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July 18, 2005

Hollow Clamoring Everywhere You Look

Richard B. Weldon Jr.

Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan’s traction-less gubernatorial campaign continues to struggle to find a voice. The latest lame attempt is to attack Governor Robert Ehrlich for holding a campaign event at a private golf club in the Baltimore area.

Ehrlich’s campaign raised around $100,000 at the one-day golf event. This particular private club, like many, has a distinctly monochromatic membership.

A word about these private clubs. Like Groucho Marx, my feeling is that I wouldn’t join a club that would have someone like me as a member. Truth be told, I’m not nearly adept enough at wealth accumulation to have to worry about the membership policies of any country club.

That said, I have definitely been invited to, and have attended, a number of events at private clubs that might have exclusionary membership policies. I didn’t care, as I wasn’t there to join. I was there as an invited guest at an invitation-only function being held at a private club!

The chorus of the offended imply in their demand for an apology that the venue was chosen because of its exclusionary policies.

A denial of that assertion by Team Ehrlich only warranted an afterthought in the liberal Mayor Martin O’Malley daily paper in Baltimore. The pro-Duncan Washington daily rag did the same thing.

Bob Ehrlich’s campaign staff chose the venue based on availability and geography, not race. In fact, they chose this particular club for the same reason Baltimore County Executive James Smith did. Smith’s function, held a year earlier, failed to generate the same interest from Washington and Baltimore’s papers.

Jim Smith just happens to be a Democrat, further highlighting the hypocrisy in Duncan’s protestations.

I think I know the real reason for Duncan’s foolish protest on the country club non-issue. He cannot get traction for his campaign, no matter how hard he tries. His primary opponent, Baltimore’s Mayor O’Malley, continues to garner most major media and Democrat party attention.

In spite of the arguments from Democratic Party headquarters to the opposite, Mr. Duncan is so far behind Mr. O’Malley statewide that this is shaping up as a coronation instead of an election.

It must be very frustrating to Mr. Duncan that in spite of Mr. O’Malley’s many shortcomings, he cannot garner a serious look from most Democrats.

I’m guessing that some of the frustration over the country club event has to do with the fact that Governor Ehrlich continues to rack up historic campaign finance numbers. Mr. Duncan lags far behind Mr. O’Malley, and both are a distant 2nd and 3rd to Ehrlich’s prolific fundraising.

I don’t begrudge Ehrlich’s campaign using every device and technique at their disposal. Remember that they’re running against the major print media, too.

So, Mr. Duncan will continue to clamor. It’s the only way he can grab a much-needed headline. He’s so desperate that he even sent Mayor O’Malley a letter asking him to join in his criticism of the governor.

Guess what? Mr. O’Malley didn’t bother to answer the letter, but he did point out how desperate Mr. Duncan and his people must be.

In fact, we’re hearing more of this fairness clamoring in the race to succeed Sen. Paul Sarbanes, too. Former NAACP executive and Congressman Kweisi Mfume suggests that a Democratic Party conspiracy recruited his primary opposition.

Mfume further suggests that African-American voters may betray the Democrats and support Lt. Governor Michael Steele (R) if the Dem’s don’t show a diverse statewide ticket.

How about some local clamoring? Every candidate for city office in the Frederick mayoral and aldermanic races bemoans the lack of civility. In fact, there’s a real risk that civility might become a caricature due to overuse.

I like Randy McClement’s idea. The issue isn’t civility; it’s statesmanship. Let them argue as loudly and passionately as they want. In fact, a good argument on public policy is a very healthy way to highlight unintended consequences. Argue with all of your might and eloquence; just get on with the business of government at some point!

More local clamoring dominates the scene. The city and county have yet to agree on a contract to purchase water from the new Potomac River water line. According to sources close to the negotiation, there are one or two “sticking” points.

The commissioners have decided to hold up Water and Sewer Master Plan amendments until the city brings a signed agreement forward. County commissioners are tired of waiting, and resentful of the rhetoric that places the blame for delay on Winchester Hall. On the other hand, the mayor says that this can be resolved to the city’s satisfaction. We’ll see!

Now, for some really stupid state political clamoring, Speaker of the House Mike Busch (D., Anne Arundel) and Senate President Mike Miller (D., Calvert) have been planning their “investigation” into the hiring and firing practices of state employees.

Both Busch and Miller promised a fair and unbiased investigation, free from partisan cheap shots. So Senator Miller chooses his team, including two Senators, Brain Frosh (D., Montgomery), and Paula Hollinger (D., Baltimore Co.) who have been quoted saying that Governor Ehrlich broke the law.

Speaker Busch, not to be outdone in the petty partisan department, chooses Del. Galen Clagett (D., Frederick) to serve on his panel. Delegate Clagett was quoted in The Frederick News Post last year comparing the hiring practices of the Ehrlich Administration to a “communist cell.”

Boy that sounds like someone who can be objective, huh? Truth is Galen said even worse things in informal communications about the whole Joe Steffen affair last year. I have no doubt now that this inquiry has a pre-determined outcome, and fairness will not be invited to sit at the table!

This fair investigation is a kangaroo court, and the only purpose it will serve is to allow the “drip-drip” of criticism of Bob Ehrlich throughout the upcoming General Assembly session.

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