Friday, December 31, 2010

Four Winners, and Four Losers, in 2010

Winners

Mike Miller: The Senate President begins the 2011 legislative session absent his two least favorite Republican senators – Andy Harris and Alex Mooney. And, one of his favorite political blood sports – redistricting – is just around the corner.

David Gildea: The Towson development attorney and his law partner were criticized for their aggressive fundraising activities on behalf of Democratic candidates for the Baltimore County Council. But you can’t really argue with success, as at least three of the non-incumbent candidates they supported won. Their election, along with the election of pro-development Kevin Kamenetz as County Executive, elevates Gildea's status as a player in county politics and governance. 

Black Voters: Now comprising 30 percent of the state’s population, Maryland’s black electorate once again demonstrated that it is the foundation of Democratic dominance in Maryland. Some predicted that black turnout might drop into the low teens without President Obama at the top of the ticket. That, of course, did not happen, and black voters propelled Governor O’Malley to a bigger margin of victory than many of us expected. It will be interesting to see what the state’s black political leaders do to leverage this surging force in Maryland politics.

Insurgent Republicans: From newly-elected Baltimore County Councilman (and possible future county executive candidate) Todd Huff to Senator Chris Shank in Western Maryland, Republicans who challenged tired incumbents were often rewarded. Despite the disappointing outcome at the top of the ticket, state Republicans leave 2010 with something they have long needed: The makings of a political farm team consisting of young, energetic, upwardly-mobile candidates.

Losers

Julius Henson: This one is a no-brainer. Henson has always operated around the margins of respectability, but his involvement in the infamous election night robocall attempt to trick black voters into staying home from the polls eliminates any credibility he had as a consultant.

Joe Bartenfelder: The affable, conservative former Baltimore County Councilman was rightfully upset over some of the red meat tactics employed by Kevin Kamenetz during their Baltimore County Executive primary battle. But his kind-of-but-not-really “endorsement” of Ken Holt in the general election is something Baltimore County’s Democratic establishment will not forget anytime soon. This could limit his political options in the future.

Paul Schurick: As critical as I was of some of Team Ehrlich’s campaign missteps, I think Paul Schurick delivers some value as a strategic communicator. Now that his thirteen year run as Ehrlich’s political guru has ended, and a return to Womble Carlyle is no longer an option for him, one has to wonder what options remain for this Henry Gondorff of state politics and his cronies in Martin O’Malley’s Maryland.

The Tea Party in Maryland: The Tea Party movement in Maryland was a non-factor in state elections this year, as evidence by the fact that two of its darlings – Brian Murphy and Jim Rutledge – lost their respective races handily. It never approached the level of relevance and organization evident in other states, and its influence will only wane over time.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Is Gay Marriage Coming to Maryland?

At the risk of wading more deeply into controversial waters than usual, I wanted to take a look at the issue of gay marriage and the likelihood that it will become a reality in Maryland.

The Washington Post’s John Wagner and others have reported on the fact that changes in the Maryland State Legislature seem to augur well for enactment of a gay marriage law. Further, Senate President Mike Miller (a gay marriage opponent) has agreed to let such a bill be voted on in the Senate, and Governor Martin O’Malley has stated that he will sign it if it reaches his desk.

I agree that all of these things are likely to occur. However, I think that gay marriage will ultimately be settled not by the legislature but at the ballot box, just as was the case with three other mega-issues which dominated Marylanders’ attention at different times during the past two decades: gun control, abortion, and gambling.

State law allows a recently passed law to be the subject of a 2012 ballot referendum, pending the outcome of a successful petition drive. If that happens – and I think it is likely – then the fate of gay marriage in Maryland becomes far more difficult to predict.

Washington Post polling done in May demonstrated that, while attitudes seem to be moving in a direction supportive of gay marriage, only a bare plurality (46 to 44 percent) of Marylanders support it. Neither side presently has the numbers needed to coast to an easy victory. The winning side will be the one that wins the voter intensity battle, ultimately delivering its supporters to the polls. Right now, I think you can make a case that – based on recent history and Maryland's demographics – opponents of gay marriage may have an advantage.

In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 8, which effectively banned same sex marriage. Exit polling done on election night found that 70 percent of black voters supported the ban. A study performed by opponents of Proposition 8 concluded that, “black support for Proposition 8 can largely be explained by African Americans’ higher levels of religiosity—a characteristic strongly associated with opposition to samesex marriage.”

While black voters comprise about seven percent of California’s population, they make up nearly 30 percent of Maryland’s population.  Governor O’Malley’s stronger-than-expected performance in the 2010 gubernatorial race was partially a result of the strong support he received from a black electorate surging in importance. Black voters will play a similarly critical role in determining the outcome of a gay marriage referendum.

It is also important to note that the strong network of black churches in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County could play an important role in both waging a successful petition drive, as well as mobilizing opposition to the gay marriage law. Further, President Obama will likely be at the top of the Democratic ticket – just as he was when Proposition 8 was passed in 2008 – giving black voters further impetus to vote.

Exit polling also showed that another reason Proposition 8 passed was because 53 percent of Hispanic voters backed it. Maryland, of course, has far fewer Hispanics than California does (37 percent).  But a little more than one in five Marylanders is Catholic. In 2008, 64 percent of Catholic voters supported Proposition 8. If you factor in orthodox Jews, Republicans and conservative-leaning independents, then the building blocks of a coalition sufficient to stop gay marriage from becoming law in this most liberal of states seem to be in place.

In 2008, state voters settled a multi-year conversation about the future of gambling in Maryland. Once the state’s budgetary woes have been addressed, gay marriage is poised to be the next topic to dominate the debate over the next two years.  So, regardless of where you stand on the merits of the issue, it is clear that any action which the legislature takes is a sideshow to the very public, very emotional battle which is ultimately coming.

REMINDER: Renegades Night at the WTF in Fells

Tonight a few of us will be convening at the storied Waterfront Hotel in Fells Point to hear our favorite local signer, Bonnie Leigh, perform her last night there under the establishment's outgoing regime. Festivities start at 9:30 or so. We're anticipating a slightly bigger group than usual, so if you have not attended before but have wanted to, please join us.

This event is open to everyone (keep in mind that this is a bar, however, so you better be 21 or older). Join us for an evening of music, politics, and overall muckraking.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ehrlich Speaks Out On Robocalls

In comments to the Patch online newspaper, former Governor Bob Ehrlich offered his most extensive comments to date on the Julius Henson robocall scandal.

"When talking to Patch, Ehrlich had no comment on the state's investigation, but further disavowed knowledge of the calls and said his campaign ordered no robocalls from Henson or anybody else, for that matter."

Previously, Ehrlich had merely stated the calls were "out of his purview." Now, he seems to be absolving his entire campaign staff from having a role in fielding them.

I have a few reactions to Ehrlich's comments.

First, once again, I am confident Ehrlich knew nothing about them in advance. Far from being a micromanager, Ehrlich is inclined to trust the judgment and actions of senior members of his team when it comes to the operational details of their jobs. This penchant for extreme deference is, in my view, the single biggest reason for his political fall, but that's a topic for another blog entry.

Second, I found attorney Ehrlich's use of the word "ordered" significant. Was Henson the driving force behind the robocall? Probably. But the real question is: Did any member of Ehrlich's campaign team know about it before it happened? In other words, did Henson do it on his own, or did he get buy-in (and additional financial resources from the campaign) after originating the idea? If Henson discussed the call with any other member of Team Ehrlich, then they were part of the decision-making chain. Failing to veto the robocalls is just as damning as "ordering" them.

It's also worth mentioning that Team Ehrlich has participated in robocalling in the past. A now-infamous robocall fielded by Team Ehrlich during a 2006 primary battle for a Carroll County delegate's seat triggered a chain of events culminating in the resignation of Ehrlich's entire county campaign staff. During this year's  campaign I received a robocall featuring Bob Ehrlich's voice in support of one of the candidates in a highly contested State Senate primary battle. Whatever qualms Ehrlich has about the effectiveness of robocalling, that hasn't stopped members of his team from resorting or acquiescing to their use in the past.

Third, from an ethical standpoint, perhaps it did not even matter if members of Team Ehrlich knew about the call beforehand. Hiring Henson, whose reputation for these kinds of racially-tinged shenanigans was well documented, was an invitation for trouble. If you hire Charles Manson to do some gardening for you, and he decides to kill your neighbor, does not knowing he was going to commit that specific murder really absolve you from blame?

Well, the truth will come out eventually. I don't expect Henson to fall on his sword for members of Team Ehrlich if they were part of the decision-making chain. Henson is clearly facing a boatload of trouble. He can be expected to do anything he needs to do to make things easier on himself. If that means sharing space in his guillotine-bound cart with senior members of Team Ehrlich, so be it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Obama And The Polls

As much as some in the media try to spin things otherwise, a pair of recent year end polls point to trouble for President Obama.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that Obama’s reelect number against an unnamed Republican candidate was 42 percent. And, in hypothetical matchups against Republicans like former Massachusetts  Governor Mitt Romney and South Dakota Senator John Thune, Obama polls consistently under 50 percent. The poll found that the only Republican challenger against whom Obama managed to break 50 percent is Sarah Palin (the president beats her by a 55 – 33 percent margin according to the poll).

Additionally, a just-released Harris Poll found that 64 percent of Americans regard Obama’s job performance negatively – his lowest job approval figure ever – compared to 36 percent who took a positive view. Obama had lost ground since the previous Harris poll was taken in November. Most interesting to me: 69 percent of Independents viewed Obama’s job performance negatively, and only 68 percent of Democrats gave him a positive assessment.

As we all know, polls are snapshots of moving targets, and it is foolhardy to try to glean too much from any single one. According to Gallup, President Reagan began 1983 with an approval rating of 34 percent, yet won overwhelmingly less than two years later.

Still, I think it is fair to make a few brief observations:

-          Any incumbent president should be regarded as the electoral frontrunner in his own reelection contest. Seven men have been elected president since 1968. All faced major challenges while in office, but only two lost their reelection bids. The fact is that Obama remains personally popular, and enjoys the institutional advantages of the biggest bully pulpit in the nation. I personally do not believe he has yet mastered the job enough to use the office as effectively as some of his predecessors did – including Ronald Reagan. But he still retains the basic institutional tools and the time needed to improve his own fortunes.

-          The Journal/NBC poll demonstrates that Obama can be beaten by the right Republican. Determining who that Republican is remains a tough question to answer. Some potential candidates (e. g. John Thune) are so relatively unknown that polling them seems a meaningless exercise. Others (e. g. Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin) seem to be carrying political baggage left over from the 2008 campaign. I personally would like to see the GOP buck its historical proclivity for nominating the candidate who came in second place last time in favor of an ambitious and charismatic governor with new energy and fresh ideas. There are several governors out there who could meet those criteria. I’d like to see one jump into the race, waging an excitement candidacy that scrambles the political landscape the way Obama did for the Democrats in 2008, when they were poised to nominate establishment candidate Hillary Clinton.

-          Public Policy Polling tested Obama’s standing in several key swing states, and found that Obama seems to be holding his ground in many states he carried in 2008. These results are to be expected for an incumbent president who remains personally if not politically popular, and for whom no consensus challenger has yet emerged. Still, Obama won several states in 2008 that he is going to have a very tough time winning again, including North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, Nevada, and Florida. Other recently reliable Democratic states – such as Pennsylvania and Michigan – could wind up in play next time if the results of the midterm elections are any indication. If all of those states flip, that brings Obama's electoral college total precariously close to the 270 votes needed to win.

Obviously, the economy remains the biggest X factor. It will drive the polls faster than any prospective candidate does. A rebounding economy could help Obama, but there is no guarantee it will do so. Obama’s problems stem not merely from the economy, but also from the perception that he often seems overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the job. Working with the new Republican Congress affords him both the challenge and the opportunity he needs to prove he is up to the task.   

Friday, December 17, 2010

Julius Henson's Holiday Surprise

Well, it looks like the "Rudolph's Robocall Christmas Special" I blogged about before is just getting started.

Today investigators from the State Prosecutor's Office showed up at Ehrlich political advisor Julius Henson's house. These guys came bearing subpoenas instead of presents. WBAL TV reported that the investigators departed with boxes of materials. At one point, Henson can be observed peering out the window, then pulling down the shade. Given Team Ehrlich's refusal to discuss the robocall scandal, Henson's little moment seems especially poignant.

For those of you who haven't been following this, it seems that there are three lumps of coal in Henson's Christmas stocking.

The first is a civil filing in federal court by State Attorney General Doug Gansler arguing that the robocalls, which failed to include an authority line, violated federal law. With 112,000 calls allegedly made, and fines amounting to $500 a pop, Henson may be facing $56 million in fines. I know Team Ehrlich paid him well, but he wasn't making that much.

The second one is the letter which Senator Ben Cardin sent to U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to investigate whether the calls amounted to an illegal attempt to suppress turnout among Democrats. I have heard from those in the know that the feds have in fact been sniffing around, but it hasn't gotten any public attention yet.

The third lump of coal is a state law prohibiting any attempt to "influence or attempt to influence a voter's decision whether to go to the polls to cast a vote through the use of fraud." This state law is presumably the impetus for today's raid by state investigators.

Some regard the calls as a foolhardy, "What were they thinking" enterprise. Others see them as an shameful attempt to trick people out of their right to vote. I see them as both.

You don't need to be a lawyer to know that Henson is in a whole heap of trouble. I can't imagine that anyone who is part of Maryland's political landscape will ever hire him again, for anything.

For me, two intriguing questions remain.

First, will anyone else in Ehrlich World get pulled into this reputation-crunching maelstrom?

Henson was paid over $100,000 by Ehrlich for "community outreach" activities, including $14,000 in the days just before the robocall went into the field. Were these monies paid out specifically for the robocalls? No doubt investigators will minimally want to talk to Campaign Manager Paul Schurick and Political Director Bernie Marczyk - the "Big Enos" and "Little Enos" of Team Ehrlich - to establish if Henson coordinated his activities with anyone else associated with the Ehrlich campaign.

Second, will Ehrlich ever break his silence regarding this matter?

Knowing the man and his management style, I am confident that the former governor knew nothing about the robocall before it happened. I can also understand that, as a lawyer, he does not want to comment on a topic that is the subject of federal and state investigations.

What I don't get, however, is why he therefore keeps showing up at the same TV/radio studio, where he is certain to get the question every time he enters the building.

For the sake of his legacy and his reputation, Governor Ehrlich will have to address the robocall matter eventually. In the meantime, if I were him, I'd stop visiting WBAL or any other media outlet for a while. It interjects an element of discomfort and awkwardness into a situation that already has ample quantities of both.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Renegades Roadshow, Anyone?

Thanks to everyone who attended last Friday’s Renegade Room festivities – or, should I say, thanks to almost everyone who attended.

I don’t want to rehash what a few other bloggers ably covered in their own reports on the event. But, I was very pleased to see so many elected officials, central committee members, activists, fellow bloggers, troublemakers, and candidates for chairman chose to join us.

My fellow renegades and I would like to keep the conversation and the energy going. (This should not in any way be confused with “keeping the buzz alive,” to those of you who get that reference. But I digress.)

Therefore, I propose that a follow-up event – a “Renegades Roadshow,” of sorts – take place on Monday, December 27th at 9 PM at the Waterfront Hotel in Fells Point. A bunch of us has been going there for some time to hear our favorite local singer, Bonnie Leigh, perform on Monday nights. It has since grown into a freewheeling political roundtable.

The 27th may, however, be Bonnie’s final performance at the Waterfront. This has given this event some added significance in that, if it is her last performance there, then it will certainly be our last weekly appearance there as well.

No need to RSVP – it is a public place. Similarly, there’s no need to send spies, as some allegedly did to the Renegade Room. Just show up.  

A political party is what its members choose to make of it. So bring your ideas and your energies.

Just keep in mind that, if Julianne Grim doesn’t like you, you will be bounced. Just ask certain political activists.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Comment About, Well, Comments...

So, I have decided to change my policy with regard to comments on my blog. Moving forward, I decided to review each comment before allowing it to appear online.

This whole issue of comments is something I have wrestled with for a while. Initially I blocked comments from anonymous posters (a policy followed by Mark Newgent's "Red Maryland" blog). Then I changed it to allow unmoderated comments from everyone (as does Joe Steffen's blog "Darkness Rising"). Ultimately I decided to chart a middle course between these worthy fellow bloggers: Anonymous posts will be allowed, provided that I have a chance to screen them first.

I decided to do this for two basic reasons.

First, unchecked anonymous postings create opportunities for abuse. The textbook example is this blog posting from "Darkness Rising" which appeared last spring. Clearly the subject of this blog posting was so upset by it that a team of illiterates was dispatched to punish Steffen. As you can see, hundreds of nasty and (in some cases) borderline libelous comments were posted, many originating from the same Montgomery County poster using several different names. At one point, the poster in question even asks Steffen if he's "had enough" and if he will finally shut his blog down. Call me old fashioned, but I'd rather critique idiots on my blog, not empower them or give them a free forum to spout their uninformed, venomous, libelous, hate-inspired views.

Second, I believe that criticism is always fair game when it comes to blogging - but harrassment is not.

I'm very aware that many of my views are controversial. Many of my readers took a good whack at me for including FDR in my top ten presidents list. I understand that's fair game. Dissenting comments will always be welcome.

What won't be welcomed, however, are unsigned comments by people who keep repeating the same concocted falsehoods over and over again (e. g. that I am a "trust fund baby" of some kind, that I "helped write" Joe Steffen's blog, or I am currently posting on the Sun forums under any number of different names even after I devoted a blog post addressing that rumor) sheerly for the purpose of harrassment.

These people are the blogger's equivalent of drivers who let themselves be stranded in the middle of an intersection after the light changes, blocking traffic for everyone else.

Repeating something over and over again does not make it true. Unsigned comments from posters who do so without offering any supporting evidence are not contributing to the kind of meaningful debate I want to host on this blog.

So, that's where we stand on comments. I will continue to rule on the side of liberality when reviewing comments. I appreciate my readers and want them to have a chance to weigh in. I don't think this will change things very much from readers' perspective. That said, if you think this new policy sucks, leave a comment telling me why.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"This Is My Daughter! She's 30 Years Old!"

This is the phrase former Delegate, State Parole Commissioner, and serial false start candidate Carmen Amedori kept repeating to me during an angry, bizarre, Jerry Springer-like episode at the Renegade Room event.

For the record, I barely know Amedori, and have only blogged about her penchant for getting in and then dropping out of various political races during 2010 - fair game as far as I am concerned. So, I was a little surprised when she showed up at an event where she was decidedly unwelcome, verbally accosting me, eyes a-blazin', about my alleged "blogging" about her daughter Nicole.

When enraged women attack me, it usually has to do with my misbehavior instead of my blogging, so I must say that the confrontation caught me off-guard. If I only barely know Amedori, I don't know her daughter at all. And, Nicole has certainly never been the subject of any of my blog postings.

But Maryland's resident political hat trickster insisted that she had, all the while repeating (that is, in between sexually charged personal insults leveled against me) the obvious: "This is my daughter! She's thirty years old!"

Okayyyyyyy....

Well, I went back and looked at all my Amedori-related bloggings. This is the one that seems to be at the heart of her ire. 

An anonymous poster cut and pasted a 1998 Baltimore Sun story regarding a tawdy incident from Amedori's past as a comment to my first blog entry about Amedori's alleged state party chairman candidacy.

Anonymous posters respond to my blog postings all the time. I generally have no idea who they are. That's why they're called "anonymous." Indeed, after the incident, Joe Steffen reminded me that someone had posted a link to the same news story anonymously in response to one of his blog entries about Amedori.

I patiently tried to explain this to Amedori, but this Alex Forrest in training became so emotional and disruptive that fellow renegade Don Murphy ejected her, her daughter, and some random lackey they brought with them.

The story in question is a matter of public record, and Amedori is a former and (sometimes, at least) aspiring future public officeholder. So, when one of her critics cut and pasted an old Baltimore Sun article about her on my blog, I didn't give it a whole lot of thought. If Amedori felt strongly that its presence was unfair, she should have rationally made her case to me, emphasizing why the incident was not germane to her possible candidacy for state chairman.

But, it seems rationality is not one of her strengths.

Again, I don’t know Amedori well, but this incident taught me two things about her.

First, she's good at making a fool of herself.

Second, she sure knows how to make the wrong enemies.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Renegades Room Location Identified

Just got word that the Renegades Room at the state GOP convention will be in Room 360 at the Doubletree in Annapolis. In terms of a time to stop by, I'd say any time after 7:30 PM should work.

There is no formal invitation list. Everyone is invited...except for a handful of people who, um, aren't.

Hope to see y'all - or most of you, at least - there!!!

A Renegade Revolution Resolution

Tomorrow night, the state GOP convention convenes in Annapolis. A bunch of so-called "renegade Republicans" are still planning to host their own hospitality suite. The following resolution has been prepared as a possible statement of purpose, as well as a document to be bestowed upon insurgent candidates who defeated incumbents in primaries and then went on to win in November.

A Renegade Revolution Resolution 

WHEREAS the Maryland Republican Party at the Federal, State and Local levels has historically held a position in support of incumbent protection; and

WHEREAS both Party activists and candidates who speak the truth regarding flawed campaign strategies and the weakness of long-term ineffective incumbents often face ridicule and scorn by the party establishment; and

WHEREAS the fundamental loyalty of activists who refuse to conform to the demands of the Party establishment, or to repeat sanctioned Party- or candidate-specific messaging one knows to be wrong, is often unfairly questioned; and

WHEREAS challenging flawed, tired, or moribund establishment candidates at the ballot box, regardless of the personal consequences, is considered 'high treason' by some within the establishment; and

WHEREAS being the minority party requires backing the best, most electable candidates for office in order to hold the majority party accountable for its actions; and

WHEREAS the Party protects career politicians from contested primaries solely because of their incumbent status; and

WHEREAS advocating for and celebrating the need to do things differently – especially in the wake of the lopsided electoral defeat experienced by the Party’s gubernatorial nominee - is not a sign of disloyalty, but the necessary first step in restoring the state GOP to electoral viability; and

WHEREAS competitive primaries give voters more choices and generate excitement among the electorate, giving voters more reasons to register as Republicans; and

WHEREAS Maryland’s Republican Party has nothing to lose but its permanent minority status; now

THEREFORE, be it hereby resolved that we, Maryland's renegade Republicans, offer our sincerest appreciation for all candidates who ran for office, and won, in the face of the relentless opposition presented by the Party establishment. We also join with you in encouraging the Party establishment to unshackle from the past and move aggressively in a new direction. We also respectfully suggest to the Party that your efforts be rewarded and regarded as a formula for future electoral success. And, we respectfully remind you that, as new incumbents, we will hold you to the same degree of scrutiny as we did your predecessors. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ranking The Presidents: My Top Ten

I noticed this article regarding a recent poll taken of people's attitudes at to who the best most recent former presidents are. Being something of a political handicapper myself, I thought I would give it a go - although, I broadened my list to include every former president, as opposed to only those dating back to 1961.

1) Abraham Lincoln: This was an easy call. He held the union together through a combination of political skill and sheer force of will. He freed the slaves by winning the war. He faced the biggest challenge any president has faced, and he succeeded.

2) George Washington: Everything he did constituted a precedent. He was clearly very mindful of that, and it guided his presidency. His solid judgement and ability to leverage the talents of those around him helped him make the best choices.

3) FDR: Contrary to popular belief, his New Deal programs did not rescue the country from the depression, but they did put people back to work. His #3 ranking here stems from the deft manner with which he steered an isolationist country towards what he recognized as a necessary war. It is hard to imagine any other American politician of that era managing public opinion, and the war that came afterwards, as skillfully as he did. He was the best commander in chief of all the presidents.

4) Teddy Roosevelt: TR was the first modern president. He basically created conservation and passed laws protecting consumers. He was a warrior as well as the only incumbent American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He understood America needed to play a bigger role in the world during the 20th century, and left the country better prepared to do so.

5) Ronald Reagan: His career proves that underestimation is gold in politics. He came to office with a list of priorities that reflected the will of a majority of Americans - rebuilding military strength, lowering taxes, and reducing growth in government. It can be argued that he achieved (to varying extents) each of them. He was an FDR-quality communicator, and the kind of leader who could see beyond his ideological prism. He didn't single-handedly win the Cold War, but he certainly delivered the final knock out blow. And, he appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court. The first, and the best, president I ever voted for.

6) Harry Truman: A fearless and feisty leader, Truman stepped out of the shadow left by his predecessor and built his own formidable legacy. He made the biggest single decision ever faced by an American president: Hiroshima. He saved thousands of American lives in the process. His creation of the Marshall Plan and support for aid to Greece and Turkey laid the proper foundations for the struggle with the Soviet Union. He desegregated the armed forces and stood up to the Communists in Korea. His firing of Gen. MacArthur was politically damaging but necessary to assert the power of the commander in chief over a popular subordinate. And, he pulled off the biggest electoral upset in American political history. How could you not like the guy?

7) Dwight Eisenhower: He was another underestimated president. He deliberately cultivated a reputation for being a disengaged and dottery executive, but was quietly running everything behind the scenes through what has been described as a "hidden hand" leadership style. He gave the country eight years of peace and prosperity. He correctly enforced the court order to desegregate the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas despite his own contrary inclinations. He launched America's space age when he created NASA. And, he effectively shut down Joe McCarthy.

8) Thomas Jefferson: He doubled the nation's borders through the Louisiana Purchase and ended the slave trade. He also successfully led America into its first war (the Barbary War). He also founded the longest lasting political party in the world.

9) JFK: He skillfully guided the nation through what was arguably its biggest national security crisis ever. He upped the ante on the space race with the Soviets, and put civil rights in the center of the national agenda (though LBJ and Nixon did most of the heavy lifting). His tax cuts helped produce a period of prosperity through most of the 1960s.

10) James K. Polk: He pledged to serve only one term and to achieve four clearly defined goals in office. He kept both promises.

I'd likely put Wilson, Jackson, and George H.W. Bush among the best of the rest, but am unsure of their exact rankings. As for the worst president, I'd still bestow that title on Jimmy Carter. I'd also put Richard Nixon in the top 20 based on the fact that the quality of his achievements in office partially offset the circumstances under which he left it. I'd rank LBJ in the top 20 for similar reasons.

As for George W. Bush, his legacy depends upon the outcome in Iraq. If Iraq is safe, democratic, and free in 10 years, he will likely rebound. The way I see it, his reputation has nowhere to go but up.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Moxley Named New County Lobbyist

As I blogged a few days ago, former Baltimore County Councilman Sam Moxley has landed a cushy new County job not far down the hall from his old one.

But he’s not going to be the liaison to the County Council, as I was originally told. Instead, he is going to be the County’s lobbyist, taking the job Frank Principe had before he moved onto MDOT, as reported by the Patch’s Bryan Sears.

In his story, Sears writes, “Moxley said he will work with legislators in Annapolis as well as being the liaison between County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and the County Council.”

So this means that Moxley’s new job will not be confined to Towson. Instead he’ll be presumably trekking down I-97 to Annapolis on a regular basis, buttonholing legislators in the State House, the legislative office buildings, and in the many bars and restaurants frequented by legislators and their staffs during those busy evenings during the session.

I’m biting my tongue so hard that there is blood cascading down my chin.

Barack Obama And "Superfluous"

As my recent blog posting about Sarah Palin mixing up North and South Korea irked some of my Republican readers, in the interest of balance I decided to blog this clip of President Obama screwing up the word "superfluous" in a recent speech.

I'm amazed that the mainstream media even reported it. But what really fascinates me here is the irony of President Obama mangling this particular word, especially in light of the Democrats' diminished numbers in Congress and state houses across the country.

I still remember Bill Clinton asserting his continued "relevance" in government at a 1995 White House press conference shortly after the GOP took control of Congress. Will Obama now be accused of having a "superfluous" presidency? If so, let's hope he practices the word a few times before he starts rebutting it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Carmen Amedori's Bid For Political Immortality

In hockey, they call it a "hat trick," and to my knowledge, Carmen Amedori is the only Maryland pol in recent memory to pull off its political equivalent: Three false start candidacies for three different races in the same calendar year.

First Amedori, a former delegate and State Parole Commissioner, declared her candidacy for the U. S. Senate.

Next, she abandons that race to run as insurgent GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy's Lieutenant Governor candidate. She then abruptly drops out of that race in a very messy, very public manner.

Just recently, she declared her interest in running for state GOP chairman, only to - you guessed it, folks - bag that race as well.

When I think of Amedori's Olympian achievements as a serial false starter, "Fanfare for the Common Man" springs into my mind.

It would take someone with far more clinical expertise than I to crawl into Amedori's psyche and tell us what's happening there. I'm content merely to chuckle and wistfully shake my head.

So, with Amedori out of the race, and Dr. Eric "The Dialin' Doc" Wargotz and Andrew Langer taking themselves out earlier, the GOP chairman's contest seems to be Mary Kane's to lose.

As I blogged earlier, I'm trying to keep an open mind about it. I just don't want the contest to be settled by personalities at the expense of ideas, and that's exactly what seems to be happening.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sam Moxley and Kamenetz's Comeback Cabinet

As Bryan Sears reported in today's Patch, incoming Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has brought a number of faces familiar to Baltimore County government back into his administration.

One announcement that he did not make today but which I have heard is happening, however, is the return of Councilman Sam Moxley to County government. Well, technically he isn't returning...he's just switching desks when his term expires Monday.

I heard today that Kamenetz will name Moxley as the new Council Liaison. Presumably this will come with a fairly decent salary. However, given some of Moxley's past troubles, I'm hoping it does not come with a county vehicle.

Well, County Executive-elect Kamenetz specifically eschewed change as a theme in his campaign, instead running successfully as the status quo candidate. So, if he wants to tap people from past administrations and councils for his own government, he certainly has the standing as well as the authority to do it. Experience is not necessarily a bad thing, of course. Let's just hope that, down the road, he also seizes opportunities to recruit and groom new leaders to shape Baltimore County's future. That act alone could really help shape his legacy.

Palin and North Korea: Channeling The Ghost Of Jerry Ford

So, as much as I tried not to, I feel compelled to comment on Sarah Palin's recent gaffe in which she referred to North Korea as an "ally" of the United States.

Many of my fellow Republicans with whom I discussed this dismissed it as an innocent and forgiveable mistake. I tend to see it as being somewhat more serious an error than that for two reasons.

First, this is a basic geopolitical fact that anyone with aspirations for the presidency should know by rote. For that matter, anyone who's ever seen an episode of "M*A*S*H" could likely tell you which Korea is our ally. To me, confusing North and South Korea is about as embarrassing as mixing up the combattants in the Civil War.

Second, the media has a long history of trying to portray Republicans as being intellectual lightweights. Think of Dan Quayle, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower, and - of course - George W. Bush. Palin's intellectual substance had already been a focus of attack by the Democrats and a hostile media, particularly due to her performance during the interview with Katie Couric. Simply put, this gaffe makes it much more difficult if not impossible for her to overcome these negative perceptions.

Someone pointed out to me that Barack Obama's "57 states" remark during the 2008 presidential campaign didn't raise fundamental questions as to his intelligence. That's a good point. So is the fact that Gaffinator Joe Biden's serial dumb comments are quickly forgotten after the news cycle in which they occur. The embarrassing if long-forgotten incident in which Al Gore failed to recognize busts of our founding fathers is another example.  But the sad truth is, this double-standard which benefits Democrats isn't likely to change anytime soon. Republicans, especially those who aspire to the presidency, don't have the luxury of saying egregiously dumb things.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford's infamous comment that there was "no Soviet domination" of Poland during his debate with Jimmy Carter might have cost him the election. In the days after the debate, Ford's people clarified that the president merely meant that the United States did not concede Soviet rule of Eastern Europe to be a permanent, unchanging reality. If you go back and re-watch Ford's comment today, far removed from the political context of the moment, I think that is clearly the point he was trying to make. Unfortunately, everyone remembers the gaffe; few remember the justifications that followed it.

I suspect Palin's gaffe, rather than attempts to explain it, will be one of the things that define her as well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mooney Makes It Official

Outgoing State Senator Alex Mooney has finally declared his intentions to seek state party office. Below is an unedited version (other than minor formatting corrections) of his email to the GOP State Central Committee and various legislators:

_______________________________________

From: alex@alexmooney.com
Date: November 30, 2010 10:06:47 PM PST
To: "Warren Miller" (millerpinehill@hotmail.com), "Steven Schuh" (steveschuh@aol.com)
Cc: shankforsenate@hotmail.com, "Neil Parrott"(nparrot@trsimidatlantic.com)
Subject: Mooney for GOP Chair or Vice Chair

here is a letter I sent to all GOP central committee members today via e-mail.  I wanted you to see it also to ask for your advice and support, and to help me gather other supporters.  our party leadership is too important to not get done right this time.
  Alex Mooney

Senator Alex X. Mooney

P.O. Box 669

Frederick, MD  21705



301-620-0200


November 30, 2010




Dear Member of the Maryland Republican Central Committee,


I am writing to ask for your vote to serve as either the Chairman or the First Vice Chairman of the Maryland Republican party.  Before making a decision as to which office to seek, I want to first ask for your input.


After suffering a disappointing loss in my close election, I will not be returning to Annapolis after spending 12 years representing Frederick and Washington Counties as a State Senator, fighting hard for our Republican values.


Nonetheless, I am determined to continue to do battle against the liberal Democrats who operate an oppressive political monopoly on the citizens of Maryland.  I have won four Republican primaries and three general elections, in addition to one hard fought loss.  My experiences have given me valuable insight to help move our party forward by electing more Republicans to the state legislature.

 
First, I want you to know that I am a committed conservative.  I am unabashedly pro-life and pro-Second Amendment.  I signed, and kept, a pledge never to raise taxes when I first ran for office twelve years ago and proudly served as Taxpayer Protection Caucus Chairman in the Maryland Senate.  Our party needs to be the party of tax and spending cuts.


The role of the other officers of the Republican Party of Maryland is to support Republican candidates for public office.  Merely offering advice and wishing candidates “good luck” is not enough.


I received most of my campaign training before I ran for office from a conservative training organization called The Leadership Institute (LI).  Morton Blackwell is the President of LI and has been Virginia’s National Republican Committeeman since 1998.  Mr. Blackwell served in the Reagan Administration and offers excellent training and guidance such as explaining that being right, in the sense of being philosophically correct, is not sufficient to win and that conservatives owe it to themselves to learn how to win.


Republican Party officials need to offer significant material support, including but not limited to:


·        Funding

·        Polling

·        Voter registration drives

·        Phone banking assistance

·        Absentee and provisional ballot programs

·        Early voting strategy/assistance

·        Get Out The Vote (GOTV) program

·        Information and research on issues and votes



This support needs to be provided by both the local Republican Central Committees and the State Party to those we encourage to seek office and especially to those in targeted races.


When I first took office in 1999, there were three Republican state senators from Montgomery County (two were entirely within the county and one had part of the county).  Now there are none.  


In fact, no Republican candidate for the State Senate in Montgomery County this year even received 40% of the vote, failing to capitalize on several very divisive Democrat Senate primaries in these districts.  We had some good candidates - they just did not have enough Republican Party support.  


Likewise, the last Republican House of Delegates member in Montgomery County was barely defeated in 2006 and there were no competitive Republicans for the House there this year.  We cannot afford to give up on entire counties such as Montgomery.


You are likely aware of candidates in or near your area who would have greatly benefited from additional support from our party in their campaign.


The Maryland House of Delegates picked up six seats, for which I congratulate them.  I am proud that two of them were within my Senate district.  Yet in the State Senate we lost two Senate seats by only a few hundred votes, and also missed picking up two seats also by a few hundred swing votes.  


My point is that even a small amount of effort targeted in the right way can really make a difference in close races for candidates who work hard and make serious personal sacrifices to run for office and defend our values.  We all need to work together toward that end for the next election.


I caution you to beware of anyone seeking party leadership who simply thinks that all we need to win are a better set of talking points.  While I agree that we must stick to our conservative Republican principles, we must also have a plan to raise money and use political technology to win elections.


The new incoming Republican Party chair should be willing to invest a significant amount of time to the important work recruiting candidates, fundraising, managing staff, talking to the press, meeting with elected Republican officials and other duties.  I applaud Audrey Scott for her recent service doing this job full time in this election year and note that being chairman requires at least part time job hours – it is not merely a side hobby.


It is this time commitment away from gainful employment, along with making sure I have enough time for my wife and two small children, that gives me pause in running for party chair.  If I am unable to make the commitment needed to run for party chair, then I will certainly seek the position of first vice chairman.


I am also interested in seeing, as I hope you are, who else is running for party leadership and what plans and specific commitments they are able to make in seeking your support for that position.  As Republicans in Maryland, we must require a serious commitment to hard and effective work from our leadership.


Since you are a duly elected member of the Maryland Republican Central Committee, I would like to hear back from you about your vision and concerns for our party and I’d like to ask for your support to serve as party chairman or first vice chairman.


                                    Sincerley,


                                    Alex X. Mooney

                                    State Senator, 1999-2010




"Physician, Heal Thyself"

Joe Steffen, my friend and fellow blogger, posted an interesting blog entry in which he questions the wisdom of two of Congressman-elect Andy Harris's recent staffing choices.

The best line:  "That’s right – THAT David “Sloopy” Schwartz: One time Ehrlich “Sign Boy,” Rampant Sun Forums Poster, recent Director of the Maryland Chapter of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and world renowned skinny dipper." (I added the bold.)

Enjoy...