Many of us scratched our heads when Harold Ford Jr. announced that he was going to run for the Senate in New York. Of course, Hillary Clinton did the same thing when she decided to instantly become a New Yorker (as did Bobby Kennedy). However, neither Clinton nor Kennedy ever had an interview like the one Ford gave to the New York Times. Peter Beinart of the Daily Beast called it a case of a Ford “imploding” while the Gawker called it a case where the Times stood by and allowed Ford to “destroy himself.” Not since Sarah Palin has an interview gone so bad with the pundits.
After seeing these reviews, I had to read the interview like watching the news for a car crash at Nascar. I was frankly surprised because my brief encounters with Ford always left an impression of a very sophisticated, very clever, and very polished politician. He has had a distinguished career and education. He is an graduate from University of Pennsylvania and Michigan Law School. He is also married to a public relations expert, Emily Threlkeld, who works for Carolina Herrera in New York. Yet, despite his obvious talents and intellect, the interview is positively Palinesque.
In his defense, one can say that he is refreshingly honest. He does not try to hide a rather high lifestyle or aversion to public transportation — something shared by his possible opponents but rarely acknowledged.
The last Ford to have such early reviews was recalled when the Pinto showed a habit of exploding into flames when it hit small squirrels. In this case, Ford had a sit down with Michael Barbaro and seemed to burst into flames. Of course, the question is how he will play to the voters, but many are saying that this interview has ended the Senate bid before it truly began.
From a legal perspective, it was reassuring that ,while he was once staunchly “pro-life” and anti-same sex marriage, he is now “pro-choice” and for same-sex marriage because of what he calls (on the marriage question) “maturation.” Previously, he stated that he was against gay marriage because of his faith in God. While I agree with his current positions, crossing the state line seems to have had a truly transformative effect on Ford.
Ford goes on to describe visiting the boroughs of New York by helicopter, getting regular manicures, eating at the most expensive restaurants, and never taking the subway or taxis in preference for town cars sent by NBC. Not exactly Lincoln’s log cabin story, but perhaps it is the closest New York version.
Beinart noted that halfway through the interview “one assumes, Ford’s flak is lying dead on the floor, having impaled himself with his BlackBerry.”
That was one of the gentler comments. Of course, Ford is not running for the pundit vote, but he may want to drop the “I’m the most manicured man in this race” line before the primary.
What I find fascinating is the general view that this interview is enough to effectively end Ford’s run before it truly began. Can a single interview have such an effect? What do you think?
For the interview, click here.