Rascovar responds to backlash over ‘nasty’ Hogan column

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Rick Lippenholz/Governor’s Office

Gov. Larry Hogan, right, gets a souvenir jail key from Public Safety Secretary Stephen Moyer.

Photo above: Gov. Larry Hogan, right, gets a souvenir jail key from Public Safety Secretary Stephen Moyer. Photo by Rick Lippenholz, Governor’s Office

Here is columnist Barry Rascovar’s response to the backlash over Monday’s column about “the new, nasty Larry Hogan.” It already was posted in his blog PoliticalMaryland.com. Below it are some thoughts from MarylandReporter.com editor Len Lazarick

By Barry Rascovar

Complaints and harsh words have poured in about my Aug. 3 column, for daring to raise the possibility that Gov. Larry Hogan’s health may have played a role in his turn toward nastiness.

Let’s be clear: The governor’s treatment for late Stage 3 non-Hodgkins lymphoma cannot be ignored.

Everyone wishes Hogan a speedy return to good health. Doctors I’ve spoken to have been optimistic about his recovery chances given today’s advancements in chemotherapy.

But the situation — and its ramifications for governing Maryland — cannot be swept under the rug.

Could the governor’s unseemly swipes at Democratic leaders be partly related to how he’s feeling during and after his intense medical treatments?

It is a possibility. You don’t have to agree, but it’s a thought worth considering — which is why it was raised ever so briefly (17 words) in my previous column.

Governor’s response

Hogan’s spinmeisters used my column to reject the notion he has turned from Mr. Nice to Mr. Nasty. In a Facebook posting, Hogan asserted:

“In spite of 10 days of 24 hour chemo I haven’t become mean and nasty, I’m still the same nice guy I have always been, and we are still accomplishing great things for Maryland.”

He also defended his failure to notify Democratic legislators before announcing the closing of the Baltimore City Detention Center. Why? Because he didn’t want to tip off the gangs about what was about to happen.

Fair enough.

Gangs and the city jail

For the record, here’s what Mr. Nice Guy had to say in blaming the disgraceful gang problems of the city jail on former Gov. Martin O’Malley:

“When the first indictments came down the previous governor called the case ‘a positive achievement in the fight against gangs.’ It was just phony political spin on a prison culture created by an utter failure of leadership.”

The facts tell a slightly different story that Hogan conveniently ignored in his spiteful comments.

It was O’Malley’s corrections secretary, Gary Maynard, who uncovered the deplorable Black Guerilla gang control of the city jail and called in the FBI. Maynard wanted to act immediately to end the gang’s stranglehold on the detention center and prosecute the guards involved, but the FBI insisted on months and months of further investigation.

This long delay was a huge, inexcusable mistake, but that failure of leadership should not be blamed on O’Malley. Hogan needed to point an accusing figure at the FBI.

Attacking the opposition

It was easier and more useful politically to demonize the opposition party leadership.

Thus, Hogan politicized the jail-closing announcement in terms that pilloried both O’Malley and the Democratic legislature.

Such “smack-down” rhetoric doesn’t further cooperative governance.

Two of the most level-headed Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Ed De Grange of Anne Arundel County and Sen. Guy Guzzone of Howard County, co-chaired a commission that studied the city jail situation and developed a long-term, bi-partisan solution.

Hogan not only disregarded their work, he bragged about the fact he had “never even looked at” this plan.

Legislative response

Is it any wonder the co-chairs accused Hogan of having “circumvented the Legislature” and of “making decisions behind closed doors”?

That last accusation has surfaced on other Hogan decisions, too. He doesn’t seem to believe in listening to a wide-range of divergent views before making up his mind. That approach is not always helpful.

Closing the Baltimore jail was absolutely the right decision. Hooray for Hogan.

He is correct it should have happened long ago — perhaps even under the governorship of the last Republican chief executive, Bob Ehrlich.

But there was no reason to turn the announcement into a political tongue-lashing.

It only exacerbates the growing gulf between the governor and Democratic lawmakers, the very people he needs if he hopes to make headway in achieving his large-scale goals for Maryland.

 

Editor’s Note

MarylandReporter.com already published my own observations about Hogan’s closing of the city jail on Friday.

“Gov. Larry Hogan’s performance in Baltimore Thursday evoked memories of William Donald Schaefer, the legendary “Do it now” mayor and governor, as Hogan announced the immediate closing of the Baltimore City Detention Center.

Hogan’s large bald head from his chemotherapy added to the impression, but it was more the tone, attitude and approach that was Schaeferesque: impatient, angry, concerned with the people affected, and denigrating those other politicians who couldn’t get the job done.”

I didn’t think this had anything to do with his cancer treatments. In fact, except for the baldness, he is looking, sounding and feeling better than anyone including himself, his doctors and me had expected or predicted. There was a funny little exchange with reporters at the end about his health that showed Larry as his jovial self.

The previous 20 minutes were Larry being pissed off about an awful jail complex that politicians had left fester for a decade with no relief in sight.

Those politicians, many of them well-meaning, thought the Baltimore City Detention Center couldn’t be fixed overnight, the way Hogan said he was going to.

If Hogan’s plan doesn’t work, they’ll say, “I told you so,” and he’ll have to eat some of his harsh criticism.

If I didn’t agree with Rascovar’s entire column, why did I publish it? Because he’s a veteran State House observer who writes fact-based commentary in an interesting if sometimes deliberately provocative way. Different observers can interpret the same facts in different ways.

And if you have a different point of view, post a comment at the bottom of this or any other article. Just don’t curse or use URLs. We let you get away with some pretty pungent comments.

–Len Lazarick

Editor and Publisher, MarylandReporter.com