Dr. Richard Vatz of Towson University is a great guy. His daughter Shaina is a good friend and one-time protégé of mine. Dr. Vatz is a consistent, reliable, articulate conservative voice, and I am always glad to read his thoughts.
That said, his December 11th piece in the Baltimore Sun, “Schurick’s behavior wrong, but not criminal,” left me scratching my head.
Dr. Vatz makes the case that Democrats who engage in dirty tricks get a free pass, but Republicans (and the Democrats who work on their behalf) are subject to retribution by the ruling liberal establishment.
For example, he writes:
Political operative Julius Henson, author of those robocalls, has a long history of dirty campaigning — for Democrats.
He has, according to the Baltimore City Paper, promiscuously distributed materials in circumstances where it is illegal to do so; he has lied, claiming then-Representative Ehrlich was a Nazi; and he manufactured the falsehood that Ellen Sauerbrey was opposed to civil rights, among other mendacities. He has aided, with his contemptible tactics, Democrats Joan Pratt, Elijah Cummings (using robocalls as well), Albert Wynn and many others. (If Mr. Ehrlich is described as a "Nazi," wouldn't that suppress Republican votes? If inaccurate polling — remember the Clarence "Du" Burns-Kurt Schmoke push polls — is very one-sided, won't money dry up and voting by conservatives be discouraged?)
Soon, it will be Mr. Henson's turn to face trial. It would seem that the same person committing comparable acts in Maryland for Democrats and Republicans risks prosecution only when he attacks Democrats.
I have no quarrel with Vatz’s basic premise that a partisan double standard exists in Maryland elections with it comes to exposing and assigning blame for Election Day dirty tricks.
But it should be noted that the other misdeeds which he describes pre-date the law under which Schurick was convicted and Henson will soon be tried.
The law passed over Ehrlich’s veto in 2006 was a briar patch trap set by Democrats in which Schurick and Henson promptly became entangled. In that sense, they have no one else to blame but themselves.
But the thing that puzzles me about Vatz’s column is what he does not say.
He does a fine job articulating Henson’s past history of well-documented campaign misadventures. But he leaves unanswered the question as to why the Ehrlich campaign would choose to pay someone with such a sordid history $16,000 a month.
The Ehrlich campaign endorsed Henson’s history when it hired him. They knew who and what they were getting. They made his liabilities their liabilities.
So the whole “you let him get away with it when working for the other guys…why not us” argument rings a little hollow. What was wrong behavior then is wrong – and illegal – behavior now.
I’m less interested in what happened in the past than I am in what becomes of those who violate the law in the future. Will future Democratic campaigns employing fraudulent tactics to trick voters face similar prosecutorial wrath? That's when the real test will come. As always, I’m hopeful but rarely optimistic.
In the meantime, I give Dr. Vatz credit for adding to the conversation, and for his loyalty to Bob Ehrlich. But his argument reminded me of the standard response police officers tell speeders who get pulled over while other cars whiz by: “I didn’t pull you over for what they did. I pulled you over for what you did.”