My friend and fellow blogger Joe Steffen recently published a blog entry responding to my own assertion that Bob Ehrlich likely had no role in planning or executing the infamous race-based robocalls which have since landed two of his confederates in hot water.
In my own blog entry, I made the case as to why Ehrlich likely was not a part of planning this specific activity. In Steffen’s blog, he makes a strong case that Ehrlich has a long history of implicitly – and, in some instances, not so implicitly – indulging the kinds of dark campaign shenanigans the robocalls represent.
Both make valid, mutually non-exclusive arguments.
In the past, Ehrlich tended to dismiss the kinds of Election Day hijinks that Steffen references in a casual, chortling, “everybody does it” kind of way.
In fact, in 1998 the campaign handed out a trophy as an award to individuals it believed engaged in such activities on behalf of a candidate for the Maryland State Senate.
Years later, when the Washington Post asked Ehrlich about his campaign’s alleged tolerance for such salacious monkeyshines, he dismissed them as “silly stuff.”
But reckless indulgence is one thing. Breaking the law is quite another.
To date, the robocall matter is the only Ehrlich campaign activity to result in a criminal prosecution. That is why I think reaffirming Ehrlich’s likely non-involvement is significant.
In my blog posting on this subject, I made the point that Ehrlich’s being a lawyer made his participation in this episode less likely. Steffen questioned the relevance of this fact. I feel it is relevant because it speaks to Ehrlich’s understanding of the legal process and awareness of the consequences of violating the law.
Add to this the fact that he is an inveterate worrier – in 1996 he made multiple staffers call the Board of Elections to confirm that there were no problems with the reelection paperwork he already filed – and I just cannot see how an intelligent guy like Bob Ehrlich could be part of this high risk, no gain misadventure. As campaign strategy goes, the robocalls demonstrated the same degree of strategic wisdom as a soldier tapping his foot on the ground in lieu of a mine detector.
Still, Steffen’s larger point is valid. Indulging these kinds of activities over time does not leave you entirely blameless for an episode in which you were not directly involved.
After the embarrassing incident in 2006 in which homeless men were bused in from Philadelphia to hand out deceptive literature at the polls, Ehrlich had a chance to implement a zero tolerance policy for such mischief.
Instead, in 2010, he countenanced Paul Schurick’s decision to engage Julius Henson, a man notorious for racially-charged politics. It’s like hiring Casey Anthony to be your nanny, and being surprised when something actually goes wrong.
I hope everyone – especially those left to pick up the pieces in the state GOP – can move beyond this unfortunate episode. That includes Bob Ehrlich, whose legacy is better and stronger than his 2010 defeat and the ensuring robocall scandal.
As for Schurick and Henson, I don’t want to see them go to jail. I’d settle for watching the perma-smirk disappear from Schurick’s face. But that’s another story.