Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ken Masters: RIP

I was saddened to learn of the passing of my former State House colleague, war hero and longtime Baltimore County legislator Ken Masters, who passed away this week at the age of 68.

My defining image of Ken was seeing him standing on the steps of the State House smoking a pipe, often wearing his trademark suspenders and (in chillier weather) trench coat and Irish cap. I remember how The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery once commented wryly that he was probably better known for his frequent pipe breaks than his actual lobbying activities (he was Governor Ehrlich’s legislative director).

Anyway, he was a genial, old school politico with old school sensibilities which, sometimes, got him into trouble. But he was always nice enough to me. My condolences go out to his family.

Speaking of condolences, I was interested to read former Governor Bob Ehrlich’s comments in Bryan Sears’ story in Patch.com about Masters’ passing:

"He wasn't very good at politics because he didn't suffer fools," said Ehrlich. "If you had a dumb bill, he'd tell you it was a dumb bill. He'd tell the press it was a dumb bill and he'd tell constituents it was a dumb bill. He was a legislator's legislator and that's a great compliment."
Let me get this straight…Ken Masters – former Majority Leader of the House of Delegates and Ehrlich’s first and only pick to be his chief lobbyist in Annapolis – “wasn’t very good at politics.”

That strikes me as a curious way in which to eulogize someone.

Then again, maybe it isn’t if you put Ehrlich’s statement in recent context.

A few weeks ago, Ehrlich went on WBAL radio and caused a bit of controversy in some circles when he called Ron Smith “insecure” and “too cynical” a day after his passing.

And now, we find out posthumously that Ken Masters, a 16 year veteran of the legislature, probably didn’t really even belong in the political game at all.

In both cases, the pattern seems to be for Ehrlich first to say something unexpectedly critical about the decedent, then to follow it up with a complimentary observation - as the former was necessary to cue up the latter.

Now, we know Ehrlich is a master rhetorician who, by his own account, wrote all his own speeches during his political career.

But, now I’m thinking he might have broken down and hired someone to help him with the recent spate of attack eulogies he has been delivering. And I’m pretty sure I know who it is.

Hey, I'm not here to judge. I’m just happy to see Don Rickles is still getting work.

Anyway, RIP Mr. Masters.

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