President O’Malley: No laughing matter

President O’Malley: No laughing matter

Martin O’Malley announces Saturday on Federal Hill.

By Len Lazarick

Imagine the citizens of Arkansas in 1991, particularly the statehouse denizens in Little Rock, when they talked about Gov. Bill Clinton running for president.

“Bill Clinton as president of the United States? You’ve got to be kidding.”

Reminds me of a joke Congressman Mo Udall in 1976 told about introducing himself in a New Hampshire barbershop. “I’m Mo Udall, and I’m running for president…”

“Yeah, we were just laughing about that,” came the response.

No joke, Martin O’Malley is running for president. Republicans like former House of Delegates Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell have been saying for years that his entire second term as governor was about running for president.

Marylanders and particularly State House observers for his two terms as governor and seven years as Baltimore mayor know Martin O’Malley all too well.

Familiarity breeds contempt

Familiarity breeds contempt, goes the old saying, and we’re all too familiar with O’Malley. More than 43% of the voting electorate never wanted him to be governor, but Democrats loved him.

This article and Barry Rascovar’s column today will produce the usual snarky comments about Gov. OweMalley.

We know all about his many tax hikes, toll increases, strong environmental enforcement, tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, his turnaround on same-sex marriage, stricter gun control, death penalty repeal, expansion of health coverage, minimum wage hike, freezing university tuition, massive spending on schools.

Dislike all or some of these policy choices, and you’re no fan of O’Malley. But the ex-governor is not embarrassed by these “tough choices” as he’s called them. His announcement Saturday prominently highlighted many of them. He even re-embraced his Baltimore “Believe” slogan. (Gun control and death penalty repeal were missing from the announcement.)

Unknown where it counts

The Democratic voters of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and the rest of the nation do not know Martin O’Malley. Much of what they know will come from his own mouth or the filtering of dozens of reporters who don’t know him well either.

Like his policies or not, he was more than competent at governing — Public official of the year cover boy for Governing magazine in 2009 — except when he wasn’t, such as the health care exchange fiasco and the Baltimore City jail scandal.

He’s an effective communicator, especially when he forswears his fondness for lofty rhetoric and Irish poetry. Remember his unapplauded State of the State speeches or his hokey 2012 convention speech? Sure, I was there. Remember Gov. Bill Clinton’s long and clunky convention speech in 1988. Who does?

Martin O’Malley is no Bill Clinton, who governed a fairly conservative southern state. Only people north of New York consider Maryland southern, and it is about as conservative as Massachusetts.

O’Malley is an excellent retail campaigner. Yet, it is a little odd that a 52-year-old with 24 years in elected office is the “new” leadership; he is the youngster among Democrats so far.

Good lines from Saturday’s speech  

He got off some good lines Saturday. (The full text and video are on his website.)

On immigration: “The enduring symbol of our nation is not the barbed wire fence… it is the Statue of Liberty.”

On Wall Street and the Clintons: “Goldman Sachs is one of the biggest repeat-offending investment banks in America.  Recently, the CEO of Goldman Sachs let his employees know that he’d be just fine with either Bush or Clinton. I bet he would… Well, I’ve got news for the bullies of Wall Street — The presidency is not a crown to be passed back and forth by you between two royal families.”

Again on the big banks, in another line with bipartisan appeal: “Tell me how it is, that you can get pulled over for a broken tail light in our country, but if you wreck the nation’s economy you are untouchable.”

O’Malley knows little of foreign policy, and his pronouncements Saturday were vague and forgettable. Hillary Clinton is an expert, but the results of that expertise are questionable on many fronts and unforgettable.

Strong resume

Compared to many of the announced or presumed Republicans, O’Malley has a resume with more accomplishments and experience, and certainly equal to any of the former governors on the list. As to the smooth-talking first term U.S. senators with great ideas — Cruz, Paul, Rubio — Americans may decide that we’ve tried that recently, and maybe we’ll go back to people with executive experience.

If O’Malley is still standing after the media get done chewing up Hillary Clinton, they start chewing up O’Malley. He will face the most serious media scrutiny of his career.

As a Politico magazine article quoted me saying last year. “I wouldn’t count the guy out … I wouldn’t discount his political skills.”

Those skills are strong, and will be strongly tested in coming months. You think Bill Clinton is going to sit back and let Hillary be a punching bag for their former friend and ally?

Bottom line: I am saving my media credential from Saturday’s announcement. We’ll see how much it is worth on January 20, 2017.

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

    The title : ” President O’Malley : No Laughing Matter ” is absolutely correct !

    It’s a tragedy…

    I guess that 8 years of Progressivism isn’t enough for Maryland or America…

  2. abby_adams

    Snarky comments aside, Martin O’Malley should be judged by voters on his RECORD. Is he a man of principal who keeps promises made? Is he fiscally vigilant or just another pandering politician who succumbs to the siren song of big donors while touting his watching out for the little guy? IMHO Martin will garner some limited support for the top spot on 2016. But settling for VP would get his foot in the door, with a run for POTUS in 2020 or 2024 not unimaginable. After all, with the current voting public having the attention span of a flea, all his past sins committed while governing on the state & local levels would magically be transformed into opportunities not fully realized through no part of his own. After all, the ultimate goal has little to do with the people of the USA & everything to do with gaining POWER.

  3. WordsMatter00

    That’s why it’s incumbent upon each and every Marylander to spread the word about the Socialist, O’Taxey and his reign of error here in Maryland. Each of us must ensure our friends in other states know all too well the statist actions of Martin.

  4. charlie hayward

    O’Malley’s executive-level experience is hardly comparable to running the Federal executive branch, which is too big for anyone to oversee and manage, even with all the resources of the Executive Office of the President. He probably could manage one of the smaller Federal agencies, and would do so much as any career politician without private sector experience.

    • lenlazarick

      Agreed that federal government is “too big for anyone to oversee and manage” but I think a governor of a large or medium size state has a better shot at what it takes.

  5. BeatriceStCyr

    A man who nickel-and-dimed us to death, made significant mistakes that are still being paid for (i.e., the Baltimore Hilton Hotel debacle – that several news outlets covered, including Maryland Reporter – “All told, the hotel’s losses top $50 million”). The Rain Tax. A man who looked the other way when corruption was going on in plain sight — back-door old-boy deals in P.G. County, the construction of Shoppers Food Warehouse. These are just the tip of the iceberg There are HUGE groups of mad Maryland citizens who will not sit idly by, while some remote segments of the country may be unaware of O’Malley’s track record. We are prepared to express our views online, in conversations and at social events. Information will then pass to new friends, family and extended family throughout the country to ensure this man does NOT get elected to run our dear country.