Is Jake Ford, the controversial independent candidate for Tennessee's 9th Congressional seat, losing his cool? That appeared to be the case before, during, and especially after Monday night's debate, when Ford made a scene that seemed designed specifically to humiliate the Flyer's political editor Jackson Baker.
Baker, originally the debate's sole moderator, had agreed to co-moderate with local news anchor Richard Ransom after the Ford campaign complained about the format.
Throughout the debate, Ford was hostile. After it ended, the assembled crowd descended on the bar for hot dogs and wine. Local bloggers discussed Ford's unfortunate public announcement that "If Cohen was a black woman, he would have been arrested like Kathryn Bowers." Baker stood nearby, trying to make nice with Ford after he had taken issue with the Flyer's reputable political reporting. Like so many in the crowd, Baker was also enjoying a delicious weenie, and as the noted writer spoke, a nearly microscopic bit of hot dog escaped his lips and landed on Ford's jacket. It was the sort of social faux pas Miss Manners has long suggested we ignore, but manners be damned.
"This man spit on me," Ford announced loudly, twisting up his face in terrible disgust. "This man spit on me. Does anybody have a napkin?" As Baker politely attempted to defuse the situation, Ford turned on him with a swift battery of questions: "Didn't anybody ever tell you to chew with your mouth closed? Didn't your mama ever teach you how to eat?" It was a loud, brattish display that captured the attention of several observers who milled around the two protagonists.
Ford backed away from the crowd calling toward the nearby bloggers and Baker. "Are you going to call me a fucktard?" he asked, referencing a recent article by Baker dispelling nasty, blog-generated rumors about Ford's campaign. "Because," he concluded, "I don't know what that means."