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Political Animal


By Brian Morton | Posted 8/30/2006

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

This, of course, was the same thin-skinned Thomas Jefferson who waged all-out wars against the press, going so far as to say to one newspaper in Philadelphia, "Nothing in this paper is true, with the possible exception of the advertising, and I question that."

The day when a newspaper rises up and takes over the government has yet to come--for one thing, editors are lousy tacticians, and they tend to scurry under light small-arms fire--but from the way our esteemed Gov. Robert "Bobby Smooth" Ehrlich and his friends are operating, you would think that they are holed up inside Government House with the shutters drawn, nervously checking and rechecking the clips on their M-16s, waiting for the dawn arrival of the hordes of copy editors and beat reporters coming in waves like Normandy.

It is "the liberal MONOPOLY" they fear, or so chief Ehrlich fundraiser Richard Hug writes in his missives to the faithful. Now, we here at Animal Control always felt like we had a pretty good handle on the dictionary definition of "monopoly," never you mind the screaming capital letters used by Hug. According to the third definition of the word listed in Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, "monopoly" can be defined as "exclusive possession or control of something."

In a political sense this would mean that those darned liberals pretty much ruled the roost in Maryland, wouldn't it? Prancing through government, raising taxes willy-nilly, gays and lesbians getting married everywhere, convicts and criminals jamming the voting booths--you know, it would be Ann Coulter's idea of a liberal Club Med paradise. Except for that one small detail: The governor's mansion is occupied by a Republican. You know, the guy who jacked up the cost of higher education by 40 percent, the guy who raised all the tolls for every bridge, tunnel, and toll road in the state of Maryland, the guy who took $4,000 from Wal-Mart and then denied it before vetoing the bill that would make the retailer pay for more of its employees' health care, the guy who tried to sell off 836 acres of state-protected land at less-than-market rates to a businessman who would then get more than $6 million in tax breaks because of it.

It's hard to have a liberal monopoly (and we know--we've tried) without having the governor's mansion in your control. All we have here is about 14 inches of column space, and a cat who fancies himself ruler of the Free World, and after that, it's mighty hard to do some of the things the governor has done. Like take $16,000 from convicted tax evader and Republican crook Jack Abramoff or hold fundraisers at a 127-year-old golf club that's never had a black member, and then proclaim it "nothing." It's hard to drive off a longtime executive director of the Port of Baltimore, James J. White, like Ehrlich did in March 2005, when you don't have a monopoly. It's hard to jack up auto registration fees from $47 to $82 without a monopoly, much less be able to blame Democrats for the fee hike while taking credit for the implementation of the transportation funds resulting from it.

And if liberals held a monopoly in the state, then they'd certainly find a way to keep the GOP from paying for Public Service Commission Chairman Kenneth Schisler's lawsuit against the state filed in an attempt to keep his job. The Maryland Republican Party swore up and down that it was not putting up the dough, but one day later it was revealed that the GOP paid Schisler's attorney's $20,000 to help fund the suit. If there were a liberal monopoly, the governor wouldn't have huddled with BGE lobbyists in an attempt to push the rate-hike deferral play through in the waning minutes of the legislative session this past spring.

The fact is, Hug loves to use the same tropes and language that the hard-core smash-mouth right-wingers in Washington like to use when it comes to campaigning. You've heard it for six years now at the national level: "All liberals want to do is raise taxes!" "Liberals believe in class warfare!" "Liberals will make Maryland a bad place to do business!" But really, this language just spins the reality that Ehrlich has raised taxes, fought against a minimum wage that's been stagnant for almost a decade, and taken stands with big businesses like Wal-Mart, CareFirst, BGE, and Constellation Energy, and against Maryland's middle class and paycheck-to-paycheck wage earners.

We don't know if there's any kind of "liberal monopoly" in this state. But the governor needs to go back and look at his copy of that board game again. He might notice that in the end, the rich guys end up with everybody's cash. Just the way he likes it.

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