Friday, May 18, 2012

Why Republicans Should Be Angry at Pat McDonough

There’s one thing, and not much else, you have to know to understand Delegate Pat McDonough: He craves attention.

I realized this in 1995, when he called me – then the newly-minted Press Secretary to Congressman Bob Ehrlich – and gently scolded me for not including him on my press list for his impending “newspaper,” Maryland Citizen.

Shortly thereafter, he announced the birth of Maryland Citizen via a press release and interviews, though I never saw a single issue.

A year later, he launched a bid for the Third Congressional District seat held by then-Congressman Ben Cardin. The man McDonough dubbed “Tax and Spend Ben” creamed him, 67 – 33 percent.

In 2002, he managed to win election to a seat in the Maryland House of Delegates representing Baltimore and Harford counties. 

There he seems to have found his niche.

McDonough has no substance as a policymaker, legislator, or opinion-leader, but like many low grade talk radio hosts, he has a need and a knack for self-promotion. He serves this need by locating the sweet spot on issues sure to appeal to the political fringe.

Among the go-nowhere causes which he has championed: support for so-called “English First” legislation, opposition to a resolution calling upon Maryland to apologize for slavery, and a bill to keep an alleged exodus of Washington, D. C. rats from entering Maryland.

While none of his efforts achieved any real results, he usually wound up with his name in the paper – his real objective all along.  

When not in the legislature, this bewigged demagogue stirs the pot by waging phantom campaigns for higher offices and hosting a program on WCBM.

It was in this latter capacity that he generated his latest controversy.

McDonough issued a press release – the headline: "Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays” – announcing plans to hold a news conference on the subject the very next day on WCBM.

“McDonough said his statement was prompted by several recent problems, including a St. Patrick's Day disturbance and a recent incident in which he and his wife witnessed a fight involving about 100 youths at Pratt and Calvert streets.”

For the record, I have lived in Baltimore City since 2004, and have never witnessed any such gang of roaming and rampaging black youths, much less felt threatened by one.

But reality wasn’t the point of McDonough’s stunt. Publicity was.  

In addition to significant local broadcast and print news coverage, McDonough’s rant got him a mention on Huffington Post, and a link to the Sun story turned up on The Drudge Report.

So, judging by the attention McDonough’s race-baiting rant generated, it was an apparent success. But, for Republicans, McDonough’s actions may have unintended consequences  he either did not understand or simply did not care about.

One of McDonough’s longtime signature issues will help drive Maryland’s 2012 elections: immigration.

A measure to overturn the law passed in 2011 allowing illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at state community colleges will be on the ballot.

As I blogged previously, I oppose in-state tuition for illegal immigrants for several reasons.

First, it asks state taxpayers to pay for another entitlement as they choke down a new round of tax increases even as the state’s economic recovery sputters. Second, it sets the stage for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants at every Maryland public college and university, the original intention of the bill’s supporters.  Third, by handing out benefits reserved for citizens, it undermines traditional notions of citizenship.

I’m definitely not of the “round them up and deport them” mindset. In fact, I’d like to see the federal government establish a clear path which enables non-citizens already here to earn citizenship and become taxpaying citizens. But the federal government needs to act definitively before politicians start using taxpayer resources to build goodwill with an increasingly important voting bloc.

Interestingly, while McDonough has long positioned himself as the premier anti-immigrant agitator in the legislature, other legislators – primarily Delegate Neil Parrott – nudged him aside as they worked to put the in-state tuition for illegal immigrants law on the ballot. In essence, they recognized him for what he was – a liability – and marginalized his role in the process.

That is, until McDonough reasserted himself.

Now, supporters of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants have, in Pat McDonough, a powerful asset: A right wing, race-baiting, demagogic delegate with a seeming vocal hatred of all people of color, including immigrants.  

Supporters of the in-state tuition proposal needed a bogeyman to advance their cause, and Pat McDonough just offered himself up to them.

People who had never heard of McDonough will remember his “Black Youth Mobs” comment. And if they don’t, supporters of the law passed by the legislation can be expected to remind them of it, and of his past nativist comments on the topic of immigration.

Polls have shown black voters split over the in-state tuition ballot initiative. Putting Pat McDonough’s Archie Bunkeresque face on it – positioning him as some latter-day George Wallace – could help sway some undecided minds.  

In my view, McDonough was merely foraging for relevance by applying the Howard Stern rule: Say the outrageous thing that no one else wants to say, and people will always listen.

But words have consequences, even when uttered by cranks.

State Republicans should aggressively condemn McDonough’s actions as well as his words.

But they should not do this not just because McDonough’s behavior is potentially politically damaging.

They should do it because the behavior is wrong. 


  1. Very interesting points...even more interesting is the list of elected officials that supported him again in the 2010 election!!!!

  2. Sorry Richard Cross, but call Pat McDonough what you will, but what happened on this St. Patrick's Day evening was most definitely a "black youth mob" that very well did terrorize the Inner Harbor. I was unfortunate to come home that very evening and drive right through it. I don't know what part of the "city" you live in, but clearly sir you have some serious blinders on. People are so mad at Mr. McDonough for being unafraid to speak the truth, as egotistical and self-serving as he may be...the man hit the bullseye with that comment.

  3. Anon @ 5/24/12 @ 14:55

    I respectfully disagree. McDonough squandered an opportunity to talk about crime by interjecting language which directed the debate towards race instead. By talking about a "black youth mob" instead of a "criminal youth mob," he enabled the liberal media and the political establishment to paint him, and, by extension, all Republicans, as being racially obsessed. The St. Patrick's Day incident is serious and deserved full scrutiny. The failures of the current mayoral administration should be debated. But, doing that requires the right spokesman using the right message. Pat McDonough is neither.

    Do you think that McDonough's rant would have gotten national attention had he not interjected race into it? It's a majority black city, so it stands to reason that youth "mobs" would be majority black. But elevating race over the actions of the criminals was counterproductive to the cause.

  4. There is no doubt that crime is a huge issue in Baltimore City as it is elsewhere in the state. I agree that illegal immigration is a huge economic hindrance to our state. I have been following Mr. McDonough on this issue for the past several years and he doesn't have the tact to discuss this issue. He is a liability to the MD GOP. There are criminal youth mobs in every race. Mr. McDonough reminds me of a Baltimore version of Archie Bunker. Let the mayor handle the youth mob issue in the city. Mc Donough should concentrate on the issues that plaques his district that he represents.