Monday, September 24, 2007

Harold Ford at Robinson

Posted By on Mon, Sep 24, 2007 at 4:20 PM

Harold Ford just got done giving a pretty entertaining riff at the Robinson Center. The advertised subject was civil rights and Central, but the bulk of the speech was a long story about stumping at kindergarten graduations when he first ran for the House. In the question and answer period he talked a bit about education--he said that American history should be taught annually in schools and that a semester of study abroad should be required in college--and told of his grandmother's disciplinarian use for extension cords. He also mentioned that he has no plans to run against Lamar Alexander in 2008.

Ford is the chair of the DLC, a group whose centrist positions a lot of Democrats have a problem with. It's questionable whether moderate positions brought Ford down against Bob Corker in 2006. Running further to the left probably would have lost him votes in a state that's been solid Republican in the Senate for the last twelve years. But I also wonder if his political career is well served when he highlights his corporate ties in speeches--on this occasion, at least, he brought up his high-powered business dealings more than once. (Ford joined Merrill Lynch as an executive earlier this year.) It not that his corporate ties are a problem in themselves, but mentioning your meetings with CEOs in New York might not be the way to sway the common man in your favor.

Granted, Ford's not running for office now. But when he was asked what the Democratic Party needs to do to win Southern congressional seats, the answer wasn't that encouraging: work hard and meet people where they are (whatever that means). You'd hope for a more thorough answer from the leader of a major Democratic policy body. Hope that's not a suggestion of the broader Democratic strategy toward the South.

Ford's speech was a hoot nonetheless--if you missed it and get a chance to see him in the future, do. The Clinton School continues to keep up the good work into October: Wes Clark, Terry McAuliffe, former chairman of the Democratic Party, and Kevin Klose, president of NPR, are among the speakers scheduled for next month.

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