Martin OMalley announces Saturday, May 30, on Federal Hill. (Photo: MarylandReporter.com)
Imagine the citizens of Arkansas in 1991, particularly the statehouse denizens in Little Rock, when they talked about Gov. Bill Clinton running for president.
Bill Clinton as president of the United States? Youve got to be kidding.
Reminds me of a joke Congressman Mo Udall in 1976 told about introducing himself in a New Hampshire barbershop. Im Mo Udall, and Im running for president
Yeah, we were just laughing about that, came the response.
No joke, Martin OMalley is running for president. Republicans like former House of Delegates Minority Leader Tony ODonnell have been saying for years that his entire second term as governor was about running for president.
Marylanders and particularly State House observers for his two terms as governor and seven years as Baltimore mayor know Martin OMalley all too well.
Familiarity breeds contempt
Familiarity breeds contempt, goes the old saying, and were all too familiar with OMalley. More than 43% of the voting electorate never wanted him to be governor, but Democrats loved him.
This article and Barry Rascovars column will produce the usual snarky comments about Gov. OweMalley.
We know all about his many tax hikes, toll increases, strong environmental enforcement, tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, his turnaround on same-sex marriage, stricter gun control, death penalty repeal, expansion of health coverage, minimum wage hike, freezing university tuition, massive spending on schools.
Dislike all or some of these policy choices, and youre no fan of OMalley. But the ex-governor is not embarrassed by these tough choices as hes called them. His announcement Saturday prominently highlighted many of them. He even re-embraced his Baltimore Believe slogan. (Gun control and death penalty repeal were missing from the announcement.)
Unknown where it counts
The Democratic voters of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and the rest of the nation do not know Martin OMalley. Much of what they know will come from his own mouth or the filtering of dozens of reporters who dont know him well either.
Like his policies or not, he was more than competent at governing Public official of the year cover boy for Governing magazine in 2009 except when he wasnt, such as the health care exchange fiasco and the Baltimore City jail scandal.
Hes an effective communicator, especially when he forswears his fondness for lofty rhetoric and Irish poetry. Remember his unapplauded State of the State speeches or his hokey 2012 convention speech? Sure, I was there. Remember Gov. Bill Clintons long and clunky convention speech in 1988. Who does?
Martin OMalley is no Bill Clinton, who governed a fairly conservative southern state. Only people north of New York consider Maryland southern, and it is about as conservative as Massachusetts.
OMalley is an excellent retail campaigner. Yet, it is a little odd that a 52-year-old with 24 years in elected office is the new leadership; he is the youngster among Democrats so far.
Good lines from Saturdays speech
He got off some good lines Saturday. (The full text and video are on his website.)
On immigration: The enduring symbol of our nation is not the barbed wire fence it is the Statue of Liberty.
On Wall Street and the Clintons: Goldman Sachs is one of the biggest repeat-offending investment banks in America. Recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that hed be just fine with either Bush or Clinton. I bet he would Well, Ive got news for the bullies of Wall Street The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families.
Again on the big banks, in another line with bipartisan appeal: Tell me how it is, that you can get pulled over for a broken tail light in our country, but if you wreck the nations economy you are untouchable.
OMalley knows little of foreign policy, and his pronouncements Saturday were vague and forgettable. Hillary Clinton is an expert, but the results of that expertise are questionable on many fronts and unforgettable.
Compared to many of the announced or presumed Republicans, OMalley has a resume with more accomplishments and experience, and certainly equal to any of the former governors on the list. As to the smooth-talking first term U.S. senators with great ideas Cruz, Paul, Rubio Americans may decide that weve tried that recently, and maybe well go back to people with executive experience.
If OMalley is still standing after the media get done chewing up Hillary Clinton, they start chewing up OMalley. He will face the most serious media scrutiny of his career.
As a Politico magazine article quoted me saying last year. I wouldnt count the guy out I wouldnt discount his political skills.
Those skills are strong, and will be strongly tested in coming months. You think Bill Clinton is going to sit back and let Hillary be a punching bag for their former friend and ally?
Bottom line: I am saving my media credential from Saturdays announcement. Well see how much it is worth on January 20, 2017.