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June 3, 2008

Machine's O'Malley

Roy Meachum

Never mind those dewy-eyed impressions. They are based chiefly on this governor's youthful good looks. Singing with his Irish band didn't hurt. But Martin O'Malley practices old-fashioned machine politics.


A case in point: his collusion with Thomas V. “Mike” Miller to connive with the powerful president of the state Senate to get what he wants, and to hell with due democratic process. Notice: that's a small "d."


The capital "D" Maryland Democrats have little to do with that small "d" stuff; they are dedicated to the late Engine Charlie Wilson's proposition, with a change. They take General Motors out of the quote; it now reads:


"What's good for the Democratic leadership is good for (Maryland)."


The issue boils down to appointing the senator's son, Thomas V. Miller III, to Anne Arundel County's District Court. When the county's nominating commission failed to recognize that the Mike III's four year experience fully qualified him to sit on the bench, we have to assume his father had some words with the gov.


In no time at all, Mr. O'Malley told the commission the proposed list was too small; he wanted more names to be sure he was appointing the best qualified. To the best of my knowledge, this had never happened, at least in modern times; it came across as a return to the days when Irv Kovens absolutely ruled the majority party.


In case you were not paying attention at the time, Mr. Kovens plucked Ben Cardin from the governor's race, persuading the long-time House of Delegates’ speaker to settle for Congress. Mr. Cardin agreed out of a sense of party unity and full realization the Boss could ruin his political career. Mr. Kovens had someone else in mind. Reportedly kicking and screaming, William Donald Schaefer agreed to move out of Baltimore's City Hall, to the Annapolis mansion. It probably never got to that, not that way. Now-U.S. Senator Cardin knew who buttered his political bread; he understood his role when presented with the Boss's choice, his protégé. He assented rather than consented. It happened anyway.


Irv Kovens was the indisputable reason why Mr. Schaefer moved up from City Council president to the mayor's throne. There was absolutely no doubt Willy Don loved presiding over his home town, but when the Boss beckoned, he moved. The great tragedy of his career happened when Mr. Kovens died two years into the governor's first term. The death was not a total surprise.


In the scandal that cost Marvin Mandel the state's top seat, Irv Kovens was also convicted, and on 15 counts. His time in jail lasted a mere three months: He was sent home because of a lousy heart condition, which eventually cost his life. Incidentally, the conviction was later overturned by a federal judge.


With no obvious Boss in control, the state's Democratic top dogs acted forcefully to end the threat posed by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. All during the 20th century, a series of master manipulators, including the current governor's family through marriage, withheld support of party nominees who didn't suit their fancy.


Dumping Mrs. Townsend was a group effort. All state Democratic leaders, including Mike Miller, joined in. At the same time, they slowed down Mayor O'Malley's enthusiasm to move on. Doubtless through former attorney general and lieutenant governor Joe Curran, his father-in-law, Mr. O'Malley was almost certainly ordered to stay out and keep his mouth shut. He did.


With Mr. Schaefer sidelined when Montgomery County's Peter Franchot snatched the comptroller's chair, Thomas V. “Mike” Miller currently reigns as Maryland's foremost state Democrat. Even before the last election, the former governor had turned into a caricature of the caricature that he played all his public life.


Frequently compared to Jack Kennedy, Martin O'Malley has acknowledged he's aiming for the White House. Crossing Mr. Miller at this junction in his governorship makes no sense. Besides the pair was obviously surprised in what had historically been no more than a matter of washing each other's hands, exploded!


Faced with the Senate president, accompanied by the governor, having grabbed their prerogatives, three Anne Arundel judicial selection members resigned – and publicly: letting voters and the media know why, so there would be no doubt.


In the current disarray, Mr. Miller III has not had his name forwarded for consideration. First the three resigned members, all attorneys, must be replaced, and that issue promises to stink up several corners in Maryland politics before it's settled.


Maybe it's personal prejudice, I count Joe Curran a friend from his AG years, and I find it extremely difficult to believe the governor consulted with his father-in-law first. Joe has too many political smarts, learned at his father's feet: attorney William Curran ran Baltimore's Democrat organization for nearly 20 years.


By any standard, the governor and the state Senate president made a monumental goof. Thomas V. “Mike” Miller announced shortly after the elections this was his last term; indications are he may have changed his mind. Maybe not.


The true onus falls on the man-who-would-be-president. A few more public gaffes like this and he'll never make the White House. Oh, well, Marty O'Malley's singing and dancing ever pleased the ladies. He could do that.


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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