On Twitter, I posted this link (via Matthew Yglesias), to one of Harold Ford Jr.'s (right, NY Daily News) commercials from his 2006 Senate run in Tennessee, in which he lost to right-winger Bob Corker. In the commercial, as in his run, Ford Jr. is so far to the right that you have to remind yourself he's not a Republican. But for anyone familiar with his prior record, his ideological position in the Senate run was no surprise. As a Congressperson (a legacy, no less, inheriting the seat from his father, Harold Ford Sr., who was more politically progressive and underwent an intensive legal assault by Tennessee Republicans and the Reagan administration), Ford Jr. consistently took right-of-center positions, unapologetically claimed to "love George Bush," and after losing the election, in which he was repeatedly race-baited by the GOP, he soon went to head the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which is to say, the Democrat's GOP-lite annex, and to punditry gigs on Fox and then MSNBC, on which he has repeatedly demonstrated that in addition to having a pretty face, his ideological compass remains fairly rightward. (I.e., he's in the mainstream of the US corporate media.) The combo of post-defeat opportunities, which now include an executive post at bailout recipient Merrill Lynch, landed him in New York.
One thing that Ford Jr., as the son of a prominent and wealthy politician, has always possessed, it seems to me, is confidence, or to put it another way, chutzpah, and recently he demonstrated it when, at the alleged urging of various extremely wealthy New Yorkers, including New York's billionaire mayor, Ford Jr. announced his desire to seek the Senate seat currently occupied by Kirsten Gillibrand (below right, NY Daily News). She, readers might recall, is the not especially popular former center-right upstate Democratic Congressperson picked in haphazard fashion by New York's ineffectual and inept governor, David Paterson, after he directed his staff to trash Caroline Kennedy, the presumptive nominee and early patron of President Barack Obama. Since assuming the seat, Gillibrand has moved noticeably to the left, and approximates her senior colleague, Chuck Schumer, in her voting patterns; yet it would seem that a strong candidate from the left, running against the neoliberal, DLC-ish policies of the current administration, might make a case for replacing Gillibrand and pushing an even more progressive, pro-New York agenda. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, one likely candidate, had thought about it before decided not to run. The case for a right-wing quasi-Democrat, bankrolled by Wall Street types, with a longstanding anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and warmongering record, however, appears more difficult to make. In fact, Ford's record and rhetoric have been so far to the right that I would venture he'd have a hard time be electing in any Northeastern state as a Democrat, let alone a Republican, except perhaps in Pennsylvania. Yet he has been huddling with New York's mayor-by-default, Mike Bloomberg, and the Democratic Majority Leader, Harry Reid, recently came to plead with Bloomberg not to back Ford Jr. As to where President Obama stands on the matter, who knows, though given his tenor of his tenure so far, I could see him backing Ford Jr., whom he repeatedly campaigned for in 2006. (Obama, however, will not be campaigning this week for Ted Kennedy's likely replacement, Democrat Martha Coakley, who is in a tightening race in Massachusetts against Republican Scott Brown. Go figure.)
I have read comparisons between Ford's carpetbagging and Hillary Clinton's, or Robert F. Kennedy's (he was born in New York, however), and am aware of the long history of Americans who've tramped from state to state getting elected (cf. James Shields, 19th century US Senator from Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri), but the Clinton comparison in particular focuses more on the political contours rather than addressing the specific ideological and policy cases against him running, and winning, in New York State. What would he bring to this race? Do New Yorkers, and black New Yorkers--which seems to be his hook--specfically, see any benefit from electing someone who has repeatedly supported policies damaging to most of them? Ford notes in the commercial that he supported the Patriot Act, defense spending, and against "amnesty" for "illegals." His record shows that he voted against ENDA and for the Iraq War, the Bankruptcy Bill, and the Federal Marriage Amendment. He supported the candidacy of Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court, and Republican legislation on behalf of Terri Schiavo's parents, against her husband. Ford Jr. did take some mainstream Democratic positions, including standing against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve and supported federal stem cell research funding, but had he been elected to the Senate in 2006, his prior record would have placed him at the far right of the Democratic caucus, and to the right even of several Republicans, including Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe.
Despite some recent moderation, which I imagine no one is buying, the main reason I can identify for his candidacy is that his patrons ("executives," to use the New York Times's term) want someone even more compliant with and willing to push even more reliably pro-corporate ("independent"--New York Times) politics from what was Hillary Clinton's and Al D'Amato's (a verifiably right-wing Republican) old seat. This argument mirrors the ones put forward when Mike Bloomberg was mulling a presidential run; I saw no natural mass constituency, only Wall Street and the social and business élites, who quickly coöpted Barack Obama--who made pilgrimage and paid fealty to Bloomberg, don't forget--instead. He has suggested that there needs to be a black person in the Senate (on the grounds of local and national representation and diversity, I would agree, though I don't think it should be him), especially now that Roland Burris will not be returning after this year, and so far no other viable African-American candidate for any of the open Senate seats has emerged. (While I would not to lose a single woman in the Senate, perhaps Barbara Mikulski will decide to step down and Maryland's Lt. Governor, Iraq veteran Anthony Brown, will run for her seat). This is not to attribute bad faith to Harold Ford Jr., but to suggest that there is no convincing case to be made, at least on behalf of the majority of New York voters, or the rest of the country for that matter, for his candidacy for this seat, right now or anytime in the foreseeable future. And I'm not kicking his dog, mind you. Just asking, but at this point in our ongoing national economic and political debacles, how stupid and gullible do the people in power think we are?
Today was the first day of Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the federal trial challenging the constitutional validity of Proposition 8, which the San Jose Mercury News suggests may "be the signature civil rights fight of the 21st century." Depending upon the outcome, it could lead to a landmark US Supreme Court ruling, or Congressional legislation down the road, and as it concerns the most populous state in the nation and the popular reversal by referendum and constitutional amendment of rights underwritten by a court ruling, it's particularly significant.
The trial is underway in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Today the presiding justice, Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker, appointed to the federal court by President George H. W. Bush, heard arguments from both sides; Theodore Olson, the conservative lawyer and former Solicitor General under George W. Bush, along with Clinton administration counsel David Boies, are leading the arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs, two same sex couples, Berkeley residents Sandra Stier and the eponymous Kristin Perry, and Burbank couple Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, who were denied marriage licenses because of the Prop 8 vote. Prominent attorney Charles Cooper is arguing on behalf of the Prop 8 amendment of California's state constitution. California's Attorney General, former Governor and Oakland mayor Jerry Brown, refused to defend the law, saying it should be struck down, while Governor Schwarzenegger has argued that it raises important constitutional questions that need to be addressed.
As noted above, Should Olson, Boies and the plaintiffs win, the case could then move by appeal to the US Supreme Court. The higher court did stay Judge Walker's decision to permit delayed broadcast of the proceedings on YouTube, so for the duration media accounts will have to suffice.
How about those New York Jets, who defeated the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks in a row, this time 24-14 on Saturday. Jets QB Mark Sanchez (right, NJ.com) became only the fourth rookie QB to win a playoff game. The Dallas Cowboys followed the Jets' victory by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 34-14. The Cowboys' defense was out in full force, as was its running and passing game.
On Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens, long known for their defensive prowess, stopped the New England Patriots cold with a 33-14 victory and stupendous running by former Rutgers star Ray Rice (below left, NJ.com), who racked up 159 yards on 22 rushes, and 2 touchdowns. Later that afternoon, the Arizona Cardinals put on an offensive show and defeated the Green Bay Packers 55-41, in overtime. As the score suggests, there was hardly any defensive play to speak of, though the Cardinals got just enough when they needed it.
The Jets now play the 13-3 San Diego Chargers, while the Ravens play 14-2 Indianapolis, which was rolling towards an undefeated season until the Jets broke up their mojo. In the NFC Arizona plays the New Orleans Saints, who went 13-3, while Dallas plays the 12-4 Minnesota Vikings. I'm pulling for the Jets, but I see the higher seeds (Indy, Saints, Vikings) all winning.