There's a lot in this Harold Ford interview that drives me insane, but I am going to focus on Ford's answer to the very first question and how it is an abject lesson in how NOT to respond to a loaded question.
Barely masking their bias, Newsweek's Jeffrey Bartholet and his editors start the article with a statement of "fact" that has been seriously in question since at least the 2000 Presidential elections, "Liberal activists tend to dominate the Democratic Party's nominating process, but it's the centrists who help the party win national elections."
If liberal activists dominated the nomination process then Hillary Clinton would be polling somewhere down around Chris Dodd territory and Dennis Kucinich would be coasting his way to New Hampshire, skipping Iowa entirely.
The idea that drug crazed hippies are in any way dictating the direction of the Democratic party is to buy into the greatest political lie of the last 40 years. And yet, the media isn't alone in propagating this fallacy. The Democrat's own leadership council pushes it and other political misnomers about the Democratic party...repeatedly.
So, here's the question and Ford's answer:
NEWSWEEK: You've warned your fellow Democrats that the '08 election will not be a cakewalk. Are you worried?
Harold Ford Jr.: Unless your opponent's name is "unopposed," you should always be concerned. And I think in this next election there are three things the Democrats have to do in order to win. First is to demonstrate that we can be trusted to defend and protect the country, that we can be trusted to care and tend to the needs of our military, and that we can be trusted to engage in a powerful and robust diplomacy, unlike we've seen in the last six or seven years. Second, we've got to demonstrate that we can be trusted with people's tax dollars, that we won't overtax people, and that we will look for every way to cut taxes and be fiscally responsible at the same time. Finally, we've got to demonstrate that we're squarely in the mainstream in the country when it comes to people's values. I caution some in our party, particularly some of the organizations and constituency groups who make up the party—particularly to the left—that this campaign will not be about George Bush; it will not be about how poorly he managed the war. It will be about how we will do it differently.
The question itself ignores the fact that Americans are deeply disturbed by the actions of the Republican party and their hapless President. It's also a bit of a straw man by supposing that A) Anyone in the Democratic field has implied that the 2008 elections are a done deal; B) There's an undercurrent of support for the GOP's band of losers who are all scrambling to adopt the visage of a man who led their party 20 years ago; C) Anyone wants four more years of anything slightly resembling George w. Bush.
It's an easy question to answer in a way that undercuts all of those assumptions, but Ford instead chooses to legitimize that nonsense. Ford thinks there are three main points that Democrats need to address in order to win. Nevermind that the three points are all GOP talking points not supported by evidence.
"First, he said. "Is to demonstrate that we can be trusted to defend and protect the country, that we can be trusted to care and tend to the needs of our military, and that we can be trusted to engage in a powerful and robust diplomacy, unlike we've seen in the last six or seven years."
But as the Washington Post reported in 2006 , when asked, "Which political party, the (Democrats) or the (Republicans), do you trust to do a better job handling the U.S. campaign against terrorism?"
The answer: Democrats 46%, Republicans 38%
"Second, we've got to demonstrate that we can be trusted with people's tax dollars, that we won't overtax people, and that we will look for every way to cut taxes and be fiscally responsible at the same time."
A January 22-25, 2006 Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll (PDF) with a +/-3-percent margin of error found that 43 percent of Americans believe Democrats would do "a better job of handling taxes" than the president, while 34 percent favored President Bush.
"Finally, we've got to demonstrate that we're squarely in the mainstream in the country when it comes to people's values."
I don't even know where to begin on this one. Maybe we could talk abortion, which is certainly a hot button issue and even a litmus test for many voters, but remove that ONE issue from the equation and the Republicans are toast. Keep in mind that a solid majority of Americans still support a woman's right to choose, but I'll concede that one point for the sake of argument.
The interview did hint at a glimpse of reality that haunts the DLC and that is that it's irrelevant. Try though he might to brush off the fact that none of the candidates for president attended its annual convention last summer, including Hillary Clinton who has long been a leader of the DLC, the fact is that most Democrats are not interested in being Bush Lite. It's skunky and overpriced. It's turns a great party into a total buzz kill. We don't want it.
The fact that Harold Ford doesn't get that is proof that he deserved to lose his senatorial campaign.