NY State Focus: Harold Ford, jr. is no Hillary Clinton
"A penny for the old guy"
Hillary Clinton, the very accomplished, brilliant wife of a very popular President, moved to New York to run for the Senate. She was widely criticized initially as a "carpetbagger," but in the end won our confidence and won her Senate seat. Hillary is an exceptional person and NY State appreciates exceptional people even if they come from elsewhere. Even though it didn't pass Congress (due to the exact same Democratic divisions and Republican obstructionism we are seeing now), I think many appreciated her efforts and recognized her Healthcare plan as something America sure could have used.
Harold Ford, jr., the failed Senate candidate from Tennessee and Wall Street fat cat, somehow convinced himself he was as exceptional a person and Hillary Clinton and thought he could follow in her footsteps. Moving from Tennessee he thought he could waltz into the Senate, banking on dissatisfaction with so-far only appointed Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Harold Ford, jr., however, is neither as brilliant nor as accomplished as Hillary Clinton was when she first moved to New York. He has not been the very visible and active spouse of a popular President, nor has he worked out a very impressive Healthcare proposal that SHOULD have been passed by Congress but wasn't. In fact Harold Ford, jr. has done little except get large Wall Street bonuses, practically inherit his father's Congressional seat, adopt Republican rhetoric, and fail in his bid for Senator of Tennessee.
NY State is fulling willing to embrace someone as exceptional as Hillary Clinton moving in and running for Senate. But we are not eager to accept a cast off candidate from Tennessee.
Very, very few people supported Harold Ford's run for NY Senate. Wall Street loved him because he's one of them, so unlikely to threaten their tax-payer supported bonuses and off-shore bank accounts. Michael Bloomberg loved him probably for the same reasons and because he just wants to be a kingmaker. Of course he prefers making himself king, but in lieu of that he is almost as happy making others king and having them beholden to him. Then there is corrupt Brooklyn party boss, Vito Lopez, who more often than not makes his decisions of who to support based on vague vendettas. In this case, Senator Gillibrand was not adequately willing to kiss Vito Lopez's ass (good for her!) so he invented a vendetta and eagerly embraced loser Harold Ford, jr. as the tool for his vendetta. Mind you he often loses his vendettas. Ask Margarita López Torres and Diana Reyna, both of whom won against Vito vendettas. I bet Gillibrand barely even noticed Vito's vendetta against her and in the end he just wound up looking foolish.
Almost no one else liked Harold Ford, jr. in NY State. I don't think we appreciated his Republican-lite conservatism or his feeling that the next place to go after losing in Tennessee was here. Kind of insulting, in my book. Vito Lopez is used to seeing Brooklyn's court system as a garbage dump for unqualified politicians, so it is no surprise he might view NY's Senate seat as a garbage dump for failed politicians from other states. But most of us don't like the idea. I think we consider ourselves better (and more progressive) than Tennessee and don't want their cast offs.
The real winner, and I said this a long time ago, of Harold Ford's foolish run for NY Senate is, of course Senator Gillibrand. His candidacy made most of us appreciate Gillibrand as our Senator.
I have overall liked Gillibrand. Her successful run for Congress was a huge victory in NY State for Democrats. And, when she was in Congress, she seemed to do a good job of representing her district, which is one of the more conservative districts in NY State.
The difficult choice for a replacement for Hillary Clinton once she became Secretary of State somewhat damaged Gillibrand's support. Personally I thought Caroline Kennedy (strongly backed by the likes of mayor Moneybags Bloomberg, who also seems to be supporting Harold Ford) came off way too arrogant when she acted as if it was her divine right to become Senator. She may well have been a good Senator, but she had no claim to the position. I would have personally preferred Jerrold Nadler. Watching him and Al Franken team up against some of those Republican thugs would have been sweet. But I knew that was a long shot. I also liked the idea of Nydia Velasquez filling Hillary's spot, but having two Brooklynites does seem a bit disrespectful to the rest of the state.
In the end, Gillibrand struck me as a reasonable choice, though, like most progressives, I feared her more conservative positions. However, she made it clear from the start that she considered representing the entire state as something very different than representing her one, pretty conservative district. And overall I have liked the stands she takes and I liked the leadership role she took in opposing the despicable Stupak-Pitts amendment.
But Gillibrand, by and large, draws her support from the middle of the party with both the liberal and conservative ends of the party eying here with more suspicion. I know many liberals who were lukewarm about her or outright opposed to her. This, plus her relative inexperience in the Senate, made her vulnerable.
Then comes Harold Ford, jr. Within days of his hinting he would run against Gillibrand, many progressives I know who were lukewarm about her suddenly liked her a lot better. Progressives are now far more willing to unite with moderates to support Gillibrand now that they have considered that they could get someone as inappropriate as Harold Ford, jr. Harold Ford's devastating interview with the NY Times, wherein he comes close to pulling a Palin by claiming he has been to Staten Island because he once landed in a helicopter there (does that mean I have been to Germany because I had a stop over at the Frankfort airport?), has further shown progressives and moderates that Gillibrand really is pretty good as a Senator. My son knows Staten Island better than Ford, having ridden the length of the State Island railroad, visiting the Children's museum there and eating at a small, family run Mexican restaurant at Oakwood Heights twice. Does that qualify my son for NY's Senate seat?
Harold Ford, jr. will be forgotten within weeks. He may try to run for something else, and if he chooses to do it in Brooklyn Vito Lopez may well find him a nice judgeship or City Council seat. But I think overall Ford made a fool of himself and New Yorkers will remember him, if at all:
...not as lost
Violent [soul], but only
As the hollow m[a]n
The stuffed m[a]n.
(Apologies to TS Eliot)