Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Inappropriate Much?

It’s been a rough few weeks for Maryland’s political class.

First, conservative Delegate Don Dwyer confessed to drinking while boating during an accident at sea, sending children into the water, and onto the hospital.

Then, Governor Martin O’Malley – attending the Democratic convention in Charlotte – got into trouble for delivering consecutive, conflicting answers on the “Are we better off now than four years ago” question made famous by Ronald Reagan in 1980. Jay Leno had a bit of fun with that.

Then, the governor delivered a warm-up convention speech which, according to news reports, few people seemed to like. I opined about this speech myself in a Baltimore Sun op-ed last week. While I did not think the speech was particularly memorable, I felt it was more a missed opportunity than an outright disaster.

Now, two more politicos seem to have waded into their own respective messes as well.

First, Delegate Jon Cardin – the guy who got into trouble for letting the SWAT team plan his engagement for him a few years ago – has received unwelcomed attention from local press and bloggers for deciding to have a political fundraiser on September 11th. 

Now, I have to say that the idea of someone hosting a fundraiser on 9/11 doesn’t necessarily offend me. 

One of the best things to come out of that appalling tragedy was a collective sense of resolve. Americans seemed to be united in their belief that, as we fought the war on terror, we would not live our lives in fear of terrorists. That means not being afraid to get on a plane, go to work, play golf, or lead our lives normally just because of what the calendar says.

Still, it was Cardin’s attempt to justify his decision, rather than the decision itself, that I found questionable. 

"I don't think it's inappropriate, and we have a lot of patriotic things that we do, and one of them is getting involved in political action in the political world, and it's an opportunity to really get together and also have sort of a very important conversation about improving our country and our state, Sept. 11 should be a day that we do that like every other day."

Fundraising is a reality of politics, but I am a little uncomfortable characterizing it as a “patriotic” activity. When I think of patriotism in the 9/11 context, a few things come to mind, including the bravery of first responders, veterans and active military personnel serving overseas, and – most of all – the victims of the attacks and their survivors.

Politicians and the fundraisers they hold do not exactly make the cut for me.

Anyway, Delegate Cardin seems to have an almost Bidenesque talent for getting himself into trouble. Given his historic penchant for inappropriate bravado, I guess we should be grateful he didn’t try to stage his fundraiser at Arlington National Cemetery.

The other misstep involves a former politician’s questionable appearance at a Washington, D. C. fundraiser.

I had never heard of Duchenne muscular dystrophy prior to last night. This disease strikes one in 3600 male births, causing muscular degeneration, paralysis, and eventual death.

The Foundation to Eradicate Duchenne – which I had also never heard of before – hosts an annual “Dining Away Duchenne” fundraiser.  The 2012 edition was held last night at Eastern Market in Washington, and the names on the event’s host committee are a bipartisan cross-section of Congress.

In light of the seriousness of the cause and the political star power aligned with it, using it as a backdrop for self-promotional activities would seemingly be a verboten thing to do.

Well, not according to former Governor Bob Ehrlich, who used the event as a book-signing opportunity for his magnum opus, Turn This Car Around.

I found this out from several people who attended the shindig, and while I didn’t believe it at first, one of them sent me a picture of the ex-gub diligently signing away next to an easel display of the book cover.

Now, I don’t know what kind of arrangement Ehrlich had with the event’s organizers. But I do know that, in Washington, perception defines reality. And the perception among some event attendees was that he was using a fundraiser for "Jerry's Kids" as a platform to regain lost relevance.

When I shared this news with a friend and fellow Ehrlich world veteran, his response was, “The man has no shame.”

No shame? Maybe. But one thing is obviously true.

Ehrlich sure must have a lot of unsold books lying around.