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Harold Ford’s Completely Insane Senate Campaign Launch

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a worse rollout for a political campaign, or one more disconnected with the constituency needed to win, than what Harold Ford exhibited in today’s New York Times.

In a clear swipe at Ms. Gillibrand, he said he would not be a lap dog for Democratic leaders in Washington, who have rushed to her defense since Mr. Ford expressed interest in the seat.

“If I am elected senator from New York, Harry Reid will not instruct me how to vote,” he said, referring to Mr. Reid’s efforts to keep him out of the campaign.

That’s exactly what New York is looking for, a firebrand independent in the mold of Ben Nelson. It’s certainly working for Joe Lieberman in the neighboring state of Conencticut. Why, New York is clamoring for a Merrill Lynch vice chairman who supports bank bailouts.

He blasted her support for the proposed health care overhaul, which is expected to cost New York an extra $1 billion a year, and for opposing the taxpayer bailout of the financial industry.

“It was a mistake,” he said, noting that most Wall Street firms had already paid back the money. “How can you be against ensuring that the lifeblood of your city and of your state survives?”

And one who does such due diligence before throwing money around:

Mr. Ford, however, acknowledged that he gave Ms. Gillibrand a $1,000 campaign contribution shortly after her appointment, saying he had done so at the request of a friend. “She had only been a senator for two days,” he added.

Yes, Ford gave $1,000 to Gillibrand seven months ago, the way every normal person drops a thousand bucks on the advice of a friend. Because that’s how Harold Ford, outsider, anti-establishmentarian that he is, rolls:

Speaking from a conference room at New York University, where he is a teacher, Mr. Ford, 39, expressed enthusiasm about his new hometown, though he described a life quite different than most New Yorkers. On many days, he is driven to an NBC television studio in a chauffeured car. 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.

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.” […]

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.)

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.”

Just take away the massive flip-flops Ford has made on gay rights, abortion rights, and immigration, and put that sketch up in a 30-second spot – the banker who is apparently being paid to do nothing, who flies over boroughs and gets pedicures and chaffeur-driven rides around New York City – and his own family may not vote for him.

Nothing of what he’s saying even makes sense. He’s a “capitalist” who attacks anyone who didn’t vote to bail out the financial industry for the problems they created. That’s not capitalism, that’s lemon socialism – or socialism for the rich, capitalism for everyone else.

And you read on in this extended interview – his number one priority, the first issue he mentions, is a “huge-tax cut bill for business people” – and you simply cannot understand why the hell he is pursuing this. Maybe it is as easy as the fact that he’s a miserably bad politician.

But unlike Tom Schaller, I hope he does run because nothing would energize progressives more than rallying around a banker DLC chairman trying to scam people into electing yet another corporate mouthpiece to the Senate.

As for those not seeing a lot of daylight between Ford and Kirsten Gillibrand, who has certainly transformed a bit since arriving in the Senate, well… Gillibrand didn’t support the bailout, isn’t being paid by Merrill Lynch, and it at least doing her job thoughtfully and competently. Her call for Haitian refugees to be given immigration protections during disaster relief efforts is but one example.

…the kiss of death for Ford is that unelectable David Paterson is supporting his primary challenge, if not Ford himself (he appointed Gillibrand).

…TPM Livewire has some more from the interview, including the revelation of Ford’s first demonstrable lie – he says he donated to Gillibrand two days after she was sworn in, but the donation comes up on June 5. He also said in the interview what a good memory he has. Really.

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David Dayen

David Dayen