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.
| January 13, 2010; 3:46 PM ET
Categories: Capehart | Tags: Jonathan Capehart
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