Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Democrats Here Warmly Welcome Senate Candidate Ford

A crowd of 100 to 150 local Democrats came to the Greene County Fairgrounds Saturday to hear U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Memphis, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

They liked what they heard.

Arriving in a big diesel pickup truck wearing a dark suit and brown boots, Rep. Ford could not immediately take the stage because so many in the crowd wanted to shake his hand.

The congressman from Memphis spoke for about 30 minutes without notes. His remarks were sprinkled with positive references to Republican and Democrat lawmakers.

They also included prayer, calls for party unity and a plea for a general election campaign with debates on the issues “above the attacks and the smears and lies.”

‘Embarrassed For Republicans’

“I’m embarrassed for the Republicans in their U.S. Senate race,” Ford said, adding, “The kind of campaign they’re running is beneath the people of this state.”

When someone does emerge from their primary, Ford said, he is hopeful the GOP candidate will be willing to engage in “a meaningful, purposeful, realistic, viable and positive conversation about where to take this country, and the steps we would take to lead the country in that direction.”

Republicans campaigning for the GOP nomination include former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker, and former congressmen Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary.

Ford is an African-American, and said people frequently say, “You’re black, and you’re running for the Senate.”

He quipped, “I know those things,” and jokingly pointed out that “no black has ever lost a statewide race in Tennessee, though no black has ever won one either.”

He said, “People are people, and if someone doesn’t want to vote for me because of the way I look, bless their heart, there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Several candidates for Congress and for county offices were on the stage with the Senate candidate.

Ford urged them, “When you feel the tug to be a little nasty or negative, just step back from it for a moment,” and remember that the voters expect “something bigger than all this yelling and screaming.”

Ford said he had just come from Elizabethton, where he had spoken at a high school graduation.

He said that although he had been greeted warmly by school officials, who had invited him to speak, there was an undertone of politics just before the commencement exercise began.

“The division kind of melted when we remembered why we were there — for these kids.”

At the Greene County gathering, Alicia Rodriguez had led the crowd in singing the national anthem. Ford asked for another round of applause for her before he began speaking.

Addressing Rodriguez directly, Ford thanked her and said politics should be “about living up to what you sang about,” and remembering “what went into creating that freedom and opportunity.”

How World Has Changed

Ford, who celebrated his 36th birthday on May 11, talked about how different the world was 18 years ago at the time of his own high school graduation.

At that time, “We were fighting with the Russians in a Cold War,” but Ford noted that while he was in college at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a degree in American history, the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended.

He gave credit for the end of the Cold War to former presidents “from Truman to Reagan.”

Ford said Truman “had the courage to end” World War II.

He mentioned the important work done at Oak Ridge, where much of the development of the atomic bomb took place.

“Reagan, although he ran up the national debt, was a good president in a lot of ways,” Ford said, in part because Reagan “made us remember how great this nation is, and what we’re capable of doing.”

After Reagan, Ford said, “We elected a president named Clinton who helped us lower the deficits.”

Ford even praised Newt Gingrich, the leader of the “Republican Revolution” that produced balanced budgets starting in the 1990s.

“I didn’t agree with (Gingrich) a whole lot,” Ford said, but at least when Clinton and the Republicans in Congress were arguing about who deserved the most credit for balancing the budget, creating surpluses and reducing deficits, the argument was “meaningful” and the people benefited more than either side “because government was smaller, leaner, more effective and more efficient.”

Criticizes Current Policies

Today, the congressman said, although the United States is still “the greatest nation in the world, the richest nation in the world, and the strongest militarily, government is bigger than ever, spending more money than ever, more dependent on oil than we’ve ever been, and fighting two wars at the same time” in Iraq and Afghanistan while contemplating “maybe even a third one,” referring to concerns about a possible attack on Iran.

Ford said he finds it amazing to think that the graduates he had spoken to earlier in the day were in the eighth grade when the United States was attacked by terrorists who hit the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

“The wicked genius behind what they (terrorists) did on 9-11,” Ford said, is that “they pitted us against them, Islam against Christianity, or the West against the Middle East.”

He said U.S. military personnel now fighting overseas “deserve our support far more than we’ve given them,” and continue to serve honorably.

He said that when he sat on stage with other dignitaries in Knoxville at a parade welcoming home all 32 units of the 278th Regimental Combat Team from Iraq, he noted that the troops “all saluted the stage.”

Ford said the troops did not ask whether the members of Congress sitting there had supported the National Guard or voted to help their families while they were away, though he said “half of them had voted to cut the National Guard’s budget and the Veterans Administration budget.”

‘Fighting An Ideology’

The war on terror, he said, is different from any war the U.S. has ever fought, because, “We’re not fighting countries, we’re fighting an ideology,” which has “led people to believe that you and I are evil, and our way of life is evil, and that idea attracts more and more people to their side daily.”

Ford said his campaign is about the fact that in regard to the conflict in Iraq, “we have tried it the president’s way and (Defense Secretary) Don Rumsfeld’s way,” and their plan has not worked.

Ford said he does not question either officials’ patriotism.

“I think both men meant well, and have tried hard, and believed their plan would work. Well, it hasn’t,” he said, and in this country, “when things don’t go right we find somebody to put in place. This election is about trying to get this thing right.”

Ford continued, “Too many big challenges, big issues, big problems face this country not to get it right,” a remark that was greeted with much applause.

“The problems we face all can be conquered if we’re willing to put aside silly, petty and sometimes stupid differences that separate us,” he said.

“With all the hate directed at us” as Americans, he asked, “Why are we wasting our time — how do we find the time — to hate ourselves?”

That is, for Americans to hate each other.

Ford was introduced by state Rep. Eddie Yokley, D-11th of Greene County, who pointed out that Ford serves on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Budget Committee and was appointed by the U.S. Joint Forces Command to a “Transformation Advisory Group” working on improving the nation’s military.

Yokley also pointed out that Ford is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrats who are “moderate fiscal conservatives” who seek to “bridge the gap between ideological extremes.”

Other Speakers

Other speakers were Jack West, the county Democrat chairman, and state Agriculture Commissioner Ken Givens.

Givens urged those present to re-elect Gov. Phil Bredesen, praising Bredesen’s pre-kindergarten program and Cover Tennessee, which seeks to cover some of the people dropped from TennCare.

Givens also praised Bredesen’s efforts to put more funds into biofuel development in Tennessee.

He also praised Yokley and urged those present to point out Yokley’s strengths to their friends and neighbors, including Yokley’s service in the 101st Airborne Division before he returned to civilian life and entered politics.

He also noted that Yokley’s son, Jordan, is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy.

“Eddie is helping us do things that Democrats do in Nashville to move this state ahead,” Givens said.

West said the Greene County Democratic Party’s headquarters will be opening soon at 140 Depot St.

He introduced a slate of Democratic candidates. Several local candidates who were on hand took the stage for Ford’s speech, but did not speak.

Ford noted in regard to Greene County Mayor Roger Jones, who is running for re-election, “I like your county mayor. He’s a good guy.

Source: The Greenville Sun

The Hotline has more on Congressman Ford's visit to Green County.

TENNESSEE: Can He Rise Above It All?

Rep Harold Ford JR. (D-09) spoke 5/20 to about 150 Dems along with other state and local candidates. Ford outlined his reasons for seeking the seat and the crowd "liked what they heard." Ford: "We have tried it the president's way and (Def Sec.) Don Rumsfeld's way," and that did not work. More Ford: "I think both men meant well. and have tried hard, and believed their plan would work. Well, it hasn't, [and] when things don't go right we find somebody to put in place. This election is about trying to get this thing right. Too many big challenges, big issues, big problems face this country not to get it right. The problems we face can all be conquered if were willing to put aside silly, petty and sometimes stupid differences that separate us."

He also spoke about how the campaign is being run by his GOP opponents. Ford: "I'm embarrassed for the Republicans in their US Senate Race. The kind of campaign they're running is beneath the people of this state." He gave advice to his fellow Dem candidates, saying "When you feel the tug to be a little nasty or negative, just step back from it for a moment" and remember that TN voters expect "something bigger than all this yelling and screaming" (Yancey, Greenville Sun, 5/22).