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February 24, 2006

Lennie! Lennie! Lennie!

Roy Meachum

John "Lennie" Thompson should be congratulated. Once again the commissioners' president has twisted criticism to his own advantage. In the process, he managed to spark a furor that has absolutely nothing to do with the issue. He proved himself a world-class demagogue, deserving of ranking with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Cuba's Fidel Castro, Italy's Benito Mussolini and the Soviet Union's Vladimir Lenin.

In pointing out how Mr. Thompson demonizes county developers, appealing to his no-growth constituency, WFMD's Blaine Young trotted out two examples: first, how Louisiana's near-mythic Huey P. Long dumped blame on oil companies for anything negative in the state.

To his regret, as he publicly stated, Mr. Young reached additionally for the way Adolph Hitler seized German's Jews as scapegoats who were responsible, Der Fuehrer said, for the nation's devastation following World War I; he preached the crushing loss could be laid at their feet, exculpating militarists and imperialists who really deserved "credit."

As Mr. Thompson, Herr Hitler rarely lets the truth slow him down: In fact, Jews enlisted in the Kaiser's army in numbers beyond proportion to their percentage in Germany's general population. Characteristically, he ignored statistics that showed Jews earned more medals for bravery and their casualty rate both surpassed their Christian brothers-in-arms.

For the way he used the Big Lie to murder millions of innocents and launch World War II, the Nazi leader represents the foremost modern model of how a demagogue can deploy scapegoats to pull the wool over people's eyes.

In his published quote, Mr. Young said of Mr. Thompson's constant pillorying of county builders: "It's no different than what Hitler did with the Jews or Huey Long did with the oil companies in Louisiana."

As Mr. Young clarified on Frederick Forum: "The scapegoat in this county is the developer, and if you're friends with them, or you accept money from them, you've got to be on the take, or you're in their pocket and, you know, you're destroying our way of life."

The Saturday morning radio host stopped there; in no way did he attempt to link Mr. Thompson's seemingly automatic vilification of the local building industry to the camps and gas chambers built by Hitler's Third Reich.

Exercising the killer-instinct that makes demagogues different from ordinary folks, the commissioner stretched Mr. Young's remarks to portraying him as seeking to turn on developers the horrors of the Holocaust. That's typical Lennie!

When Mr. Thompson "owned" the board, relying on former president David Gray's indecisiveness and Jan Gardner's eagerness to avoid confrontation to bully their support his way, it was more than apparent he was dictating, behind closed doors, what was happening in this county.

In that atmosphere, I sought to convey the real workings of local government by comparing Lennie-controlled meetings to England's Star Chamber system under Henry VIII, which served as pattern for the Nazis' Volkskammer (People's Court). They all specialized in meaningless show trials; guilt or innocence was dictated in advance.

On that occasion, Mr. Thompson managed to convince part of the media that I had accused him of being another Hitler, which was simply not true, anymore than I portrayed him as the spitting image of the most-married monarch in Great Britain's history.

In the event, the commissioner sought to cover his tracks, in both cases, by chanting a near-Voodoo incantation, which climaxed by proclaiming if either Blaine Young or I proclaimed today was Friday, Lennie would have to check the calendar before he could maybe agree. He considered us both such liars.

He bears a special animosity toward me for attacking his shaky legal qualifications when he challenged Judge Terry Adams for her circuit court seat. His lop-sided loss effectively smashed, as I wrote, any ambitions he might have had to seek higher office. For that turn of events, I deserve no credit. In the face of Ms. Adams, an eminently prepared and exceedingly intelligent human being, there simply was no contest.

While he expresses equivocation about the possibility of seeking another term that sounds feigned to me, the commissioner-demagogue steadfastly proves Blaine Young's point: he blindly opposes development but seeks zealously to undermine every aspect of property ownership.

On the same front page that displayed the beef against Mr. Young, the News-Post reported "hundreds of residents showed up to oppose the proposal...One resident cried when she testified, and the crowd applauded statements against the resolution."

Unmoved, Mr. Thompson voted to impose a one year moratorium that would have denied construction permits that required septic systems in unincorporated areas: outside towns and cities. He was alone, not a rare occurrence when it comes time to register positions on county matters.

In other business, an amendment proposed by the Human Relations Commission, Mr. Thompson found himself also outgunned 4-1. The commission simply wants landlords to cease discrimination in renting multiple units to families that include pregnant women, those with children under 18 and individuals in the process of seeking custody of a child.

Speaking of confusing lack of logic: On that issue, the rest of the board upheld the right of individuals against property owners, while Lennie abandoned his populist stance and favored those who erected and maintain the massive apartment complexes that threaten to constipate further Frederick's parking and traffic hell.

While Lennie Thompson has dedicated his political career to the proposition of penalizing anything that smacks of development, exactly as Blaine Young charged, the commissioners' president bucked the rest of the board on a proposal that could not be more explicit in its devotion to the cause of property owners who are greedy for higher profits.

Go figure! I can't.

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