Sunday, February 07, 2010


In her column in today's New York Times, Maureen Dowd seems ready to unleash snark on Harold Ford, the himbo Tennessee carpetbagger who's planning to run for Senate in New York -- she even mentions his egg-white omelet in her first sentence, a clear sign of Dowdian disdain. However, the column is based on a face-to-face interview, and Dowd is simply overwhelmed by Ford's in-person arrogance and oleaginousness, and she responds by withholding the snark. More precisely, she lays the groundwork for the launching of several snark bombs, only to allow Ford to defuse them:

... Harold Ford Jr. defended himself on pedicures....

"I either run or try to play basketball every day," he said. "I have severe athlete's foot -- feet. I get a foot scrub out of respect for my wife because getting into bed with what I have when I take my socks off isn't respectful to anybody."

(Sigh! What a good husband!)

The New York transplant with the Tennessee driver's license who was raised in Washington, D.C., is the darling of what he calls the "Manhattan social philanthropic crowd."

(Sigh! He may be a rootless cosmopolitan, but he gives back!)

He often gets chauffeured by MSNBC to his gigs on "Morning Joe" and has flown to the boroughs in a helicopter.

The chopper trip was part of a fundraising drive by the New York City Police Foundation.

He said he and his brothers were not spoiled growing up. "My grandmother beat the [expletive] out of us with an electric cord," he said.

(Sigh -- he's charitable and he's not a spoiled rich kid at all!)

And Dowd lets him turn his venue-shopping, cash-grabbing move to New York into a modern-day Loving v. Virginia:

Ford said he and his pretty blond wife, Emily, a marketing expert, were married in 2008 after his racially charged run for the Senate in Tennessee. They have made her apartment their official home.

"My wife decided after the '08 election," he said. "There was so much bad racial stuff out of Tennessee on Obama. I'm in an interracial marriage. I don't want to subject my wife to this, and I want to start a family. I think my marriage is more accepted here than it would be in Tennessee...."

When Ford defends his tenure on Wall Street ("I'm not running from the fact that I worked at a bank and brought in clients"), Dowd sympathetically coos, "Being a Wall Street bonus baby is not a plus." Poor Harold!

She lets him pull historical facts out of his keister:

"I'm not comparing myself to Bobby Kennedy by any stretch, but he was opposed by the liberal establishment, too," Ford said. "Eleanor Roosevelt was the biggest opponent to him running."

As Hotline's Abby Livingston notes:

It seems on odd statement, seeing as Eleanor Roosevelt died in '62, two years before Kennedy's '64 SEN election....

In fact, ... Evan Thomas' biography, "Robert F. Kennedy: His Life" ... -- a much respected, scholarly and modern look at Kennedy -- does not even have Eleanor Roosevelt listed in the index.
Hotline OnCall was unable to locate a documented instance of Roosevelt going on the record in opposition to Kennedy.

The keepers of the Eleanor Roosevelt papers at George Washington University note that she had friction with John F. Kennedy, but not Robert:

Eleanor Roosevelt opposed Kennedy's nomination in 1956 because she thought he avoided taking a stand on the Senate censure of Joseph McCarthy and on enforcing civil rights legislation and court decrees. While she detested Richard Nixon, the Republican nominee, she refused to campaign for Kennedy until the final days of the 1960 campaign.

(Well, close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and softball interviews.)

And Dowd lets Ford get away with saying, "I love New York. I love the smell of the city" without noting that this answer is as canned as what's on Sarah Palin's hand. (Three weeks ago, Ford told the Daily News, "I love the smell of New York.")


It's easy to mock Dowd for this. But what Ford is doing is instructive for all Democrats, because he's sustaining the impression that he's a contender despite all the mockery he's received.

The lessons to be learned from Ford:

Never back down -- and, more important, construct a counternarrative in which what seems to be the conventional wisdom, namely that you're in the wrong, isn't true at all. Make a strong case that others are the buffoons and villains, while you're blameless and, in fact, virtuous. Make people who were sure you were on the ropes, and deserved to be, walk away thinking that you're the victim of unfair treatment and that your critics are motivated by malice. (Ford gets Dowd to write about "Gillibrand Svengali Schumer and the White House -- the 'political bosses,' as he calls them -- shoving him away from the race.")

This works for Republicans all the time. Ford seems to be getting it to work now. I wish some real Democrats would figure out how to get it to work.

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