Martin O'Malley: The Challenger Who Dares Not Speak Clinton's Name

The former Maryland governor promotes his potential presidential campaign on This Week.


Why doesn't anyone ever compare me to Omar? Everyone loves Omar.
This Week

Martin O'Malley, the former governor of Maryland and probable presidential candidate, got off one good line when George Stephanopoulos interviewed him on This Week yesterday: "The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families." And then the Maryland Democrat immediately undercut himself. Stephanopoulos asked if he was referring to the Clintons and the Bushes. The answer is obviously yes, but O'Malley, who appears allergic to directly attacking his party's frontrunner, replied that his comment applies to "any two families." So if you were worried that the country was doomed to be governed forevermore by people named Carter and Reagan, don't worry; O'Malley's got your back.

Otherwise O'Malley spent the interview hopping back and forth between two appeals to voters. In one pitch, he's the man for left-wing Democrats tired of waiting for Elizabeth Warren to get into the race. In the other, he stresses his executive experience and says he has a history of "bringing people together to get things done." The two approaches aren't innately contradictory—O'Malley is indeed a liberal, though not really of the Elizabeth Warren type, and he does have experience as a governor and mayor—but in practice it means a series of tonal shifts, from outsider populist to consensus-seeking technocrat and back again. It doesn't help that O'Malley's politics aren't actually all that different from Clinton's, nor that even when he's clearly criticizing her he's reluctant to mention her by name. At one point, after one of Stephanopoulos' periodic references to his rival, he insisted that his comments were "not about being for or against any other candidate." It's hard to imagine Jim Webb or Bernie Sanders saying that. This just isn't the way an insurgent candidate talks.

And then next summer we can change them so they say "Hillary."
Crockett Johnson

One last note: At the beginning of the segment, Stephanopoulos mentioned that O'Malley is widely believed to have been the basis for Tommy Carcetti, the character elected mayor of Baltimore in the third season of HBO's The Wire. As Stephanopoulos spoke, clips from the program flashed onscreen. This was a not-so-subtle bit of baiting: O'Malley infamously hates the show, and even if he loved it he surely wouldn't like being compared to the adulterous and opportunistic Carcetti. But the practiced pol did a pretty good job of keeping a smile glued on.