Ford Agonistes 

There is an ex post facto feel to More Davids Than Goliaths.

One of the more interesting gambits of the recent countywide election was the decision of interim county mayor Joe Ford, late in the game, to import his nephew, former 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr., for an endorsement ceremony at the Peabody.

It had been nearly four years since the younger Ford, looking understandably sad and spent, made his concession statement at the same hotel after a narrow loss in the 2006 U.S. Senate race against Republican Bob Corker. He was jaunty now, seemingly carefree, as he dutifully endorsed the campaign of his uncle, the Democratic nominee, for election to a full term as mayor and repeated the campaign's talking points.

In retrospect, the visit would seem to have been a Hail Mary, without lasting results for Joe Ford, who would go on to lose to Republican Mark Luttrell. But it was an indication of the former congressman's lingering aura of celebrity that he was asked in at all. As he explained candidly to reporters who asked his opinion about this or that local issue, he was somewhat out of touch and would only venture an answer to most such questions in broad terms.

The fact is, Harold Ford Jr., a married man, with one job as a rainmaker for the Merrill Lynch component of Bank of America and another as an adjunct professor on public policy at New York University, is a New Yorker now. He still keeps his hand in the political world, appearing frequently as a commentator on MSNBC and NBC's Meet the Press, and he retains the chairmanship of the right/centrist Democratic Leadership Council, which became his in the aftermath of his 2006 race.

For better or for worse, Ford has committed himself to pursuing his political future in New York. Indeed, it has only been a scant few months since he hazarded a "listening tour" preparatory to a possible run for the Senate in the Empire State. That didn't work out for him. His attempted transitions from conservative to liberal on social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion were distrusted, as were his connections to Wall Street.

But who is to say that the irrepressible and highly adaptable politician, still young at 40, can't eventually earn a place in his adopted state's governmental panoply?

The question takes on a certain ex post facto irony with the publication of More Davids Than Goliaths, which Ford, on a return trip to Memphis, will sign copies of at Davis-Kidd Booksellers on August 18th.

The book, a personal and political memoir much more than it is a preamble, concerns itself predominantly with the Memphis- and Tennessee-based events in the author's life and secondarily with Ford's congressional career in Washington. His sojourn in New York is dealt with in a brief "Afterword," which offers no discussion of the aborted 2010 Senate race.

The narrative proper concludes with an extended treatment of the Senate race that actually happened, the one in Tennessee. It includes a good many fond acknowledgments of the Volunteer State's boondockers, specifically those of the Li'l Rebel restaurant, a Confederate- flag-emblazoned West Tennessee rural enclave where the African-American candidate made friends — and presumably supporters — of the denizens.

Only the author knows for sure, but it is hard not to see the book as having originated in Ford's prolonged consideration — only renounced in mid-2009 — of another electoral try in Tennessee, this one for the office of governor.

Although the slim volume necessarily glosses over many of the details, it manages to acknowledge most of the major developments of Ford's life so far — from his boyhood in Memphis and Washington schools, through his political discipleship at the side of his father, who owned the 9th District congressional seat before him, to his frank confession at coming to a set of "pro-business and moderate" views that caused him, as he puts it, to be "falsely accused of being a sellout by liberals."

Two points of interest for those with relatively fresh memories of the Corker-Ford race of 2006: Without elaborating, Ford acknowledges that his planned ambush encounter of Corker at Wilson Air was a mistake, one he wishes he could have taken back, and, though reluctant to do so at the time, he seems to have accepted the majoritarian view that the famous "Call Me" attack ad against him featuring a winsome blonde was racist in conception and influential in his defeat. Senior editor Jackson Baker has covered Harold Ford Jr.'s political career from its beginning.

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