Harold Ford Jr. looked rather shaken as he exited the Stonewall Democrats meeting at the LGBT Community Center in lower Manhattan tonight. After 30 minutes of taking questions from a, shall we say, rather unfriendly crowd, it appeared he couldn't wait to hop into his big white chauffeur-driven SUV and zoom off down 13th Street. Maybe he had dinner reservations.
To be fair, he did show up. He had, essentially, one message: I'm a changed man. My wife has shown me the light. I was wrong. I repent.
I arrived just as HFJ was about to take the stage. A gentleman was distributing LIAR signs in the back of the room. Did HFJ know what he was walking into? I think he did.
He opened by attempting to establish his bona fides as a New Yorker, saying "I've lived in New York off and on for over three years." That drew hoots, but we were just getting started. HFJ listed his credentials since leaving the House: he's been teaching, there is a girlfriend now wife, he worked for the DLC, and Merrill Lynch now BofA. "Last year I decided to make New York City home." At which someone wondered aloud if he'd paid any taxes here yet.
He said he had evolved on social issues, thanks in part to conversations with his wife. He said he had supported civil unions and it was "just a leap and a jump" from that to being for marriage equality. I think that's when the LIAR signs made their first appearance. There were probably two dozen of them, plus some nice big handmade signs scattered around.
The questions were from the audience, read from cards by the moderator. The first question was regarding his vote in favor of a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage. His response? "I now recognize the wrongness of my ways." The LIE signs made another appearance.
Next Lt. Dan Choi, who was in the audience, was asked to stand and ask his prepared question, to cheers. He said, "I served in Iraq in order for you to have security for your family that my family is not afforded. I'd like to know your opinion on the DADT policy." HFJ responded that he was for repeal of DADT, and said that he had never been for it.
He was asked about his votes limiting reproductive rights. He said he opposed late term abortions except for life of the mother, and he supported parental notice.
Regarding his NRA membership, he said he likes to hunt but he doesn't own a gun, and that while he is a member he does not get a good rating from the NRA. Oh.
Asked again about Marriage Equality, he said "I falsely and wrongly believed that the two [ME & civil unions] were equitable. I don't know how many times I can say that."
A ME leader from NY asked if he would be willing to stand up like Dan Choi and lobby for ME, fight for it, stand out in front and lead. He said, "Yes." And noted that it was too much of an honor to be compared to Dan Choi. The ME leader said, I'm not compariing you to him. You will have to prove it first. And I will call you every day to keep your promise, as everyone in this room who knows me knows I will.
The final question was regarding Lawrence vs. Texas, the landmark case that struck down sodomy laws in Texas. HFJ said, refresh my memory, what was that decision? The room filled with boos. Someone had to explain it to him. A chant went up, "Anti-Choice, Anti-Gay, Snake Oil Harry Go Away." And he did.
Part Two (starts with Dan Choi’s comments!)
Update Here's another report, by David Badash. His conclusion:
Ford’s visit was not unsurprisingly unsuccessful. He needed to say, “I support repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I support repeal of DOMA, I support passage of ENDA, and I support the LGBTQ community.”
He failed to do so, or to make that crystal clear.
Walking into a room of hundreds of LGBTQs and their supporters, trying to defend your prior positions against that community and “enlighten” them, convince them that you have changed your ways and now support them and their issues automatically demands you educate yourself on the issues before showing up.
New York should not vote for Harold Ford, should he chose to run. Not just because of his prior position on issues, but because he clearly has no grasp of them. Watch the video and note his slim grasp on issues and his own prior positions. He proved he is not a man of great reasoning or intelligence, conviction, or passion. He may or may not support the LGBTQ community, but he doesn’t understand us, or New York, and worse, has made little attempt to do so.