Harold Ford's Bumbling Exit
The Tennessee congressman-turned-New York Senate wannabe was as clumsy leaving the stage as he was entering it. Peter Beinart on Ford’s incoherent star turn.
The Tennessee congressman-turned-New York Senate wannabe was as clumsy leaving the stage as he was entering it. Peter Beinart on Ford’s incoherent star turn. Plus, read Peter on how Ford showed how not to run for office.
Harold Ford is exiting the New York Senate race the same way he almost entered it: incoherently. Start with his supposed reason for not running. “If I run,” he wrote in The New York Times, “the likely result would be a brutal and highly negative Democratic primary—a primary where the winner emerges weakened and the Republican strengthened. I refuse to do anything that would help Republicans win a Senate seat in New York, and give the Senate majority to the Republicans.”
This just occurred to him? The fact that a primary challenge to incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand would help Republican chances of winning the seat has been blindingly obvious since the day Ford began mulling a run. It’s plausible that Ford decided he couldn’t beat Gillibrand, or that he didn’t think it was in his interest to try. But it’s laughable to think that he awoke one morning and realized that a primary battle would help the Republicans. He’s known that all along. He’s just finally pretending to care.
Evidently folks in Utica are mad as hell because New York’s congressional delegation didn’t send more taxpayer money to Wall Street. You really can learn a lot on these listening tours.
And if he’s so concerned with boosting Gillibrand’s chances of victory, why is he still bashing her on his way out the door? When candidates abandon primary battles, they usually lavish praise on their party’s nominee, extolling their virtues and noting how superior they are to the candidate of the opposing party. Ford, by contrast, declared the morning after his New York Times op-ed that “Voters don’t know the junior senator; they can’t name a single positive outcome from her.” Let me repeat: The day after declaring that “I refuse to do anything that would help Republicans win a Senate seat in New York,” Ford did exactly that.
• Sen. Gillibrand talks to Lloyd Grove What’s more, he bashed “Democratic Party insiders” for not representing the people of New York. Ford, it turns out, developed a real bond with New Yorkers in the two months that he mulled a Senate run. Upon visiting exotic locales like Rochester and Queens, he discovered that New Yorkers “are facing economic adversity with grace and dignity. They worry about their future, care about their neighbors and hope this storm will pass so they can focus on better days ahead.” Unfortunately, they are being betrayed by their representatives in Congress, who insist on “voting for health-care legislation that imposes billions in new taxes on New Yorkers” (that’s Republican-speak for the Obama health care bill) and “restricts federal financing for abortions.” In other words, Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand are betraying the good people of New York by supporting President Obama’s health-care bill. And Ford is standing up to them because he won’t brook any infringement of abortion rights, despite having declared himself pro-life when he was a congressman from Tennessee. Turns out Democratic pols are betraying their constituents in other ways as well: By “voting against critical funds necessary to ensure the survival of the financial-services industry.” That would be, uh, the bank bailout. Evidently folks in Utica are mad as hell because New York’s congressional delegation didn’t send more taxpayer money to Wall Street. You really can learn a lot on these listening tours.
But don’t fear, the tide is turning, in large measure because Ford considered running for Senate. “I believe raising these issues over the last two months has forced Democrats and Republicans alike to do better,” he writes. “And I will continue holding their feet to the fire.” If Harold Ford keeps up the fight, perhaps Obama’s health-care effort will fail, Washington will initiate new bank bailouts, and New Yorkers will see what a dud Kirsten Gillibrand really is. Not bad for a guy who isn’t even running.
Peter Beinart, senior political writer for The Daily Beast, is associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation. His new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, will be published by HarperCollins in June. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.