Take Note, Congressman 

Take Note, Congressman

We live in strange and perilous times, a fact well-indicated by the recent -- and perhaps ongoing -- wave of deadly tornadoes afflicting Tennessee. Considering the damage done by a killer twister to nearby Jackson and the number of officially declared tornado watches and warnings we've already had to endure in Shelby County itself, it is understandable that 9th District congressman Harold Ford should pay heed to the problem. The congressman conspicuously addressed himself to it last week in a press release noting his requests that federal and state aid be expedited to the afflicted areas.

All well and good. But we cannot help but wonder whether Ford's ambitions for statewide office -- he is known to be interested in a race for the Senate in 2006 -- loomed as large in his calculations as his undoubted concern about the natural catastrophes themselves. The fact is, there are catastrophes of another kind that may be of more direct import to his actual constituents in the 9th District, and these perils are man-made and more subject to legislative control than are the depredations of Mother Nature.

There was the war in Iraq, for example -- one which was enabled in large part last fall by the actions of complaisant Democrats like himself who voted to give President Bush a virtual blank check to prosecute such an action, flimsily based as it was on Iraq's possession of what now seem to have been nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction." A one-sided combat which may, however, end up causing the United States grave and permanent difficulties among our fellow nations, the war may also ultimately have direct and indirect economic costs to the people of Tennessee totaling some $1.3 billion. That's according to state Rep. Kathryn Bowers, the newly elected head of the Shelby County Democratic Party and one of Ford's constituents.

And what has Ford's reaction been to Bush's potentially even more catastrophic tax cuts, one past and one pending? To advocate a slightly lesser tax cut of modestly different configuration. Though other ambitious Democrats -- presidential hopefuls Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt come to mind -- have disputed the need for any more tax cuts at all, Ford is basing his future electoral and leadership hopes on the dubious principle of splitting the difference with the president.

Just last week, Secretary of the Treasury John Snow visited Memphis, where he was asked by the Flyer how he could justify the massive proposed tax cut he was here to promote when the first Bush tax cut in 2001 was followed by a dramatic downturn in the economy and by the loss of millions of jobs. (Despite subsequent administration claims, these tendencies were well-evidenced before the tragedy of 9/11.) Snow had no convincing answers here and he had none when he faced similar questions last weekend on nationally televised talk shows.

We might ask similar questions of Rep. Ford. He has dropped the "Jr." from his name, by the way, in an apparent effort to chart a separate course from that of his father, both his congressional predecessor and his namesake. The senior Ford was a dependable working-class populist -- not, like his son, a self-styled "centrist." The difference may be explained by Ford Sr.'s disinclination to seek state office or national celebrity.

We greatly admire the junior Ford and respect his abilities. We do wonder, however, if his long-term development -- as well as his short-term attention span -- might be best served by pointed criticism, perhaps even electoral opposition, directed at his current policy tack, one that we deem both shortsighted and entirely too self-serving.


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