Disasters never happen at a convenient time, especially for people considering running for office.
Before Tuesdays earthquake, before the extent of the damage in Haiti had become clear, Harold Ford Jr. had been meticulously raising his profile and criticisms of his likely opponent, Kirsten Gillibrand.
Then, last night, Al Sharpton convened a press conference to discuss the relief efforts that were underway. Everyone in office, or hoping to be in office, showed up.
Including Ford and Gillibrand.
They weren’t supposed to be at the same event together until Monday’s Martin Luther King Day celebration (which Sharpton hosts annually).
At the event, Ford stood in the front of crowd facing the media. Gillibrand stood closer to the podium, with Governror David Paterson–who appointed her–nearby.
Sharpton described the devastation in Haiti and said, “This is not the time for partisan politics. This is not the time for who we like, or who we get along with; those that may not walk together need to stand together for Haiti now, because the waters that divide us are thinner and not as thick as the blood that binds us.”
“We are one blood, one people that must stand together,” said Sharpton.
Later, Sharpton introduced Ford during the event at as “the first businessman that called me this morning, wanting to be helpful.”
Ford stepped up, acknowledged electeds, including Gillibrand, by name. He then quoted the Bible.
“The Bible tells us that the second most important commandment is to love thy neighbor,” he said. “This effort right here is a great demonstration not only of this city’s unmatched generosity in the face of human need and human hardship, but it’s a great example of how we come together, across political lines, religious lines and economic lines to do what’s in the best interest of people.”
Afterwards, Ford and Gillibrand and the crowd of elected officials walked away from the podium where reporters were gathered and huddled around Sharpton who led a large prayer vigil that lasted a few minutes.
As Gillibrand made her way to that vigil, I asked her what she thought of Ford’s attendance at the event.
“We’re all here together to talk about Haiti, and it’s a terrible tragedy, and it’s good that we’re all coming together,” Gillibrand said.
Ford, who was standing right behind her, heard my question, and told me, “It’s the wrong time to talk about any of that right now.”
Jesse Jackson declined to talk about Ford’s candidacy, saying it wasn’t the appropriate venue to discuss it.
Before leaving, I ran into Charles Barron, the former Black Panther and outspoken City Councilman. Earlier in the evening, Barron said that Wall Street bonuses should be given over to the relief effort.
“Instead of giving your billion-dollar-bonuses to rich millionaires, give the money to Haiti. Wall Street should bailout Haiti, like this country bailed them out,” Barron said.
I asked Barron if his comments about rich people and Wall Street were in any way directed at Ford.
No, said Barron. “Mr. Ford aint got no real money.”