Monday, October 23, 2006

Ford's Memphis Meltdown

It’s the talk of Tennessee, it was Saturday’s “most popular” video clip on CNN’s website, and it’s even in newspapers from coast to coast, including the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Boston Globe, the L.A. Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Times, and others.

It’s Washington Congressman Harold Ford’s Memphis Meltdown.

And now, public sentiment and media commentary surrounding Ford’s embarrassing, non-Senatorial act of “crashing” Bob Corker’s Memphis news conference – just as a disgruntled teenager would “crash” a party – is determinably against Ford.

It was understandable Ford would try to stop Corker from unveiling a lobbying reform plan that would prohibit a family member from lobbying the House or the Senate while another family member serves in either body (questions have been raised about Harold Ford, Sr. lobbying the House of Representatives while his son is a member) – but it’s quite another to have done so in such a juvenile, petulant, non-Senatorial manner.

Ford now sees the damage he did himself, and nothing makes this clearer than the following transcript and video after an event in Gallatin Saturday during which Ford, when asked by a reporter if he wanted to comment on the airport incident, incredibly pretended not to know what the reporter was talking about:
Reporter: Do you want to comment on the Corker thing at all – the airport?
Ford: What Corker thing?
Reporter: The airport.
Ford: No, I just think the negative ads in this campaign have gotten so bad …

Following is a sampling of commentary thus far regarding Ford’s Memphis Meltdown:

“…Corker’s resolute and terse termination of the encounter was the sort of image that may grow larger in the collective memory of the event. He had, besides, protocol on his side, and an air of maturity more in keeping with the public notion of what a senator is.”
Jackson Baker/Memphis Flyer 10/22/06

“This is the second time in recent days that someone with the Ford campaign has shown up right before or just after a Corker event to try and give their side of the story. That's generally considered bad form and a bit rude even in politics. Is Corker's apparent campaign resurgence starting to annoy Harold Ford and his campaign?”
News Channel 5 Nashville: Capitol View Commentary

The following is a representative sample of commentary from Nashville’s News 2 WKRN blog:

"I am truly transfixed by this video. Ford has made an incalculable error in judgment here. He has started to take these attacks on his family personally. He shouldn't. This is politics. He should've expected this.

Sure, this "ethics" press conference was a thinly veiled attack on the Ford Family. So what? Don't take it personally. Corker's aim here was not only to expose the political "machine" but to show that Harold is just like the rest of his family. This video does that.

The Ford partisans are suggesting that this stunt takes the focus away from the Ford Family and mutes the potential headlines Corker might have captured. Nothing could be further from the truth...

Everyone else, however, sees a foolish young man, an arrogant young man, a man not quite ready for the upper chamber. This is what Ford needs to understand. He is young. He is a bachelor. In terms of coming off "Senatorial", he is already behind in the count.

This press conference by Corker was never going to be a big story. An article in the paper and a mention on the evening news. That's all it was gonna be. Very routine.

This confrontation does take away from whatever it was that Corker actually said at the conference. No doubt. But who comes off better in the confrontation?

If you are watching the same video I am, you have to admit that Corker comes off very well. Even standing several inches above him, Harold Ford comes across the smaller man.

Senators don't confront -- not like this. They reason and they deliberate. They do not let their blood get up and pull stunts like this.

It may have worked had Ford stayed off to the side and answered questions from the press.
However, once Corker came over to Ford to confront him, Ford lost the day…
Ford got sloppy. No other way to put it.

He showed up hoping to take the headlines away from Corker and he instead gave the public an opportunity to see something from Corker that they had never seen before. Toughness. A quiet reserved toughness, but toughness all the same.

Those who think Corker did not win this day, watch the video again. See how Ford reacts once Corker walked away. He clearly didn't see this going down this way.

Ford miscalculated badly here…"

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