Wednesday, May 7, 2014

No More Mr. Nice Guy!

 image is used under Creative Commons license,
courtesy of www.smithsonianmag.com
One of the things that drives me nuts about politics is its evasiveness.  I'm thinking, in particular, about Maryland politics.  We're primarily a Democratic state.  Though no Republicans have yet come forward to run for governor, the Democrats are already campaigning. And that's where there's an interesting comparison.  

The two Democratic candidates are Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and State Attorney General Doug Gansler.  The campaign and TV ads for each are quite contrasting in flavor.

The campaign for Doug Gansler is pretty straight forward.  He talks about his record, what he wants to do if elected governor, and how the two are connected.  Typical political campaigning.  We'll get back to that.  My real issue, at the moment, is with the campaign of Anthony Brown.

Mr Brown has a variety of ads, each of which is supposed to show why he'd make a great governor. Except none of them do.  Let's take a look at them and see what's being said.

The first ad starts by mentioning the Lieutenant Governor's heritage -- Swiss and Jamaican.  Despite what some of the civil rights leaders would have us believe, race has nothing to do with how well someone can do the job of Governor.  Although it might make a difference in getting votes.

In that same ad, Brown talks about how his experience makes him want to give all Marylanders a "world class education".  That's great, except his party's educational stance is solidly supporting Common Core.  And Common Core has two things against it.  One is that it equalizes education by lowering standards instead of raising the quality of education of the lower achievers by adding remedial work.  The other is that more and more teachers are complaining that Common Core is a nightmare to administer.  So, I'd really like Anthony Brown to publicly state what he means by "world class education" and how he intends to implement it.  Common Core would not be considered world class anywhere else in the world.

Several of his other ads in the series are equally as mysterious.  The initial emphasis is on what his father instilled in him -- get an education and serve others.  Both good things.  But, as we look at Anthony Brown's history, there are some things that get put in perspective.  Especially since one of these same ads also emphasizes his tour in Iraq.

First, Mr. Brown went to Harvard, which he certainly would never have gotten into if he'd been a Common Core student.  So, again, I'm looking for him to clarify what kind of education he's proposing for present and future generations.

Next, he speaks of later in life going to Iraq.  And the ad that comes to my mind ties that to his father's emphasis on serving others.  When he was in Harvard, our Lieutenant Governor was in ROTC.  Very possibly for the financial assistance toward his college.  But the baggage that comes with that is a longer term of obligation to military service.  In most times, that usually means that people are "weekend warriors" on a regular basis, with not much real military experience occurring. In his case, the timing wasn't right for him to get by so easily.  But the ad makes it sound like Anthony Brown had a choice and decided he'd go, to "serve others", having made a conscious decision to go in their stead.  In fact, Brown voluntarily signed up for ROTC, knowing he had a legal obligation to follow orders.  If he refused to go to Iraq, there were legal penalties, which for most people could have meant time in a military brig.  That's not such a philanthropic reason for going, is it?

While we're talking about Mr Brown's military service, there's another part of that we need to look at. Doug Gansler's comments about it stated that Anthony Brown was a lawyer during his Iraq tour and not in a leadership role.  The newscasts reported veterans being upset with Gansler because he was supposedly denigrating veterans.  But the statement wasn't saying there was anything wrong with Brown's service, just that he shouldn't be using that as proof of the leadership needed to lead the state.

That all gives me two questions that need answering.  One is based on one of Anthony Brown's ads that shows him in a jet cockpit with a pilot's helmet on.  So, how much of the Iraq tour was real action and how much was as a lawyer?  The answer to that would be an indicator of how deceptive the ad campaign is.  The other question assumes some truth to Doug Gansler's statement about Brown being a military lawyer in Iraq.  I'd really like to know what level on the legal staff was Mr Brown's position.  Even if there were just a few other lawyers, secretaries, investigators, etc. that in some way answered to him, that really is a form of leadership.  That's something one of the two candidates should clarify.

Since we're on the subject of leadership, what about his time in public office?  So far, the only thing I've seen any discussion about much that Anthony Brown has been personally responsible for has been Maryland's disastrous healthcare website.  When it came out how badly that had been botched, there was a brief statement from Mr Brown that he hadn't been informed of the details of the problems.  However, he seemed not to even know the general overall state of the website.  One possibility is that Mr Brown really had nothing to do with it and was merely a figurehead so that Governor O'Malley could distance himself, protecting his presidential hopes.  Another is that Mr Brown didn't pay as much attention as he should, hired some people who weren't trustworthy enough to inform their boss, and/or this speaks to his leadership abilities.  A quick "I wasn't informed." doesn't cut it.

The latest of Anthony Brown's ads talks about his adopted son Jonathan and the joys of adopted parenthood.  So, we have Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, family man and "Mr Nice Guy".  In the ad, he talks about going around to churches and talks about how special Jonathan is to him and the joys of adoptive parenthood.  As second in command for the state, why is this the emphasis? What about all the things government is doing or not doing and how much that's coming out of the taxpayer's pocket?  Aren't those things, along with his qualifications to succeed his present boss, things he ought to have been talking about?

Mr Gansler needs to go into more detail about what he can do and why Mr Brown isn't going to do those things as well.  And, for Anthony Brown, "Please!  No more Mr Nice Guy!".  Tell us what you intend to do, how, why, and why you're qualified.  Being an African American who is a nice guy shouldn't be the only necessary qualifications to gain the governor's job.  The informed voter should be examining the candidates' credentials and track records.  It's very possible that Mr Brown has all the necessary qualities, but he needs to start communicating that.

What are your thoughts on the candidates?

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