Monday, June 26, 2006

Ford Rocks The Ryman On Jackson Day 2006

Over the years, the Ryman Auditorium has saw its share of celebrities. From Johnny Cash to Elvis--all of the legends have been there.

However, I am not sure that any ever rocked the place like Congressman Harold Ford Jr. did this past Saturday at the annual Jackson Day celebration.

I arrived in Nashville about 2:00 in preparation for the block party that Congressman Ford and the campaign were to have from 2:30-4:30.

As the start of the party neared, more and more folks rolled in for the food, drinks, music (the Mike Robinson band rocked, check them out!), and above all, to see the Congressman.

All around the blocked off 4th Street were signs in support of the Congressman including signs that said "I Stand With Harold", "Are You Fed Up When You Fill Up?", and "Women For Ford".

The Congressman arrived just a little after 4:00 pm to the sound of Big and Rich's Coming To Your City and the cheers of hundreds of supporters.

On stage, Ford was joined by two of his Congressional colleagues, Lincoln Davis and Jim Cooper.

As usual, both spoke of Ford in the highest manner praising his intellect, charisma, and will to get things done.

When it was time for Congressman Ford to speak, he was greeted with thunderous cheers of "We Want Ford" from the crowd.

In his speech, he went right after the Republicans for their continuous lies about him and his family saying that they should grow up and give the people of this state a real race on the issues. He also referred to his Republican opponents as the Three Stooges!

Needless to say the crowd went wild!

After he got done speaking at the block party, Ford made his way through the huge crowd pressing hands and taking photos with supporters. From there, he went inside the Ryman to get ready for the actual Jackson Day program.

When it was Ford's time to speak in the program, he was once again met with loud cheers of "We Want Ford". In fact, the cheers were so good that he had to pause for about a minute before he started speaking.

In this speech, he reiterated a lot of what he said earlier in the day and also spoke about his vision for our state and nation. Apparently the people liked what they heard as they gave him numerous standing ovations.

The energy at the event was extremely high in support of the Congressman and his campaign. As I have said before, I have never saw a politician more popular and loved like a rock star than Ford. That was no different Saturday.

The bottom line--Democrats are behind Ford 100%. No as good Democrats, it is our job to go out and talk to our independent and Republican friends and tell them about this great man we know as Harold Ford Jr. so we can make him our next U.S. Senator come this November!

Media Recaps Of Ford At Jackson Day

The Associated Press:

The level of discourse between the three Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate is embarrassing and offensive to Tennessee voters, Democratic candidate Harold Ford Jr. said at a Democratic rally Saturday.

Speaking to supporters at a block party before the state Democrats' annual Jackson Day event, the congressman from Memphis called his three GOP opponents "the three stooges."

The candidates in the Republican primary are former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker and former U.S. Reps. Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary.

"They really need to grow up," Ford later told reporters. "They should be running a race that is worthy of the intellect, needs and aspirations of the people of this state.

"I watch them at times and I'm a little embarrassed to hear them raise their voices, yelling, sounding like children at times," he said.

This year's Jackson Day event, which is the state Democratic Party's largest annual meeting and fund-raiser, was moved from The Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, to the Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry.

Ford was the featured speaker at the event, which cost $50 a ticket, and Gov. Phil Bredesen delivered the keynote address. Party faithful filled more than half of the 2,362-seat auditorium and were entertained by singers Claude McKnight, of the a cappella group Take 6, and Michael McDonald, formerly of the Doobie Brothers.

Bredesen, who is running for re-election, said he has been impressed by Ford's energetic campaigning, as well as his appeal to a broad base of voters.

"For any Democratic candidate to win today, you need to appeal to the Independents and bring a few over from the other party as well," Bredesen said. "I think Harold is a good, centrist candidate with the ability to do that."

The Tennessee Republican Party sent a man dressed in the likeness of the "Phantom of the Opera" to greet Jackson Day attendees and give them irises, the state flower.

The GOP said it objects to what it calls "political theatrics to entice voters to vote for liberal Democrats by posing as conservatives who share our Tennessee values."

"Once the mask is peeled off, the ugly truth about their record and who they really are will surface," state Republicans said in a release.

Bredesen re-election campaign spokesman Will Pinkston dismissed the Republicans' criticisms.

"It's funny watching them sink to new lows by sending costumed characters to party rallies," he said. "It shows they're clearly panicked."

Last year's Jackson Day was held just days after the arrest of five current or former state legislators - four of whom are Democrats - in an FBI bribery sting operation code-named "Tennessee Waltz." One of the indicted legislators was Ford's uncle, Memphis Democratic state Sen. John Ford, who resigned his position two days after his arrest.

Bredesen said that ethics legislation passed earlier this year addressed the atmosphere that led to the indictments but acknowledged that upcoming trial dates for John Ford and others will be "putting these things back in the forefront of people's minds."

"Frankly it's one of the hurdles that Harold Ford Jr. is going to have to overcome in this race," Bredesen said. "But I think he very much has the ability to do that.

"Voters are smart and they can separate between Harold Ford Jr. and another member of the Ford family," he said.

Harold Ford dismissed attempts to link him to his family's problems.

The Commercial Appeal:

Democrats Phil Bredesen and Harold Ford Jr. Saturday night sent their party's faithful out from the Ryman Auditorium -- built as a revival hall in 1892 -- to bring independents who have "strayed" in recent elections and even a few Republicans back to the fold for this year's elections.

The annual Jackson Day event, the state Democratic Party's largest annual meeting and fund-raiser, was moved from The Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, to the Ryman.

It was part pep rally to energize the 1,500 to 2,000 activists present and part tent revival to convert others. So the messages of both standard-bearers was centrist, with Bredesen outlining his priorities for a second term as governor and Ford for a U.S. Senate seat the GOP has held since 1994.

Ford, who's been targeted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee as he is showing strength in the polls, brought Democrats to their feet with an attack on the GOP.

"I kind of feel bad for the Republicans. What else can they campaign on -- running up record deficits? Are they going to go around and say, 'Look at us, we've spent more than any presidential administration in history and we have nothing to show for it?' What are they going to campaign on -- 'Vote for us, welfare rolls today are higher than they've ever been?' Or 'Vote for us -- health care costs are higher; give us a chance to screw it up again,' " the Memphis congressman said.

"They have nothing to campaign on so they're going to do what they always do: They're going to try somehow to paint us as outside of the mainstream. They're going to try to make people believe we can't be trusted to lead.

"But I've got a message for all of the Republican spin doctors tonight: We've got two guys atop this ticket named Bredesen and Ford who love their God, who love their guns, who support the Second Amendment and who understand that everybody ought to have a chance to make their future and their children's future better," Ford said.

Before the formal dinner inside, Ford hosted a street party attended by hundreds of young people. He called his Republican opponents -- former congressmen Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary and former Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker -- the "three stooges" for not speaking to issues that matter to most Tennesseans.

Bredesen was more muted but also challenged "the other party's" approach, saying the GOP is already "back on all the litmus-test social issues. It must be depressing to be a member of a party so lacking in ideas that you have to try to revive 1994."

Bredesen told Democrats they should state their beliefs on social issues when they arise, which he said vary among party faithful. "But then we need to move on and talk about the positive things we propose to accomplish -- getting our kids a good education, expanding affordable health care, creating good jobs and protecting the environment.

"It is never leadership to set one group of Americans against another. It is leadership to show people how to, together, get things done."

The governor said that by the end of a second term, he wants to make prekindergarten available to every child whose parents want it, to get his new health insurance plan for the working uninsured, children and the uninsurable operating, to keep TennCare on sound footing and to create new jobs in all 95 counties.

Ford said Democrats should have no fear of Republican attempts to paint them as weak on national security. "But if there's any party in America that has a stronger and greater tradition of standing up for American values and ideals and employing them in a smarter way, I dare say Republicans can't match us."

Tennessee Republican Party chairman Bob Davis called the event at the former home of the Grand Ole Opry "the Phantom of the Opry" because, he said, "liberal Democrats ... have been masquerading" as conservatives.

"Tennessee voters are too smart to fall for the theatrical-like performances by these masquerading Democrats," he said. "Their poor attempt to disguise themselves as everyday Tennesseans isn't working."

174 Days

Days of Congressional Inaction on Ethics

Above is the number of days that have passed since Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to bribing Congressman.

It is also the number of days in which Congress has failed to pass an ethics reform bill that would limit private travel, ski and golf junkets, and would call for a full disclosure of expenses by lobbyists on members of Congress.

It is time for Congress to step up and pass an ethics reform bill that would do all of the above. In addition, it is time to end the pork barrel spending system as we know it and establish an independent ethics commission that would review ethics complaints against members of Congress.

I am proud Congressman Harold Ford Jr. is fighting for that reform!

Read Congressman Ford's call for reform of the House rules here!