Feb. 6, 2008
Story and pix By Ken Krayeske • 11:59 PM EST
Democratic Leadership Council chairman and former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. at Quinnipiac University's Alumni Hall Wednesday, February 6, 2008. (And I forgot my real camera, so this picture gets online via cell phone via bluetooth link to the Mac! A first for me.)
"I grew up with guns and I like 'em," isn't a sentence you normally hear from a Democrat.
But former Tennessee Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. is not your regular Democrat. He's a Blue Dog Democrat from Memphis.
And Wednesday night at Quinnipiac University's Alumni Hall in Hamden, CT, Ford professed his love for guns and God in front 200 students, faculty and community members.
As part of Quinnipiac's Black History Month celebration, Ford, who lost a hotly-contested 2006 Senate contest to Republican Robert Corker, addressed the challenges facing America, namely, energy independence, creating global peace and stability and restoring America's brand image abroad.
"We find ourselves as a country in one of those bizarre moments," Ford said. "We are engaged in two wars. We are facing recessionary pressures. People working as hard as they can, but they are not advancing as they want to.
"But the great thing about our country is that every time we have faced one of those moments, we have made things better," Ford said.
For 37-year-old Ford, an attorney, things are getting better. His post-electoral career has him flying high on Wall Street as vice chairman and senior policy advisor for Merrill Lynch, and he finds time to be Chairman of the right-wing Democratic Leadership Council.
From that perch, he proclaims that the next president will likely be a Democrat, he said, and a black or a woman at that.
"It is not unlikely that it will happen," he said. "I find it interesting that it may be one of those moments, that the country needs something different, something completely unconventional to realize our goals. We are the first generation of people to send people to war and then asking their families subsidize the people they are fighting against."
Meaning that when we fill our gas tanks, we fund the jihadists. Yet Ford, who wants higher taxes on his Wall Street peers and a flat 10 percent tax on those make less than $100,000, didn't criticize the runaway profits that Exxon-Mobil has enjoyed since the war.
Is it because Exxon-Mobil donates to the DLC, which has been regularly criticized in the past two decades as being the Republican wing of the Democratic Party?
The DLC's ties to the energy industry are not up for discussion, Ford indicated, yet energy independence is one of the paramount challenges facing the next President of the United States.
When asked directly about Exxon's corporate sponsorship of the DLC, Ford balked, refusing to say how much cash the petro-giant funnels to the not-for-profit DLC.
The cloak of secrecy should come as no surprise, given that the DLC membership roll features a who's who of corporate Democratic centrists: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Sam Nunn of Georgia, big-pharma's John Breaux of Lousiana, Joseph I. Lieberman, Evan Bayh of Indiana and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who departed as DLC chair in 2007 because he disagreed with its direction over the war in Iraq.
That direction is the DLC's aim to stay in Iraq until the job is done. DLC co-founder Will Marshall co-signed the famous Project for the New American Century letter to President Bush calling for the invasion of Iraq.
At Quinnipiac, Ford, a charming story-teller, repeatedly told the crowd that he had been to Iraq six or seven times. Ford was one of 81 Democratic Congressman who voted in 2002 to authorize President Bush to use in Iraq if necessary.
"Reread the resolution from 2002," Ford said. "It called for an exhaustion of diplomatic options before using force. I don't regret that vote. I do regret we had a president who didn't make the right choice."
Now, he said, we have to do all we can to make that country a safer place. Ford's experiences in Mesopotamia prove to him that presidential candidate Barack Obama is not being realistic with his promise to bring home the troops by Dec. 2009 if he is elected.
"Senator Obama himself says we have to be as careful in getting out as we were foolish and stupid in getting in," Ford said. "I don't think Al Qaida will let us leave by 2009."
Nor will John McCain, who wants us to stay for 50 more years. And that is why Democrats have to forget about their internal differences, like those between the progressives and the DLCers.
"As much as you think I am the problem, I am not," Ford said. "It is John McCain."