Politics » Politics Feature

Bachelor No More

Harold Ford Jr., once touted by Bill Clinton to "go all the way," retains his political eligibility.



The number of Memphians attending the recent wedding of former 9th District congressman Harold Ford Jr. to the former Emily Threlkeld in South Beach, Florida, was relatively modest — though attendees included such well-known personages as Shelby County mayor A C Wharton, lawyer/lobbyist John Farris, Ford confidante Jay Lindy, the Rev. Bill Adkins, lawyer David Cocke, and entrepreneur Billy Orgel — most of these with their spouses, as well.

Conspicuous absentees were the groom's brothers, Jake and Isaac Ford, both of whom had been present, along with numerous other Memphians, at a pre-nuptial reception at the Brooks Museum in early April. Intervening between that event and the wedding itself, which took place on Saturday, April 26th, was a public disagreement between Harold Ford Jr.'s siblings, on one hand, and their brother and father, former congressman Harold Ford Sr., on the other.

That disagreement concerned remarks made by the two younger Fords on the occasion of Jake Ford's filing as an independent for his brother's former congressional seat. Candidate Ford was quoted as making racial and religious references concerning the 9th District's need for black representation that were repudiated by brother Harold and by his father. Harold Ford Jr. called the remarks "insulting," and Harold Ford Sr. termed them "not representative of the family."

• Where the newly married former congressman will ultimately maintain his domicile is something of a mystery. Currently, Ford is dividing his time between the three offices he maintains: in Nashville; in Washington, where the Democratic Leadership Council, which he leads, is headquartered; and in New York, where he is affiliated with the Merrill Lynch brokerage. He also maintains an apartment in Memphis. The new Mrs. Ford, a designer, has worked in both New York and Paris.

Equally uncertain are the former congressman's political plans. A close runner-up in his 2006 U.S. Senate race against current Republican incumbent Bob Corker, Ford is widely considered a potential candidate for governor in 2010 — though a few close friends doubt that Ford, who remains preoccupied with national and international concerns, will make that race.

A new book, Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House, by Carol Felsenthal, contains a passage that the former congressman may regard as bittersweet. Felsenthal quotes former president Bill Clinton as saying in 2006 that Illinois senator Barack Obama and then Senate candidate Ford "are the two guys with the juice to go all the way" — presumably, to gain the presidency.

Ford's defeat by Corker temporarily dropped him out of the running for national laurels, though his celebrity and multiple associations, including his new affiliation with the cable channel MSNBC as a commentator, provide him with a platform for a political revival at some point.

Felsenthal's book quotes the former president as having said, at the same time he was touting Obama and Ford, that he doubted his wife, New York senator Hillary Clinton, would be a presidential candidate in 2008. "No, because I don't think she can win," he is reported to have said.

• The question of who would address the Shelby County Democrats' annual Kennedy Day Dinner became a campaign issue of sorts for local party chairman Keith Norman, who had to fend off criticism on the matter from one or two executive committee members at the party's reorganizational meeting several weeks back.

At the time, committee members were being asked to sell tickets to this year's gala dinner without being able to tout a major speaker — or any speaker at all.

In the long run, however, the party and Norman seem to have landed on their feet. Keynote speaker at the dinner, to be held Friday, May 9th, at the University of Memphis-area Holiday Inn on Central, will be Tennessee's 5th District congressman, Jim Cooper of Nashville.

Inasmuch as Cooper is the state chairman of Obama's presidential campaign and the dinner falls right in the middle of Obama's still-heated campaign with rival Hillary Clinton, the Nashville congressman's appearance should make for interesting news fodder — especially in that Cooper's name has figured in campaign coverage of Hillary Clinton's 1994 problems as White House liaison for the then Clinton administration's health-care plan.

Some of that coverage has focused on tension between Hillary Clinton and Cooper, who was the author of a voluntary health-care plan that rivaled her own and — perhaps not coincidentally — is similar to one advanced this year by Obama.

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