Taking Note 

Our congressman states his case on Iraq, taxes, and tornadoes.

(Editor's note: Last week's Flyer editorial, alluded to here by Rep. Harold Ford, expressed our view that the Congressman -- like much of his party's leadership -- is too assiduous about following the lead of President Bush in matters of both domestic and foreign policy, especially in regard to the war in Iraq and a proposed new round of tax cuts. That editorial can be reviewed on the Flyer Web site at MemphisFlyer.com. As the response below indicates, we complimented Congressman Ford for the attention he paid to area-wide tornado damage but recommended he express a like measure of concern for his constituents' interests in the indicated policy areas.)

Your editorial of May 15th advises me to "Take Note, Congressman." I am taking note and listening to my constituents, and I would like to address some mischaracterizations in your piece.

You write that I am basing my political hopes on "the dubious principle of splitting the difference with the President." But my positions on issues aren't determined by an inclination to go along with the President -- or by an inclination to oppose him. I worked hard for Al Gore in 2000 and have endorsed John Kerry to replace President Bush in 2004. Sometimes I agree with this President and most times I don't, and I have been equally outspoken on both scores.

For example, I supported the congressional resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq -- not the original "blank check" that the President asked for, but the narrowly tailored resolution that I worked with Republicans and Democrats to craft.

My position on Iraq was based on the available intelligence that Iraq was developing chemical and biological weapons and possibly nuclear weapons. It was the same intelligence that President Clinton had, which informed that Democratic administration's similar policy toward disarming Iraq. If it turns out that our intelligence overestimated the threat, we need to take a serious look at revamping the way we gather it. Regardless, I continue to believe the world is safer now that Saddam Hussein is out of power.

As for domestic issues, I have forcefully opposed the President's failed economic agenda, and have made no bones about it. I voted against the President's tax cuts in 2001, and last week voted against this new round of tax cuts.

It is true that I support tax cuts -- but tax cuts of a radically different nature. In contrast to the President's elimination of taxation on dividends, I would grant every worker and employer a two-month holiday from the payroll tax.This tax cut is faster, broader, cheaper, and more stimulative than President Bush's.Under my plan, everybody would get a tax cut, from chief executives to the janitors who clean their offices.I also support $100 billion in federal aid to states like Tennessee that are facing budget shortfalls that threaten funding for schools, hospitals, and law enforcement. The President's plan doesn't include a dime for the states. Families in the 9th District looking for work or without health care hardly believe these differences are "modest."

This is America, and we are free to disagree on issues. I accept and welcome criticism with hopes of learning from it. But I want to take a strident, personal objection to your newspaper's insinuation that my concern for the tornado victims in Jackson was motivated by political calculations.

Our neighbors in Tennessee suffered tragedy and devastation. I extended my prayers and support without hesitation and certainly without calculation. That's what we do when families are in need. We don't calculate -- we unite, and we act. I was proud to join Congressman Tanner in supporting Governor Bredesen's request for federal disaster assistance, a request that was answered quickly by the White House. Your cynical insinuations about politics insult the families who have lost loved ones, homes, and businesses.

Harold Ford, a Memphis Democrat, represents the 9th District of Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives.

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