O’Malley Invited To Sunday Debate

It really shouldn’t have been a question, and it took far too long to resolve, but former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has been invited by NBC to participate in the Sunday night debate in Charleston.

NBC News invited all three Democratic presidential candidates to debate Sunday night in Charleston, S.C., including Martin O’Malley.

There had been some doubt whether O’Malley would be included under polling criteria announced by NBC last week, but the network included the former Maryland governor, along with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, when it made its formal announcement Thursday.

There’s only THREE of them. This shouldn’t have been hard. I understand it when there were 17 GOP candidates in the clown car, and even now, six is a lot. Up to a point, more is better - bring in different ideas, voices, opinions. I’m glad O’Malley’s going to be there. 

Maureen Dowd And Hillary Clinton: Here We Go Again

I’ve written more than once about the Washington Post’s obsession with the Clintons, one that goes back to the 1990s. But the other journalistic “institution” that has an unhealthy fixation with Bill and now Hillary Clinton is the New York Times. If you’re too young to remember the 1990s version, the Times is probably worse than the Post, which was often a “me too” reflection of the Times when it came to Whitewater and the ruinous five years of political inanity that resulted. I was going to throw a link or two in, but there are too many choices - use your Google machine and search “New York Times Clinton rules” or a similar search.

Or you could just save the trouble and focus on the one Times employee who’s been there the whole time and has probably the most bizarre and screwed up obsession with Hillary Clinton in particular. Even a narrowed down “Maureen Dowd Hillary Clinton” search yields tens of thousands of results over two decades. And Dowd shows no signs of letting up. Just in the past year, she’s: criticized the Clintons for hiring “hit men” as advisers and being greedy, accused Clinton of being a control freak and dishonest, wrote a bizarre letter purporting to speak for “America” in criticizing Hillary Clinton for a litany of sins going back to the 1990s, compared Clinton as a candidate to Richard Nixon, simultaneously criticized Clinton for being too masculine in 2008 and too feminine in 2015, trotted out a list of anonymous Hollywood celebrity quotes criticizing Clinton, criticized and psychoanalyzed Clinton’s position on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, compared Clinton to disgraced (but later vindicated) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and trashed Clinton’s universally praised performance before the Benghazi Committee. Out of 40 columns over the entire year, nine of them were hack jobs on Hillary and/or Bill Clinton. And two more were about the Clintons, but not quite as hackish as these nine.

Can’t some editor demand that Dowd get some therapy for her obsessions? It’s been 22 years now. It long ago became an embarrassment to the Times. Enough already.

Now, in 2016, it’s clear that we’re in for more of the same. This week’s effort is a strained comparison of Hillary Clinton and the character played by Leonardo DeCaprio in The Revenant, with the role of the bear being played by - fanfare of trumpets - Donald Trump. It’s bizarre.

And finally, of course, there’s the politician most like Glass in her willingness to crawl through glass, flip her positions and persona, and even bear up under a mauling by a merciless, manic bear to reach that goal most yearned for. In Hillary Clinton’s grimly relentless trudge toward the White House, the part of the bear is played by Donald Trump. (The bear in the movie is also a counterpuncher; when Leo tries to shoot the animal in the face, the grizzly races back to molest him again.)

Trump is like a CGI Rathtar or Indominus Rex, a larger-than-life, fight-to-the-death animated creature who improbably pops up in the ordinarily staid presidential campaign and stomps around, devouring attention and sinking his Twitter teeth into rivals. With his muddle of charm, humor, zest, vulgarity, bigotry, opportunistic flexibility, brutal candor, breathtaking boorishness and outrageous opening bids on volatile issues, he has now leapt into that most sensitive area: the Clintons’ tangled conjugal life.

Dowd is rooting for the bear, in case it’s not clear. She’ll criticize Trump, but ultimately, she’s OK with him, because he plays his gender role in what she has decreed to be an appropriate manner. He’s a boor, a rogue, a bully and a jerk, but that’s OK because he’s a man, and that’s what men are supposed to be like in Dowd’s retrograde view of men and women’s roles in the world. It’s appropriate. Boys will be boys and all that. Al Gore is a wuss because he let a woman tell him how to dress, and Dowd dubbed John Edwards the Breck Girl - lots of subtlety there. Hillary is too mannish or too girly, depending on the whims of Maureen Dowd’s feelings that week. Whatever she is, Dowd is unhappy, and ultimately, it’s because Maureen Dowd has determined that Hillary Clinton is illegitimate because she didn’t divorce her husband as early as the 1970s but certainly no later than 1998 or 1999. The idea that a woman - or a man - could make choices that Maureen Dowd wouldn’t is beyond her comprehension.

It also doesn’t hurt that Trump has given Dowd and others the excuse to revisit and relitigate the entire history of the Clinton Rules. Whitewater, Lewinsky, the Rose Law Firm records, Vince Foster, impeachment, all of it, is now fair game again. As I wrote a little while ago, welcome back to the 1990s. While the rest of us would just as soon not replay that era, Dowd and her cohort couldn’t be happier - another reason she adores Trump in her own special way.

She plays out her weird ideas in her weekly column, and it’s been going on for far too long. It’s a discredit to the Times that someone with relationship views stuck in the 1950s - and in some cases the 1920s- is allowed to spew out her problems in a weekly column taking up valuable and limited space in the pages of one of the world’s “best” newspapers. I’m not holding out hope that she’ll stop or that the Times will rein her in, but she is one of the most embarrassing and toxic columnists out there.

Glassman: No To Senate Run

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, who had been considering a run for the GOP nomination for US Senate, has decided not to run.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, a former state lawmaker who briefly flirted with a run for the Republican nomination for Senate, has announced he will forgo a campaign in favor of remaining in his current job.

“I have been flattered by all the folks from around the state — my fellow sheep farmers, friends — who have called or written to urge me to run for Congress or … U.S. Senate,” Glassman said during a state of the county address on Tuesday, according to prepared remarks. “But most of you who know me well, know that I have always dreamed of being county executive since my days as a scrawny farm boy.

“Some dreams are fleeting; others meant to last a while,” he said. “So I guess what I am trying to say is, I am not quite ready for this dream to be over.”

Glassman is a Havre de Grace native elected to his current post in 2014. He captured support from 8 percent of likely GOP voters in a Baltimore Sun-University of Baltimore poll conducted in November, trailing House of Delegates Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, a Baltimore County Republican, and Richard Douglas, a former Pentagon official who ran for the GOP Senate nomination in 2012.

The chief beneficiary of Glassman’s decision appears to be Delegate Kathy Szeliga, who led the field in a November poll commissioned by the Sun with 15 percent, while Glassman, a former state senator, received 8 percent support. Richard Douglas was the only other candidate above 5 percent in the poll. I suspect that much of Glassman’s support will likely end up with Szeliga, a fellow General Assembly Republican.

And The Purple Line Contract Goes To . . .

Well, according to the Washington Post, Maryland will notify the winning bidder on Friday. Or maybe not. Might be later. Might have already happened. Really.

If the Maryland Transit Administration sticks to its published Purple Line schedule, the state will notify a selected bidder for the massive light-rail project Friday. Or maybe the state already has. Or maybe that’s been delayed.

State transit officials won’t say whether they’re following the “solicitation schedule” included in bid documents on its Purple Line website that lists “on or before January 15, 2016″ for the “anticipated notification of selected proposer.” One of the four teams of private companies bidding on the project said the teams were sent another schedule saying MTA would make an announcement between Jan. 15 and Feb. 5.

Only the Shadow - or Larry Hogan - knows for sure. But I have to wonder: has anyone ever seen the Shadow and Larry Hogan together?

Sick Leave and Retirement Are Not “Social Issues”

The Post has another Annapolis preview this morning, this time following the “x things to watch for” rubric. In this case, the lucky number is 7.

Pretty much what you’d expect, with Hogan/Busch relationship, Baltimore, and the eight senators and delegates running for other offices in the April primary (not sure why “more than half a dozen” is the reference, you’d think “eight” would be both more precise and use fewer words) on the list. 

No sign of Todd Eberly in this article, but one item on the list makes no sense whatsoever. Number 4 is entitled “Hogan’s response to social issues,” which would be a wonderful topic of discussion. For example, does Larry Hogan support HB16, a bill by Delegate Ric Metzgar that would allow discrimination against LGBT individuals under the guise of “religious freedom”? 

The problem is that two of the three issues Ovetta Wiggins discusses (paid sick leave and retirement plans) are not, under any rational definition, social issues. A June 30 Vanity Fair article entitled “What Will Be The G.O.P.’s New Social Issue?”by the generally annoying Michael Kinsley explicitly distinguished “social issues” from “economic” ones:

Abortion, marriage equality, gun control, drugs, prayer in the schools, affirmative action, the “War on Christmas”: these are all classified as “social issues” (as opposed to economic and foreign-policy issues) . . .

This is a common sense distinction familiar to anyone who’s followed politics for more than, say, ten minutes. Paid sick leave and retirement issues are bread and butter economic issues. They relate to the wages and benefits and conditions of employment of ALL workers. They will be heard by the House Economic Matters Committee in Annapolis, if some external indicator was needed. They may be excellent indicators of something - economic justice/inequality, for instance - but it defies explanation to cast them as “social.” It’s not even remotely a close call.

 Unless, of course, the idea is to use “social” as a signifier for “controversial,” in the hopes of giving encouragement to opponents of the proposals for paid sick leave and worker retirement accounts (“oh, well, it’s one of THOSE issues. They’re SO divisive. Sigh.” I don’t know what Ovetta Wiggins’ views on the subject are, but the Post as an entity is and has been for many years - decades, in fact - openly hostile to labor and workers’ rights. Seen in this view, what we have here - perhaps - is the subtle hand of management tweaking a subhead to disparage and denigrate an issue that is vigorously opposed by the Fred Hiatts and Charles Laneses of PostWorld (not to mention owner Jeff Bezos, but the Post’s elitist hostility to workers rights long predates his arrival, so he gets a pass for this discussion).

It’s kind of sad, but reading the newspaper has become an intelligence agency exercise in decoding the preferences of the people doing the writing. I think I liked it better when our overlords and social betters just whacked us in the head with a 2×4. At least we knew where we stood then.

Van Hollen Statement On SOTU

Statement issued just as the speech ended:

Van Hollen Statement on State of the Union 

Washington, DC – Today Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen released the following statement following President Obama’s final State of the Union address
“Tonight, President Obama shared an optimistic view of America and its ability to lead the world through our collective challenges. I share this view of a strong America – one that can unite 195 nations around the goal of saving the planet from climate change, one that can help eradicate deadly diseases like Ebola, and one that aims to cultivate a new relationship with Cuba to better the lives of its people and our own. 
“We cannot be a force for progress and peace if our political discourse is defined by fear. I commend the President for maintaining a hopeful vision that has led to millions of new jobs, millions of Americans gaining health insurance coverage, easier access to an affordable college education for our young people, and a healthier future for our planet.
“Under President Obama’s leadership, our nation has made great progress recovering from the Great Recession. To sustain and accelerate our economic growth, every American needs the opportunity to succeed. That means building an economy that rewards hard work, not just those making money off of money. We must work together in the year to come to build an economy that works for all Americans.”

Matthews Up On The Radio

For anyone with doubts about the intensity of the artillery barrage about to rain down on the unsuspecting residents of the Eighth Congressional District, just stop for a minute and listen. You hear it? That distant thunder of the guns? That’s the sound of Kathleen Matthews’ first radio ad going up on the air.

Kathleen Matthews, the former television news anchor running for Congress in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, is focusing on gun regulations in a new radio advertisement her campaign released on Tuesday.

The radio spot, which the campaign said will air on WTOP, quotes President Barack Obama arguing that the gun lobby is “holding Congress hostage,” a statement he made earlier this month while announcing steps his administration is taking on guns through executive action.

“President Obama is right,” Matthews says in the ad, which was announced on the day of Obama’s final State of the Union address. “The U.S. Congress is frozen with fear.”

Matthews says that she would “fight the NRA” for more restrictive background checks on guns and ammunition and would also push for a ban on assault weapons. The ideas largely mirror a policy paper Matthews released on the issue of gun regulations last month.

You can hear the ad at the Sun link.

You like the way I made a metaphor about guns out of her radio ad about guns? I am so, so pleased with myself.

Putting aside my weirdness, get used to Matthews ads like this being a regular presence on radio, in the mail, and eventually on television for the duration of the campaign (105 days - 15 weeks - from today).

Ted Cruz Is Not A Natural Born Citizen

I’m not a birther, but as the Cruz situation has evolved, as a lawyer I’ve been uncomfortable with the arguments put forth asserting that “of course” Cruz is eligible to be president. The term “natural born citizen,” used in the Constitution, but not in any immigration or naturalization statute since 1795, has to mean something different than “citizen” or “naturalized citizen,” because after the Constitution was established, it was recognized that  a child born abroad to one or even two US citizen parents still needed to be naturalized before accruing all the rights of citizenship. While this is not true anymore, it shows that in the early years of this country, the only way to be a citizen at birth was to be born here. 

Finally, someone has put forth a coherent and persuasive legal argument picking up the points I mention above, as well as several more. Is Ted Cruz a citizen? Yes. Was he a citizen at birth? By way of the laws enacted on the subject beginning in the 19th century, yes. Was he a “natural born citizen” for purposes of the constitutional requirement to be president? No. Thus says Widener University’s Delaware Law School constitutional law professor Mary Brigid McManamon.

Donald Trump is actually right about something: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is not a natural-born citizen and therefore is not eligible to be president or vice president of the United States.

The Constitution provides that “No person except a natural born Citizen . . . shall be eligible to the Office of President.” The concept of “natural born” comes from common law, and it is that law the Supreme Court has said we must turn to for the concept’s definition. On this subject, common law is clear and unambiguous. The 18th-century English jurist William Blackstone, the preeminent authority on it, declared natural-born citizens are “such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England,” while aliens are “such as are born out of it.” The key to this division is the assumption of allegiance to one’s country of birth. The Americans who drafted the Constitution adopted this principle for the United States. James Madison, known as the “father of the Constitution,” stated, “It is an established maxim that birth is a criterion of allegiance. . . . [And] place is the most certain criterion; it is what applies in the United States.”

For those of you who are gluttons for detailed legal wankery, the op-ed in the Post is based on and drawn from the author’s 2014 law review article on the subject. By the standards of law review articles, I will say that it is one of the more accessible, and understandable to a lay audience, articles I have ever read.

Full disclosure: for those who want to read the earlier article that McManamon (convincingly in my view) disagrees with, it is here. One of the things that disturbed me as this issue bubbled up was the vehemence with which so many commentators rushed to judgment - see Jonathan Adler last week here (only “folks on the fringe” question Cruz’s eligibility and “there is no question about” his eligibility). This is what happens when uncomfortable questions arise that “respectable” journalists and others don’t want to be taken seriously. Define the questioners as “out of bounds” for even asking the question and hope like hell the issue goes away.

I’ll say this - as a lawyer, I’ve won far worse legal arguments than this one. I’d be more than comfortable walking into a courtroom with McManamon’s article as my argument. I can’t promise I’d win - there would be an enormous interest in defining the problem away for many like Adler and others - but it’s a solid, well-grounded and well-reasoned argument. And I for one happen to think it’s the better argument.

As I Was Saying Just Last Night . . . 

Never let it be said that I don’t give credit where credit is due. That Dana Milbank, he’s pretty damn smart. And he nailed the Supreme Court’s blatant hypocrisy on public sector unions, seeing a political power grab for what it is. Go read the whole thing, I agree with every word, but here’s the gist.

Citizens United and other recent rulings created the modern era of super PACs and unlimited political contributions by the wealthy. Because there are fewer liberal billionaires (and those who are politically active, such as George Soros and Tom Steyer, tend to shun super PACs in favor of their own projects) the only real counterweight to Republican super PACs in this new era is union money. And the Supreme Court is about to attack that, too.

The only question is how big a loss Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will be for the unions. It’s virtually certain to be another step toward American oligarchy. The court’s conservative majority, setting aside a professed respect for precedent and states’ authority, is putting a thumb on the scale of justice in favor of the wealthy donors who have purchased the GOP and much of the government.