By BARTHOLOMEW SULLIVAN
Former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. on Thursday accepted the high-profile chairmanship of the Democratic Leadership Council, the moderate policy group that launched Bill Clinton to national stardom and the presidency.
Ford accepted the post at a Washington breakfast, calling the DLC “one of the most important organizations on the think tank landscape.”
“I’m excited about the post for a couple of reasons,” he said. “I think that the new majority in Congress presents not only our party with a great opportunity to give the nation a chance to see a new leadership but to embarking in a new direction on a lot of policy fronts.”
Ford said that the job is temporary in the sense that he plans to seek elective office in Tennessee in the future. He fielded questions for more than an hour on policy positions he has taken in the past, and on the role his faith played in the recent Senate race he lost to former Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker.
Later, asked if he would be going to the Super Bowl this year, Ford said: “I love Jesus, I love girls and I love football.” Ford’s attendance at a Super Bowl party sponsored by Playboy figured in the Senate campaign last year, as did an advertisement filmed inside his church in Memphis.
Many, reached before the official announcement, said the post is the best available platform for a moderate to conservative Democrat as he waits to contest for elective offices, like Lamar Alexander’s Senate seat in 2008 or the Tennessee governorship in 2010.
Carol Darr, director of George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, said she was not surprised at the selection.
“He was a real star before and he’ll keep on being a star,” Darr said.
The man who made the cover of Newsweek in the waning days of the most expensive Senate race in Tennessee history will run an organization founded in 1985 by pragmatists. The DLC was created with the idea of getting away from left and right ideological polls in politics and dealing with practical “third way” or “New Democrat” solutions. Clinton’s welfare reform, cutting the budget deficit, free trade policies and tough crime prevention measures all had their genesis with the DLC.
Since the November defeat, Ford has maintained a lower public profile. But in an article quoting St. Paul to the Ephesians, this is how Ford set the agenda ahead in an article, “Ideas, Not Ideology,” in this month’s DLC Blueprint magazine: “We need to recover that sense of togetherness. The country is depending on Democrats to lead and deliver for all of us. Leadership, at its best, can solve, inspire, and heal.”