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Harold Ford's hit -- and several misses

The statement issued this morning by Harold Ford Jr. about the catastrophe in Haiti was befitting a public servant. He expressed his condolences and urged his fellow New Yorkers to extend a hand to people in need, many of whom no doubt have relatives in the Empire State. What wasn't so pitch perfect was the profile of Ford in the New York Times today. It's one thing to move to New York from out of state and run for office. It's another to display a lack of connection with the everyday people you hope to represent.

Throughout the otherwise balanced piece, Ford -- who is an executive at Merrill Lynch, which is now owned by Bank of America -- drops little pieces of information that show a life that is very different and detached from that of most New Yorkers -- except that of a certain breed of Manhattanite. Ben Smith at Politico delves into Ford's rarefied life, too. But here are the nettlesome nuggets from the Times profile:

During a trip from New York to Palm Beach on Thursday, flight attendants and passengers stopped in the aisle to cheer him on, he said.

Palm Beach is an exclusive enclave that is as out-of-reach as the moon for most New Yorkers. An anecdote about being cheered on in Brighton Beach would have been better.

He and his wife, Emily, a 29-year-old fashion executive, live a few blocks from the Lexington Avenue subway line in the Flatiron district. But Mr. Ford said he takes the subway only occasionally in the winter, to avoid the cold when he cannot hail a cab.

No matter the season, the subway is the fastest, most efficient way to get around New York City, especially Manhattan. Even Mayor Bloomberg takes the subway with some regularity. The better to keep in touch with voters. Ford needs to get an unlimited MetroCard, pronto.

Asked whether he had visited all five boroughs, he mentioned taking a helicopter ride across the city with fellow executives, at the invitation of Raymond W. Kelly, New York City’s police commissioner. "The only place I have not spent considerable time is Staten Island," he said, adding that "I landed there in the helicopter, so I can say yes."

Ford would have gotten a little more credit had he said he'd alighted from the Staten Island Ferry. At least he could have rubbed elbows with folks who actually live there. And the helicopter ride with fellow business executives once again screams access and privilege not known by most New Yorkers.

He has breakfast most mornings at the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue, and he receives regular pedicures. (He described them as treatment for a foot condition.)

The Regency isn't the problem. Everybody has to go there if they're serious about doing anything political in New York. It's the "regular pedicures" that could trip him up. Even though they are for a "foot condition," that could strike some as a bit precious.

Mr. Ford has officially been a resident of the state only since 2009, and did not vote in November’s mayoral election. He still has a Tennessee driver’s license.

Voting in the mayoral election would have made his recent declarations of being a New Yorker that much more believable. As for the driver's license, get thee to the DMV Express on 34th Street.

In the grand scheme of things, these mistakes are minor and hardly insurmountable. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran for the senate seat Ford wants (now occupied by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D]), she was still first lady. She led a rarefied life, too. She had a conspicuous Secret Service detail and a van that shuttled her around everywhere. Constant coverage of her housing search only reminded people that she wasn't a New Yorker. But her listening tour and her ability to articulate an intimate knowledge of the state's problems showed voters that she wasn't a vanity candidate. Ford has a little more work to do on that score.

By Jonathan Capehart  | January 13, 2010; 3:46 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Jon-Jon, don't go getting your panty hose all in knots over Mr. Ford. New York voters don't seem to care that much about whether their Senators are actual New Yorkers. Besides, all Harold has to do is jog a little bit around Central Park after dark and he'll get mugged. Then he'll have all the credentials he needs.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | January 13, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I think it is gross that you are working for Obama and Schumer to try to protect Gillibrand from a primary. She deserves to be primaried.

Posted by: nivbri21 | January 13, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Gillibrand could use a primary, but from someone at least remotely credible. It definitely bothers me that Schumer & Co. have been threatening everyone, but Ford is a joke. I wish Jon Cooper had stayed in...

Posted by: HowardsJohnson | January 13, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

A primary from another New Yorker is one (expensive, risky) thing, but a primary from a guy who just moved here, and (unlike RFK and Hillary) has a long record of opposing the values of New York Democrats on basic ideological issues (choice, gay marriage,etc), and announces an economic platform indistinguishable from Eric Cantor's we don't need.

One of the reasons Gillibrand isn't popular are the "centrist" positions she took on guns and immigration. Ford is even further to the right. What does he offer NYS other than a pretty face, a glib tongue, and a snotty attitude?

Posted by: CormacNYC | January 13, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Harold Ford Jr is a filthy carpetbagger with no values and no quality, and one of the very few democratic congressmen to vote for the illegal Iraq war. If that SOB runs against Gillibrand, I hope they beat his black @ss all the way back to the south.

Posted by: playa_brotha | January 13, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

What is wrong with you lately, Mr. Capehart? It is you who seem out-of-touch.

Whether you are recommending that folks not get flu vaccines, because someone you once worked with 16 years ago once caught a cold after getting her vaccine, or arguing that, by virtue of the terrible Haitian earthquake, Haitian economic migrants merit special, wide-open immigration treatment that others (say, the victims of political repression in Myanmar or tsunamis in Indonesia) do not, or suggesting that Harold Ford is a great humanitarian smeared by the New York Times whom New Yorkers should beg, on their knees, to come and run in their state, you have gotten off track. WAY off track.

You really ought to sit back and consider where all this is coming from, because it’s not sounding like it’s a good, fair or balanced place.

Posted by: Itzajob | January 13, 2010 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Harold Ford Jr is a filthy carpetbagger with no values and no quality, and one of the very few democratic congressmen to vote for the illegal Iraq war. If that SOB runs against Gillibrand, I hope they beat his black @ss all the way back to the south.

Posted by: playa_brotha
Wasn't Hillary a carpetbagger, too? I mean she jumped from the WH to a Long Island address and into a NY Senate race. I don't live in NY, but Ford doesn't need to get what you posted back to the South. What I find troublesome about Harold Ford Jr. lately is his move to the right. He seems terribly concerned with not offending conservatives and I am tired of the lack of backbone in the Democratic Party.

Posted by: creatia52 | January 14, 2010 6:35 AM | Report abuse

Missing from Capehart's blog is that when Harold Ford Jr. was asked about capping bank executive compoensation, he said he is opposed to capping thier compendation. But there is a conflict of interest here because he as a vice president of Merrill Lynch, a part of Bank of America now, he recieved that very compensation.

"Mr. Ford declined to discuss what he is paid by the bank, but publicly available data suggests that he earns at least $1 million a year. Asked what role outsize pay packages played in fueling the financial crisis, Mr. Ford said he objected to capping executive compensation on Wall Street. “I am a capitalist,” he said. “I believe that people take risk, and there are rewards if they do well; they should lose if they don’t.”

Posted by: d-seid | January 14, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

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