Sunday, May 31, 2015

Predicting Character: O'Malley By The Numbers

Perking up the Democratic side of the 2016 Slogfest, the expected announcement by former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley came... and went with about as much buzz/excitement as a new album release by (Insert Obscure Grunge Band That Nobody Knew Was Still Together And Touring).  Well, that's not entirely true: O'Malley's rally did get a response, just not the one he'd hoped.  Per the Daily Beast:

...O’Malley, 52, is a former Baltimore councilman, mayor, and, for two terms, the governor of Maryland. He is a proud liberal—under his watch, Maryland ended the death penalty, legalized same-sex marriage and passed the Dream Act. But despite his record and his sociopathically charming demeanor (he plays in an Irish band, too), he is not a star in the Democratic Party, for whom Hillary Clinton remains the obvious favorite for the nomination. O’Malley, who was a fervent supporter of Clinton’s 2008 campaign, has been publicly “considering” running for president for two years, traveling the country and fundraising for other Democrats, and is still barely at 3 percent.
...Jake Polce and Mallory Donaghue, both 18, told me they came because “it has to do with Maryland pride.” Donaghue said she liked what O’Malley stands for, but when asked to elaborate said, “I don’t know,” and asked Polce to intervene. Polce said ending the death penalty and passing the Dream Act were his main reasons for supporting O’Malley, but he admitted he knew little about the other Democratic candidates... 
...But as O’Malley delivered his remarks, a small group of others made their voices heard, too—and called to mind the criticisms of O’Malley’s record on crime and police brutality which came under scrutiny during the Baltimore riots earlier this month. 
A woman charged through the crowd holding a sign reading “Stop killer cops” and “say her name.” She shouted, “Black lives matter!” Someone else yelled, “We don’t need zero tolerance policies, O’Malley!” and “What about police brutality?” The protesters blew whistles, which drowned out O’Malley. 
Police and press surrounded them, and O’Malley just carried on as if it was not happening...

Most of the passion at the turnout was with the protestors, which is not a good sign.

By basic metrics, O'Malley would be the perfect candidate for the Democrats: experience as a popular governor, coming from a major Mid-Atlantic state, Catholic yet Liberal, who signed on for key social issues - immigration rights, gay marriage - that would hearten leftist Progressives.  Compared to the front-runner Hillary Clinton, O'Malley has few scandals dogging him that the Republicans could viably use against him (which won't stop the lying by Fox Not News and their ilk, of course).  Compared to the other official candidate Bernie Sanders, O'Malley is not as radicalized to where the pro-business Democrats would be terrified of his winning the nomination.

But the protests are a harbinger of O'Malley's greatest weakness: his failures as Baltimore Mayor (which he used as a stepping stone to the Governor's office) with regards to crime and race relations.

"The Numbers".  From The Wire (YouTube link won't play on this blog due to copyright block):

The stat games... that lie, it’s what ruined this department. Shining up shit and calling it gold, so that Majors become Colonels and Mayors become Governors; pretending to do police work while one generation fucking trains the next how not to do the job... - Daniels

People may forget that The Wire was not just a television show: it was based on real-life incidents and the ongoing national disaster that is urban blight.  Producer/Writer David Simon worked as a journalist in Baltimore during part of O'Malley's tenure as Mayor, and everything about the internal corruption in government - the obsession over crime statistics - was based on what he covered.

From the Marshall Project blog interviewing Simon:

Simon: It happened in stages, but even in the time that I was a police reporter, which would have been the early 80s to the early 90s, the need for police officers to address the basic rights of the people they were policing in Baltimore was minimized. It was done almost as a plan by the local government, by police commissioners and mayors, and it not only made everybody in these poor communities vulnerable to the most arbitrary behavior on the part of the police officers, it taught police officers how not to distinguish in ways that they once did...
S: The drug war began it, certainly, but the stake through the heart of police procedure in Baltimore was (O'Malley). He destroyed police work in some real respects. Whatever was left of it when he took over the police department, if there were two bricks together that were the suggestion of an edifice that you could have called meaningful police work, he found a way to pull them apart. Everyone thinks I’ve got a hard-on for Marty because we battled over “The Wire,” whether it was bad for the city, whether we’d be filming it in Baltimore. But it’s been years, and I mean, that’s over. I shook hands with him on the train last year and we buried it. And, hey, if he's the Democratic nominee, I’m going to end up voting for him. It’s not personal and I admire some of his other stances on the death penalty and gay rights. But to be honest, what happened under his watch as Baltimore’s mayor was that he wanted to be governor. And at a certain point, with the crime rate high and with his promises of a reduced crime rate on the line, he put no faith in real policing...
S: Originally, early in his tenure, O’Malley brought Ed Norris in as commissioner and Ed knew his business. He’d been a criminal investigator and commander in New York and he knew police work. And so, for a time, real crime suppression and good retroactive investigation was emphasized, and for the Baltimore department, it was kind of like a fat man going on a diet. Just leave the French fries on the plate and you lose the first ten pounds. The initial crime reductions in Baltimore under O’Malley were legit and O’Malley deserved some credit.  But that wasn’t enough. O’Malley needed to show crime reduction stats that were not only improbable, but unsustainable without manipulation. And so there were people from City Hall who walked over Norris and made it clear to the district commanders that crime was going to fall by some astonishing rates. Eventually, Norris got fed up with the interference from City Hall and walked, and then more malleable police commissioners followed, until indeed, the crime rate fell dramatically. On paper...

You need to read that article.  What happened in Baltimore pretty much well happened in St. Louis and Cleveland and Miami and New York City and everywhere else as politicians obsessed over making the numbers look good for them and to hell with civil liberties and actual policing that needed doing.

S: The second thing Marty did, in order to be governor, involves the stats themselves. In the beginning, under Norris, he did get a better brand of police work and we can credit a legitimate 12 to 15 percent decline in homicides. Again, that was a restoration of an investigative deterrent in the early years of that administration. But it wasn’t enough to declare a Baltimore Miracle, by any means. What can you do? You can’t artificially lower the murder rate – how do you hide the bodies when it’s the state health department that controls the medical examiner’s office? But the other felony categories? Robbery, aggravated assault, rape? Christ, what they did with that stuff was jaw-dropping.
Interviewer: So they cooked the books.
S: Oh yeah. If you hit somebody with a bullet, that had to count. If they went to the hospital with a bullet in them, it probably had to count as an aggravated assault. But if someone just took a gun out and emptied the clip and didn't hit anything or they didn't know if you hit anything, suddenly that was a common assault or even an unfounded report. Armed robberies became larcenies if you only had a victim’s description of a gun, but not a recovered weapon. And it only gets worse as some district commanders began to curry favor with the mayoral aides who were sitting on the Comstat data...
S: They cooked their own books in remarkable ways. Guns disappeared from reports and armed robberies became larcenies. Deadly weapons were omitted from reports and aggravated assaults became common assaults. The Baltimore Sun did a fine job looking into the dramatic drop in rapes in the city. Turned out that regardless of how insistent the victims were that they had been raped, the incidents were being quietly unfounded...

Christ.  All so O'Malley could run for Governor...

S: So Martin O’Malley proclaims a Baltimore Miracle and moves to Annapolis. And tellingly, when his successor as mayor allows a new police commissioner to finally de-emphasize street sweeps and mass arrests and instead focus on gun crime, that’s when the murder rate really dives. That’s when violence really goes down. When a drug arrest or a street sweep is suddenly not the standard for police work, when violence itself is directly addressed, that’s when Baltimore makes some progress...
But by then it was too late.  And you get excessive force and questionable arrests similar to what happened to Freddie Gray and so many others...

What happened to O'Malley has been happening - is happening - to politicians all over.  In order to prove effectiveness in office, you have to present evidence.  Statistics can be the best evidence to present as "factual," so if you have to said politicians will twist those statistics to favor them at the expense of reality.  It's not just crime reports, the obsession with numbers for politicians reach into job figures, education test results, anything with numbers...

What the politicians like O'Malley overlook is that each number is a life.  Someone being arrested for no honest reason just to boost a stat count.  Someone made a victim whose crime was under-reported to where no justice prevails.  Someone turned into zero.

And here's a sad thing David Simon himself notes in that interview if he had to, he'd vote for O'Malley: "It’s not personal and I admire some of his other stances on the death penalty and gay rights."

In short, better the devil you know than the devil likely getting nominated for the Republicans in 2016 (Because the Republicans have made it consistently clear that on race relations and crime and urban policing they will be worse).

The other thing about O'Malley is that - aside from the crime stats scandal - he's done good work as governor, and publicly appears level-headed and competent.  From The Atlantic:

In two terms as the governor of Maryland, he’s ushered in a sweeping liberal agenda that includes gay marriage, gun control, an end to the death penalty, and in-state college tuition for undocumented immigrants. He’s trim and handsome; he plays in an Irish rock band... He shows great zeal for improving things both large and small: during a recent visit to the Light House, a homelessness-prevention center in Annapolis that provides job training and other assistance, he said that he had, as governor, taken the state’s traditional Day to Serve and made it 17 days long. “I really enjoy progress, and making progress, and my joy comes from understanding that it happens one life at a time,” he told me, reflecting on the center’s work...
During his governorship, he was aggressive in pushing a package of tax hikes and budget fixes, via the Washington Post:

The new governor immediately set out to strengthen the middle class, boost public safety and education, and improve health care and the environment. He froze public university tuition and dramatically increased funding for school construction...
Legislative leaders cautioned against holding such an ambitious special session — particularly with no guarantee of success. But O’Malley pushed through his entire package, with some bills squeaking by after debates that stretched into the wee hours. He had established himself as a force to be reckoned with, even though some efforts — such as repealing the death penalty — didn’t succeed right away.
In the end, there was no major O’Malley initiative that didn’t make it across the finish line. In some cases, he showed a willingness to compromise that frustrated his allies — like slowing the pace of pay increases in a minimum wage bill...

It's still a question mark if his policies will work - his aggressive tax hikes created electoral backlash this past election cycle, and despite his efforts he left office with the state budget still facing shortages - but by some measures he kept Maryland afloat at a time most other states were collapsing during the Great Recession.

But those entries help paint the world-view - the potential Character - that O'Malley would bring if he follows through on his pursuit of the Presidency.  A further look into his formative years - per Professor Barber's review process - shows a child and young man involved with politics since his birth.  From Jill Lawrence's National Journal article printed June 2013:

...O'Malley's story is not like any of those. He's a smart, good-looking, white guy who grew up with two parents, two older sisters, and three younger brothers outside Washington in the affluent Maryland suburbs of Bethesda and Rockville. His political pedigree goes back generations. His grandparents were active in Democratic politics in Indiana and Pittsburgh. His parents met doing work for the Democratic National Committee. His father, who died in 2006, was a lawyer whom O'Malley says was an "Atticus Finch-type figure" to his four sons, all of whom became lawyers. His mother has been a receptionist for Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland's Democratic senior senator, for more than 25 years.
O'Malley attended the Jesuits' Gonzaga High School in a checkered neighborhood near the U.S. Capitol, and then Catholic University a couple of miles away. The choice of Gonzaga in a sense foreshadowed the turn his life took later when he attended the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, then stayed in the city to work as an assistant state's attorney, marry a top state official's daughter, and run for a series of political offices...
...By (age 14), O'Malley was already an Irish history aficionado, a musician, and a budding politico. As a child, he followed election returns when his godfather ran for office, and he handed out leaflets for a family friend in another race. As a college student, he worked for Gary Hart's 1984 presidential campaign, including spending a few weeks in Iowa. As a law student, he ran the field operation for then-Rep. Mikulski's 1986 Senate campaign. It was a fateful job, in part because it afforded him his first glimpse of Katie Curran, his future wife...
...The year 1990 was seminal for O'Malley in two ways. He married Katie, and he made his first run for office--a primary challenge to state Sen. John Pica of Baltimore. O'Malley's brother Peter, seven years younger and a student at Catholic University, ran the campaign with help from Patrick, another brother, and Enright. They did their own opposition research. Peter O'Malley says he and Patrick combed Pica's voting records to discover that he had missed more votes than any other member of the state Senate. They also did their own polling, he says. Martin wrote the questions, and they all made the calls, using lists they bought to achieve a scientific result. (note: the early sign of stat obsession)
O'Malley spent less than $35,000 on the campaign and ended up losing by 44 votes, so close that his friends and family were elated. He says he realized belatedly, "I was the only dope on the campaign" who had expected to win. He was stung, but also encouraged. By the next year, he was working at a law firm by day and campaigning by night for a Baltimore City Council seat. He'd pick up his infant daughter Grace from Katie, who was taking an evening bar-review course, and go door-to-door as long as Grace would stand for it. He won the seat, and his course was set.
What was it about Baltimore that drew O'Malley? "There's probably a biography in the answer to that question," he responds. It started with what he calls his "immersion" into Mikulski's world of friends, family, and supporters. "I felt more at home in Baltimore after one year of law school and Barbara Mikulski's campaign than I ever felt in the Maryland suburbs of Washington," he says. "It is a city with a very unpretentious blue-collar work ethic. I just found something about it very attractive when I moved there for law school, and wanted to stay."
Baltimore has much going for it: top-notch sports teams, cozy neighborhoods, a burgeoning restaurant scene, a renowned symphony and university, and one of the nation's largest ports. Still, 25 years ago, beset by drugs, crime, and racial tensions, it was an odd place for a white Democrat to start building a life in politics. O'Malley says Baltimore's problems were compelling to him. In his 20 months at the state's attorney's office, he handled more than 70 cases and saw a lot of pain and addiction. He was frustrated with the criminal-justice system and wanted to try to make things better "at a higher level."

In short, he was a politician in search of a challenge.  The rest of his story plays out as Mayor, as Governor, and now as Presidential hopeful.

So how does this all translate into Character?  How would I list him on my charts, for his Positives and Negatives and on what he's likely going to be as a President?

Martin O'Malley - Governor, Maryland
Positives: Served two terms as governor in a politically powerful mid-Atlantic state.  Can govern, and campaign in tight, messy elections.  Fought hard on key liberal issues - school funding, ending the death penalty, supporting gay marriage, supporting immigration reform - that would appeal to the progressive base.  His raising taxes on higher incomes in-state - and campaigning on that issue nationally - can play as a welcome populist move as income inequality becomes a big issue.  Presents himself as a "better" liberal than Hillary can, yet isn't as left-leaning as the other candidate Bernie Sanders, which means O'Malley can have better appeal to the moderates by the general election.
Negatives: Suffering backlash from the stat-obsession tenure as Baltimore mayor that has left deep scars in that city.  His defense for higher taxes may play well with the progressive base but unless changes in Maryland show they worked - via improved social services and educational standards - he may lose middle-class voters worried that high taxation would hurt small businesses.  Despite the obviousness of him being a potential candidate - and anti-Hillary alternative - for the White House ever since 2010, still hasn't made a strong impression nation-wide.  In terms of fund-raising, Sanders is already well ahead and is currently higher in the polling.
Chances: He's got a solid chance due to outside factors - not enough challengers that can steal his thunder vs. Hillary - and may appeal to fund-raisers in the party wary of another Clinton era and worried that Sanders is a candidate too far Left.  But he's got way too much work ahead of him, and until the police brutality issue goes away - or he campaigns for legitimate reforms - he's got one hell of an albatross around his neck.
Character Chart: His actions as an elected figure shows an aggressive, constant persona with public (and private) agendas.  His work as Governor - pushing through bills against a reluctant legislature - hints at an Uncompromising world-view, along with the obsession over statistics and results that overlooks genuine empathy for the people he serves.  On the other hand, the issues and results he took - abolishing the death penalty, supporting gay marriage, supporting immigration - display a level of political courage that most Adaptive and out-going character types did in their lives.  The stat-obsession worries me that he can be an Active-Negative type: however, O'Malley has displayed enough Adaptive and Conciliatory traits to make me think he can serve as an Active-Positive.  Compared to his potential opponents in Hillary or ANYBODY from the Republicans, O'Malley is a clear A-P.

In this campaign run, O'Malley has one big weakness and many small advantages.  Whether he can turn those advantages into big ones is the big question.

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