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Political Animal


By Brian Morton | Posted 2/2/2005

And you wonder why we christened our governor “Bobby Smooth.”

You gotta admit, it takes balls. It takes balls to bank on saving your annual budget for the last three years with a slot-machine scheme that you didn’t campaign on, but tell everyone that’s what they elected you to do. It takes balls to call a General Assembly special session for a malpractice-insurance “emergency,” only to veto the resulting bill when it doesn’t include every single thing you want in it, then run around crying when your veto is overturned.

But it really takes the cake when, in your State of the State address, you complain about “Capitol Hill assassin politics” and bitch about a “respect” you clearly haven’t earned.

Let’s be serious here: The only person who has brought “Capitol Hill politics” to Annapolis is the governor himself. Who doesn’t compromise? Ehrlich. Who refuses to share information with legislative leaders and their staffs? Ehrlich. Who drops his plans on the General Assembly right before it’s time to get to work? Ehrlich. If there’s anyone who has brought Capitol Hill’s “my way or the highway” lack of respect for the opposition to Maryland’s capital, it’s our Republican governor.

This writer was no fan of Parris Glendening, but at least he knew that there’s a way to get things done in Annapolis. Gub’ner Bobby thinks he can run the show like House Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay does in Washington—except Ehrlich doesn’t have a veto-proof majority like the Republicans do in D.C.

In his last year without an election hanging over his head, Ehrlich needs to start bringing home some bacon. He managed to get the administrators and students at College Park off his back with his promise for school funding, but just like the lawmakers in Washington and his colleague in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ehrlich thinks he can do it without raising taxes, no matter how many of his corporate buddies (whose financial support he’s going to need in 2006) get free rides in the bargain. Instead, he’s counting on nobody remembering the little cuts here and the little cuts there that he’s sneaking through before Marylanders hit the ballot box.

Thus, he is, at least in his own mind, Bobby Smooth—creating things like “flush taxes” and calling them “fees,” closing down offices that enforce labor laws (a little more help for the campaign contributors), and pre-emptively blaming the opposition for a culture he created. But he keeps on chugging. You would think he’d get the idea that, like, dude, this ain’t D.C., man—we don’t play that.

You want “respect”? How about making sure that the two people most likely to challenge you for your job next year don’t get seats at your State of the State address? This is stuff that was even beneath Glendening, who could get fairly petty himself.

It’s obvious what Bob Ehrlich wants Maryland to look like when he’s done, and that’s the state the president hails from: Texas. As syndicated columnist Harold Meyerson noted in a mid-January column, Texas has no income taxes, hardly any unions, little in the way of benefits, and the markets tend to do what they please.

“In its resistance to taxes and services and unions,” Meyerson wrote, “Texas has created an ownership society that excludes more Americans than any other state. And this is the model that Bush is commending to the nation as a whole.” And, were it not for that pesky legislature, Ehrlich would likely have it, too. But he has to settle for quietly undermining unions, exempting big businesses/campaign donors from paying their fair share in taxes, and doing his best to kick the door open for the gambling industry. Afterward, he can either try knocking off Paul Sarbanes or take a nice consulting job somewhere that the well-connected will leave waiting for him. (Just like his predecessor, to be fair.)

Bobby Smooth has one last shot to show Marylanders he’s “got it going on.” But, unlike the Queen of Soul, he’s starting out by getting disrespected.

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The Fix (8/4/2010)

Police State (7/7/2010)

Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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