By Barry Rascovar
June 25, 2015 — What can Martin O’Malley do to become competitive in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination?
Issue profound position papers on issues of the day? That’s not his style.
Announce impressive lists of endorsements of his candidacy? The names aren’t there.
Pull off headline-grabbing stunts? Now we’re getting there.
Why else would he send an email to supporters and the media a day after the dreadful racial killings in South Carolina headlined, “I’m pissed”?
Why would he start the next three sentences with that same epithet?
Drawing attention to O’Malley’s still lagging candidacy was the whole idea. Surprise people with your profanity. Get them to notice.
Well, it worked — somewhat.
The former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor’s stunt gained space in the New York Times — a six-paragraph article headlined, “An Angry O’Malley Calls for an Assault Weapons Ban.” It began this way:
“Using an off-color word to describe his anger, Martin O’Malley, a Democratic candidate for president, called for a new national assault weapons ban and other gun control measures in an email sent to supporters after the shooting deaths at a South Carolina church this week.”
Being “pissed” got O’Malley his brief, passing moment in the spotlight. He highlighted his positions and accomplishments on gun control, though his rush to capitalize on the South Carolina killings made him look rash, opportunistic and foul-mouthed.
Muting the Message
Others in the presidential race, like Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, expressed sympathy and muted their political messages while friends and families in Charleston were still in shock from the tragic church killings.
Not O’Malley. For him, it’s all politics, all the time.
It isn’t the first time he’s used crassness, or even direct insults, to make a political point.
When then-Mayor O’Malley was feuding with the city’s African-American state’s attorney, Patricia Jessamy, over the slow pace of criminal prosecutions in Baltimore, he went on a profanity-laced tirade before reporters, skewering Jessamy: “She doesn’t even have the goddamn guts to get off her ass and go in and try this case, and I’m tired of it.”
To say this offended African-American women voters is putting it mildly. O’Malley was being uncouth, immature and disrespectful. He also distorted the facts.
On another occasion, O’Malley’s furor over lagging court trials resulted in the mayor submitting a demeaning 10-point plan to Maryland’s top judge — the state’s first African-American chief judge — Robert Bell. It contained stick figures to illustrate how O’Malley’s fast-trial program would work.
Insulting? You better believe it. Intentional? Darned right. Offensive? That was the idea.
O’Malley is no shrinking violent. Sometimes he lets his Irish get the better of him, but usually there is motivation behind his rude behavior.
This time, though, he missed the mark, He came off looking juvenile and un-presidential.
At the moment, O’Malley’s poll numbers are terrible. Even after declaring his formal candidacy, even after constant appearances on TV news programs, even after hurling profane invective in his emails, the candidate is at the very bottom of the list in presidential polls, scoring an embarrassing one percent.
Perhaps it’s because O’Malley is showing he’s not yet ready for prime time.