: 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 viewed by clicking here or by going to
http://www.memphisflyer.com/MFSearch/full_results.asp?xt_from=1&aID=4395. It is also appended to this text, underneath Rep. Ford's response. As his response 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 14 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.
TAKE NOTE, CONGRESSMAN
We live in strange and perilous times, a fact well indicated by the recent Ð and perhaps ongoing Ð 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 weÕve 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 FordÕs ambitions for statewide office Ð he is known to be interested in a race for the Senate in 2006 Ð 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 IraqÕs possession of what now seem to have been non-existent Òweapons of mass destruction.Ó 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. ThatÕs according to State Rep. Kathryn Bowers, the newly elected head of the Shelby County Democratic Party and one of FordÕs constituents.
And what has FordÕs reaction been to BushÕs 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 Ð presidential hopefuls Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt come to mind Ð 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 ÔJr.Õ 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 Òcentrist.Ó The difference may be explained by Ford Sr.Õs 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 Ð 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 short-sighted and entirely too self-serving .
Care to Respond?