somebody who will stand up to Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, well, I don't think we need another Joe Lieberman."
I honestly could not put into words what Harold Ford is for, exactly, other than winning a Senate seat in New York, accommodated by voters who presumably would have found some way of taking complete leave of their senses.
But then comes this New York Times interview, to which Ford apparently brought his own petard, and a handful of lit matches.
Democratic strategist Peter Feld practically exults in the masterful way the Times essentially enables Ford's self-humiliation. "You have to think Ford is insane," he writes.
He is going to run against Gillibrand, in a Democratic primary, by attacking her for supporting Obama's health care plan and for being tough on Wall Street? He is going to run a pro-Wall Street campaign in a Democratic primary? (Sorry to repeat, but it is so crazy from every angle!)
And Ford's support for Wall Street reveals itself in a way that is mind-numbingly disconnected from the world. In one breath, he assails Gillibrand for coming out against the bailout of Wall Street, scolding her, thusly: "It was a mistake... . How can you be against ensuring that the lifeblood of your city and of your state survives?" But in the next breath, he says: "I am a capitalist. ... I believe that people take risk, and there are rewards if they do well; they should lose if they don't." Let me pass the mic to Glenn Greenwald:
So the rugged individualist Harold Ford -- who inherited his father's Congressional seat at the age of 26 -- is a self-proclaimed "capitalist" who believes that people "should lose" if they don't do well: unless, that is, the people who "don't do well" are his funders and controllers on Wall Street, in which case they should be propped up by the U.S. government with bailouts and loans and Federal Reserve tricks until such time that they can pay themselves tens of millions of dollars in bonuses, at which point they should be left alone in the name of "free market capitalism" and keeping the government out of the affairs of industry and away from their "rewards."
What Ford is advocating, of course, is the exact opposite of free market capitalism. It's risk-free crony "capitalism," warped corporatism, the essence of decaying emerging-market nations in crisis, in which the coercive power of the government is harnessed by a corrupt financial elite for its own benefit and at everyone else's expense, to ensure that people like Harold Ford can maintain their chauffeurs and weekly pedicures and helicopter rides he strangely boasted of enjoying.
Yes, it was that helicopter that took Ford on his one and only sojourn to Staten Island:
Q. Have you been to Staten Island?
A. I landed there in the helicopter, so I can say yes.
That's not the sort of thing that's likely to endear Ford to the Wu-Tang Clan, surely. But that's okay! Ford runs in some elite company. And it's his elite running crew that comes to mind when he s asked the simple question about his New York football preferences. Look: I know that the whole Yankees or Mets, Jets or Giants question is a cheap one. BUT WHO TALKS LIKE THIS?
I had breakfast about every morning when I am in town, or I should say, several mornings, at the Regency. I see my friends the Tisches. Steve Tisch is my close personal friend. I have been to more Giants games. I spent the holidays, I had lunch over the holidays with Woody Johnson. We met for the first time. I am happy for his team.
Right. So, just so we're clear, Harold Ford: you want to run for office in New York. You want people in New York to vote for you. Democrats in New York are the people you are trying to appeal to. And, when asked if you prefer the Giants or the Jets, your answer is that you're better friends with the Tisches than with Woody Johnson, so Giants...? That is an insane answer.
You see how the words "crazy" and "insane" just keep coming up, again and again? LUCKILY THIS HAS LIMITS!
Q. Guns. Let's talk about this issue.
A: I never got an A rating, like my opponent -- would-be opponent -- has enjoyed. I don't own them. I do shoot them, and I shoot them at things that can't shoot back. And will continue to do that. And by that, I want to be clear, I don't mean children.
Harold Ford will not gun down your children! How could he? He's already emptied his chamber into his own foot!
Harold Ford's Puzzling Run [Matt Yglesias]
pro-life DemocratWhy Harold Ford Should Not Be New York's Junior Senator [Air America]
Harold Ford Promises New Yorkers: He Won't Shoot Your Children [Attackerman]
Harold Ford, NYT, Gillibrand: WTF? [Peter Feld]
New York Times Allows Harold Ford to Destroy Himself [Gawker]
Harold Ford's warped understanding of "capitalism" [Glenn Greenwald]