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February 09, 2005

Maryland's next governor?

Last time we heard from Mayor Martin O'Malley of Baltimore, and by "we" I mean "I" or at least "this blog," it was in October. The mayor was announcing that "as the stubborn homicide rate spits back at us, we are undeterred," thus apparently winning a bet with his wife that he could use the words "stubborn," "homicide," and "spits" in the same sentence. And he was at the same time bowing out of the mayoral debate on the ground that he had to attend a meeting with the Jewish National Fund, thereby provoking me to accuse him, mostly in jest, of blaming it on the Jews.

After so much coverage in October and none since then, maybe you believed you would be able to avoid reading about him again. But you were wrong. Since he may well be the next governor of Maryland, let's see what he's up to these days.

1. He's rhetorically comparing the Bush budget to the September 11 attacks. Now, normally, I would pause here to say, a la Dave Barry, that I'm not making this up. But O'Malley is a Democrat, so that isn't necessary.

At the National Press Club yesterday, he said this:

"These cuts, ladies and gentlemen, are sad. Irresponsible. They are also dishonest," O'Malley (D) told a packed news conference at the National Press Club, where mayors and area officials had gathered to decry Bush's plan to slash spending on community development programs by $2 billion.

"Back on September 11, terrorists attacked our metropolitan cores, two of America's great cities. They did that because they knew that was where they could do the most damage and weaken us the most," O'Malley said. "Years later, we are given a budget proposal by our commander in chief, the president of the United States. And with a budget ax, he is attacking America's cities. He is attacking our metropolitan core."
I should be quick to point out that O'Malley did not contend that Bush has deliberately targeted journalists, so he is not likely to be hired by CNN.

Also, the WaPo account of the speech says that those who heard the speech appeared to be "a bit stunned" by the comparison. (Perhaps, however, they were really "mildly shocked" or "slightly astonished" or even "moderately blown away" by the comparison.) One reporter questioned O'Malley's use of "inflammatory rhetoric" (which I suppose is a pretty apt term here).

Michelle Malkin has more on this.

2. The New York Times has a front page article on Baltimore's violent crime, which now seems not just to be spitting at the mayor but actually to be hawking major loogies at him. The mayor wanted to prove his bona fides by reducing the city's crime rate, but the murder rate remains high. (According to the 2002 Uniform Crime Reports by the FBI, Baltimore had 253 murders out of a total of 513 for all of Maryland.) So the current spin on this from the mayor and his staff is that it's just a bunch of drug dealers and junkies killing each other, and the rest of the city is totally safe. Phew! I feel better already.

"Baltimore is actually a very safe city if you are not involved in the drug trade," Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson said.

To make their case, city officials have compiled studies that show a fine line between killers and their prey. Of the 38 homicide victims this year, 90 percent had criminal records and 68 percent had been arrested for violent crimes. The victims had been arrested an average of eight times each, typically for drug-related crimes.

"Our victims have identical records as our suspects," Marcus Brown, acting deputy police commissioner, said.
But the true test of the mayor and his staff is this: If they are correct in their spin, and it's only a few bad areas of town with high violent crime rates, that makes it far easier to focus their police and prosecutorial resources on those areas. Will they crack down (bad choice of terms, I guess) on crime in those neighborhoods, or will they simply try to cover the mayor's behind? (Now that's a difficult question to answer.)

3. The mayor's opponents have given him best gift imaginable -- a long-time staffer to Governor Ehrlich has been forced to resign for spreading rumors about O'Malley's alleged extra-marital affairs. The mayor and his wife appeared publicly to deny and denounce those rumors. Of course, assuming there's really no truth to the rumors, this gift allows O'Malley to blame any real political attacks on him as more dirty tricks. Like his failure to respond adequately to the murders in East Baltimore.