Maryland’s Presidential Governor


martin o'malley chesapeake.jpg
I’m down blogging today at the Hard Bean Coffee & Booksellers Cafe in Annapolis, Maryland on what is a beautiful day to think about Martin Luther King, Jr. My hunch is that if the great reverend were around on his own day, I think he’d be tearing down other walls of discrimination, particularly Don’t Ask Don’t Tell prohibiting military service by “out” gay men and women.
But driving out here from Washington, I was impressed with the quality of roads and “the look” of Highway 50. I have a couple of places I hide in Maryland — one in Chestertown, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore and another way at the tip of the opposite end of the state in McHenry, Maryland near Deep Creek Lake.
These hideaways are on completely different ends of this state, but the roads are fantastic, and the greenery is well tended between those two ends. I bet there are folks reading this know pot holes or bad roads that frustrate them — but sorry, Maryland really does a great job taking care of its infrastructure compared to many other states I have visited.
Maryland’s public schools have also been ranked this last week by Education Week as the best in the nation — highlighting Maryland’s ongoing commitment to fully funding education and raising teacher salaries despite the severe economic conditions today.
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley deserves a great deal of credit for this. I razz him sometimes — but he’s one of the few governors I know who works hard at public policy and thinks things through.
One of the recent areas of action by O’Malley that has won him praise from most quarters is taking action to restore the oyster beds in Chesapeake Bay. I heard about this from none other than Obama National Security Adviser General Jim Jones and his wife Diane who clearly prefer their time at their home on the Chesapeake Bay to the Washington scene. They are thrilled that O’Malley is working to get the oyster beds back in shape — and I am too.
Healthy environments, healthy communities, healthy schools, healthy people — I think that’s how it goes.
I’ve been privileged to sit in on one of the Governor’s policy salon dinners that asked tough questions about how to make Maryland a bigger player in climate change policy — and how to deal with the business community in a fair, square way in reaching those goals. Those around the table were as eclectic as the challenge — and the Governor and his wife were really into the discussion. So was former presidential candidate and Colorado US Senator Gary Hart for whom O’Malley was once an advance man.
I have no idea if anything lurks in Martin O’Malley’s past that would preempt a run for the White House. We seem to want a purity of spirit and behavior in our elected officials that seems completely unrealistic to me — but that said, what I can say is that O’Malley is of the policy caliber and demonstrates a rare management excellence over a large and effective state bureaucracy that makes him a very credible candidate for the US presidency.
Blue T-shirt wearing gun freedom advocates, of Maryland Shall Issue, who want to deter crime by everyone carrying around a pistol in a visible holster have descended on the Annapolis State House today — and some are in the coffee shop now. They seem like nice folks other than that I think they are a bit off on gun proliferation — but O’Malley seems to manage the competing factions on handguns, environmental regulation, gay rights, education, and health care very well without selling his soul.
President Obama should spend some time in Annapolis checking in with Martin O’Malley and his operation here.
O’Malley should have the President to a policy discussion in the Governor’s Mansion (and invite me). With all due respect to President Obama who is working these issues hard, I think he might learn some things about how both to achieve policy results while keeping a base of reasonable centrists and progressives on board.
— Steve Clemons


17 comments on “Maryland’s Presidential Governor

  1. David says:

    My experience as a student and as a teacher confirmed your observations, questions. Keep dreaming. Who knows, maybe this time around, somewhere, this dream will become reality and be an example that spreads like ideas in the weed patch/garden of a child’s mind. Hell, it’s worth visualizing, anyway.


  2. questions says:

    A little more on the “natural” disaster in Haiti.
    And, see, Ignatius just thinks some things are beyond our understanding. Nature has no meaning and all….
    Which side does anyone want to be on? The one that says it’s natural so we can’t do much, or the one that says had we handled the humane issues differently, very few people would have died and we wouldn’t be talking about the uncounted bodies thrown, putrid, into mass graves. 200,000? More? Fewer?
    And did you read the stuff about the pig virus and the forced destruction of the Haitian hog industry that led to mass urbanization?
    It isn’t natural.


  3. questions says:

    Natural curiosity is unruly, disruptive, not quiet. We have a sit down and shut up notion of education. Too many worksheets, too much stupidity, too much of what school is has been decided by people not actively in classrooms.
    On the parent side, if you’re not comfortable with books, if your schooling was traumatic, you just carry that along with you and hand it to your kids. Even if you intervene in a positive way, you can’t really support homework well if you struggled with it yourself.
    So the schools really have to find ways to supply all those books you had and all those hours of reading between when you started at 4 and when many kids start as late as 2nd or 3rd grade.
    I don’t think any of this is impossible, but we have to rethink the academic calendar, the school year, grade level issues, content issues and the like. Getting school districts to rethink these issues is a lot harder than getting them to buy a new set of text books in constructivist math or phonics or whole language or whatever new fad comes down the pipe.
    And getting the corporate/management set to think about the kids rather than the contractual relations between administration and faculty — in my dreams….
    It’s really sad.


  4. David says:

    questions, they really are eye-popping. In my case, although I grew up in a household that operated on a single minimum wage income until my teens, when my mother also went to work, I also grew up in a household filled with books of all kinds. My aunt taught me to read when I was 4, I think it was, because she didn’t have any children yet. But the first thing I saw was my mother consuming books. All four of us kids were, and are, voracious readers. It made all the difference, especially as compared to the other kids in my little community outside Orlando, Florida in the 40s and 50s.
    Mostly my mother simply made sure there were all kinds of interesting books in the house, and occasionally she would place a book in a casually strategic place, knowing one of us would pick it up. And we read whatever we could understand, kind of like kids in a one-room school.
    I think I remember an experiment in which a well-to-do benefactor took in kids from deprived environments and made sure they had ready access to books. If I remember correctly, IQs jumped 10 points.
    My personal perspective is that this is essentially won or lost ages 3-8 or so, with each successive year representing a higher and higher hurdle. And I think it must involve informal immersion in books, not regimented attempts to impose. Children are curious creatures with great capacity to absorb and assimilate. Why do we find so many ways to undermine that natural curiosity and desire to learn?


  5. dianaw says:

    Steve: Thanks for the response. Please understand that I am totally with you on this. I also rely on on your site more than you can possibly imagine for thoughtful discussion. Onward.


  6. Steve Clemons says:

    Thanks Diana — You may very well be right. I admit that my “idealized” MLK Jr. would be fighting for an end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but clearly this is a creative assertion by me, mixed with the hope that modernity and his ability to push past the present would help him get “there.”
    But totally respect and get what you are saying.
    best, steve clemons


  7. dianaw says:

    Steve: Much as I agree with your views on gay rights, I have to diagree with your assumption that MLK would be campaigning for the repeal of DADT. As you must be aware, many African Americans, for a variety of cultural and religious reasons, have ambivalent feelings about gay rights issues. It is very important to recognize this, whether you agree with it or not. There are other non-Western cultures that share this view. It doesn’t matter if these views are justified or not. They must be acknowledged, and dialogue that includes these views must begin. You must understand that a casual comment like:
    My hunch is that if the great reverend were around on his own day, I think he’d be tearing down other walls of discrimination, particularly Don’t Ask Don’t Tell prohibiting military service by “out” gay men and women” is not the way to go.
    Please check out a recent blog post from Africa
    (I am NOT singling out Africa, this is just a good post).
    Respectfully submitted
    Diana Witt


  8. Steve Clemons says:

    POA — thanks for the note. The spammers may be being paid by a malicious source targeting this blog…not sure. But they are paid to do what they are doing. I think that this kind of thing is the equivalent of sweat shop operations abroad.
    I’m not that worried about the spam, though it’s annoying. I can’t track all of the ISPs, but I’ve done enough of them that I have been able to delete more than 5,000 spam messages that were in the archives on other pages (and which I hadn’t seen) from months and years past — thus helping them to lose their toe hold on the site.
    I have staff that try and review this every day, removing them. That’s the best we can do right now without creating more hurdles and problems for folks who post here regularly.
    best, steve


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Steve, its fairly obvious that this Ugg boot thing is not a sales campaign, but instead is a malicious attack on your blog. I have no doubt that this spamming IS NOT reaping profits for whomever is doing this. I hope you have your techies trying to figure out how to block these assholes, and hopefully, find out who is doing it. Is there anyway they can find out WHERE the ugg boot spam is originating?


  10. DonS says:

    Thank you Lisa for that comment. It seems we are desperate in this country to find signs that someone, anyone, in the political class really is progressive. I should say, someone who has threaded the needle of our incredibly crass politics and still retains believable progressive creds. There are plenty of examples of conservatives whose have remained consistent to their credo of business first, me first, etc. But, then, that’s like saying rats thrive in a cheese store.
    I guess I’m particularly jaded this morning having just read the WAPO story on rampant illegal wiretapping that was covered up by blanket phonied up national security letters at DOJ. And a Glenn Greenwald blog story on the perverse neocon David Brooks (and others) strategy of simply declaring public opinion to be just whatever they deem it (and the ‘liberals’ coincidentally genuflecting to such CW). I’d add the links but I’m at the wrong (i.e., broken) computer. Maybe later.
    Anyway, Steve does get enthused when he senses, and maybe has interacted with, some politico who seems credible. Can’t blame him for that I suppose. But it’s a pretty damn dispiriting, even dangerous, circumstance to contemplate the smoke and mirrors that passes for government.


  11. Lisa says:

    Steve, You should check around with people who have worked with MOM to find out exactly how deep his commitment is to progressive causes. You will find that there is a tremendous cohort of progressive public officials who have been abused and discarded by O’Malley both during his time as Mayor and Gov. He has perfected the art of speaking “progressive” to potential donors and folks who want to swoop in and take his temperature for future political viability. However, those who work with him and have to advocate in Maryland have a very different experience. I say this as a lifelong Dem, progressive citizen of Baltimore, and one who has had first person opportunity to ask that the rhetoric and promises match the policy.


  12. questions says:

    I loved diagramming sentences, copying vocabulary from the dictionary, and all sorts of other student-y things. I think that there’s still value in a lot of this kind of work. If you have sentence structure down and if you have a decent-sized vocabulary, you simply function better in a syntax-structured and vocabulary-laden language like English.
    The research on vocabulary skills in young wealthy children compared to low income adults is eye-opening. Lower income, print-poor kids cannot keep up with what the teacher says or what the books say; their parents don’t know the words either. What an awful and alienating experience it is to be unable to understand what your teacher is saying. These kids start at a deficit and that deficit increases every year, and it feeds back on itself in an ever-worsening loop. What makes me so happy about the Montgomery County work is that it shows that teaching, teaching early, teaching words, teaching literacy — all this teaching actually works.
    There are definitely some curricular changes that have made us worse rather than better. But Montgomery County has found at least one thing to reverse the tide.


  13. David says:

    You remember sentence diagramming, too? Its value, I think, lay in the fact that is was a language skills game that could be fun to play if the teacher had an engaging personality. Such was my experience in 7th grade, anyway. It also meant engaging with complex sentences in comprehensible ways.
    Reminds me of the fact that copying reports from an encyclopedia was actually beneficial because students were engaging with good writing skills.
    Oh, yeah, and thanks, Steve, for this post. I needed some positive, forward-thinking commentary. I am surrounded by tea-baggers down here on the edge of the Green Swamp.


  14. questions says:

    As an afterthought, Steve, could you send your post to Arne Duncan so that he doesn’t keep thinking that the Chicago model is the one to follow? Maybe we can dump the union-busting, the testing, the corporate nonsense, the idea that school failure is a management problem and so on.
    Maybe we can move to a system where teachers can infect kids with screaming energy, where kids can run down the hallways, fidget as needed, and read books all the while?
    Maybe we can get pre-schoolers into the system so that when they get to kindergarten they know which way to orient a book because they recognize books as objects and pictures in books as spatially-oriented?
    And maybe we could move to a math curriculum that doesn’t value the counting of money over other things that numbers do?


  15. questions says:

    Montgomery County started teaching kindergartners to read a few years ago. The bulk of the “race gap” seems to have disappeared regarding reading skills at least.
    Perhaps this should be a model reading program across the country?
    And since Montgomery County schools taught me to write, come to think of it, maybe Warriner’s English Grammar should spread as well. Every volume is packed with sentence diagramming!
    Deep Creek brings back memories of a cabin, mosquitoes, and no sleep…!


  16. jonst says:

    Hey Steve, you a big “The Wire” fan? That’s what I think about when I think about O’Malley. Which, admittedly, is not often. IOW…the state/city/guy is a metaphor for what is wrong in this nation.
    So think Tommy Carcetti for President Steve.


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