Commentary: O’Malley speech well delivered but not reality-based

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By Richard Vatz

For those of us who anticipated that Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley would establish a more statesmanlike persona in his address to the Democratic National Convention, we didn’t reckon with his likely reaction to the reaction to his misstep on CBS Sunday.  In that venue he had made a major political error in answering CBS reporter Bob Schieffer’s erecting of the famous Ronald Reagan challenge to then-president Jimmy Carter in 1980: are you better off than you were four years ago?

“No, but that’s not the question of this election,” O’Malley replied, and then his answer trailed off, and the Republicans focused on the “No” reflex, with Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, along with others, arguing that O’Malley’s answer demonstrated that not even a Democratic partisan could argue that their president was anything but a Jimmy Carter reborn, at least in economic policy.  It didn’t help that Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter quickly rebuked the Maryland governor.

Thus in his speech – nearly perfectly delivered – the Governor gave no quarter: the president had inherited a situation comparable to what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had inherited from Herbert Hoover – a depression?

He paid homage, as one might expect quite reasonable, to the “Forward, not back” mantra of his party in a rousing, if somewhat worn responsive exchange with the Democratic conventioneers.

O’Malley focused on the consecutive months of job growth, rather than the extent of job growth – rhetorically acceptable selectivity in the convention venue.  There was no reference to the unemployment statistics, the deficit or the debt, not really required in a supportive convention speech.

But O’Malley went through the “loves millionaires, hates regular citizens” riff that defines the Democratic knee-jerk cheerleaders of his party (“Mitt Romney says he will cut taxes for millionaires and raise them for the middle class” – Mitt Romney “said” that only in the Governor’s mind).

In his most over-the-top rhetoric, Gov. O’Malley stated,  “Instead of investing in America, they hide their money in Swiss bank accounts and ship our jobs to China!… let’s ask the leaders in the Republican party–without any anger, meanness or fear: How much less, do you really think, would be good for our country? How much less education would be good for our children? How many hungry American kids can we no longer afford to feed? Governor Romney: How many fewer college degrees would make us more competitive as a nation?”

Governor O’Malley may have righted himself with his Democratic brothers and sisters, and especially the Democratic principals and donors he will need for national office, but he surely was not the reasonable, reality-based Howard Baker of his party.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University.



About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Dale McNamee

    O’Malley has never lived in realty…

  2. William Campbell

    Actions speak louder than words! Governor O;Malley has been short on action and long on words. He has created an alternate universe in his mind where Maryland is in much better economic shape than it really is. There is on e thing that Marylanders should be able to agree on, what ever shape the State is in the Democrats are responsible for it. This heavily Democratic State is on the edge of a financial abyss. Governor O’Malley as Maryland’s Chief Executive is largely responsible for our problems.

    • Dale McNamee

      As well as all of the DEMOCRAT “swell guys/gals” in the House of Delegates & Senate, elected & re-elected by an apathetic, willfully uninformed, ignorant, and moronic Maryland electorate…

  3. marciejb

    “Instead of investing in America, they hide their money in Swiss bank accounts and ship our jobs to China” — don’t know how you can claim it’s over-the-top rhetoric if it happens to be completely true. Everybody knows about Mitt’s offshore accounts, of course. And offshoring jobs to China and investing in Chinese companies was Bain Capital’s primary means of making money. In the case of a company called Sensata in Freeport, IL, they sent not just the jobs to China but the machinery, too– and before the American workers lost their jobs, they got to train the Chinese workers how to use the machinery. And then there’s Sunbeam, Brookside Inc., Uniview technologies… O’Malley’s speech was not great though. The chanting was pedantic, and O’M has an odd way of sounding like he’s lying even when he’s telling the truth (though I guess that’s better than, say, Paul Ryan, who has a way of doing the opposite).

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