Martin O'Malley

Martin O'Malley: Unknown but Not Implausible

He may not be polling well, but the Democratic candidate made a good impression in Iowa.


Credit: mdfriendofhillary / photo on flickr

CEDAR RAPIDS—In a party that produced such talented speakers as Mario Cuomo, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, this year's presidential race looks like a slog through an oratorical desert. Yet last week, the Iowa Democratic Party hosted a dinner so masochists could hear five White House aspirants deliver speeches. 

Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb read their remarks like dutiful students. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders brought to mind a punk band that knows only three chords and plays them all the same way: loud. Hillary Clinton uttered every sentence as though she were addressing third-graders. 

There was one respite, from Martin O'Malley. The former governor of Maryland apparently heard somewhere that fluent public speaking is a useful skill in politics. 

If you couldn't pick him out of a lineup, don't feel bad. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll gives him 2 percent of Democratic voters. He was lampooned in an April Twitter post with a photo of the gyrocopter that landed on the White House lawn and the caption: "MARTIN O'MALLEY WILL NOT BE IGNORED." 

Clinton may have had the most supporters in the room, and Sanders' populist fury stirred the most anticipation. But if there had been impartial judges giving scores, O'Malley would have been the clear winner—and a sound meter probably would have confirmed it. 

His lines about redeeming the American dream and promoting a stronger middle class are standard fare. His selling point was: "I am the only candidate for president with 15 years of executive experience." He stands out, he said, for turning "progressive values into action." 

This was where his earnest speech became impassioned, his voice rising over building cheers: "In Baltimore, we took action to save lives by reducing record high violence to record lows. We increased drug treatment to free thousands of our courageous neighbors from the scourge of drug addiction. … Driver's licenses for new American immigrants, marriage equality, and a ban on assault weapons—and we didn't just talk about it; we actually got it done!" 

On his mayoral record, O'Malley can point to documented changes that, in the post-Ferguson era, seem incompatible. Overall crime fell more in Baltimore than in any other big city. At the same time, shootings by police dropped sharply. 

But he is not above massaging the truth, as his comment on international trade revealed: "I am fundamentally opposed—as an American—to secret trade deals that our Congress is forced to vote on before we're even allowed to read them." In fact, the texts of the trade deals now being negotiated will be public months before Congress has to vote on them. 

Stressing his executive record highlights a difference with his rivals. For all her years in public life, Clinton has trouble with the question: What have you actually accomplished? Sanders is the quintessential maverick, better at indicting the system than transforming it. 

O'Malley, 52, has other things going for him. With his athletic frame and thick gray hair, he looks like he walked out of a Cialis commercial. In 2013, The Washington Monthly called him "the best manager in government today." 

And he seems to enjoy the part of the campaign that involves chatting and posing for selfies with voters. At the nearby White Star Ale House, before the dinner, I arrived 10 minutes early for his "meet-and-greet," only to find O'Malley already working a crowd whose numbers would have alarmed the fire marshal. He was still at it when I left an hour later. 

Does any of this matter in a race against two far more famous candidates? Maybe not. He lacks Clinton's money and incomparable name recognition, and he lacks Sanders' visceral appeal to the Occupy Wall Street crowd. His narrow path to victory lies in convincing Democrats he's a fresh alternative to the recycled Clinton, but unlike Sanders can be elected. 

If nominated, O'Malley would offer plenty of targets for Republicans, who would portray him as a coal-hating, gun-grabbing abortion rights zealot who has embraced unauthorized immigrants and raised taxes over and over. 

Rebutting that line of attack is a problem he would love to have. If old-fashioned retail campaigning still works in Iowa—and Rick Santorum's Republican victory four years ago suggests it does—his candidacy is more plausible than may be apparent. It's safe to bet that by February, even without a gyrocopter, Martin O'Malley will not be ignored. 

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  1. Compare and contrast Martin O’Malley’s supposed eloquence with some other historical speeches.

    Here is Lou Gehrig on retiring from baseball, a couple years before he died of his namesake disease:

    1. George Washington, calming mutinous officers:

      “If my conduct heretofore has not evinced to you that I have been a faithful friend to the army, my declaration of it at this time would be equally unavailing and improper. But as I was among the first who embarked in the cause of our common country. As I have never left your side one moment, but when called from you on public duty. As I have been the constant companion and witness of your distresses, and not among the last to feel and acknowledge your merits. As I have ever considered my own military reputation as inseparably connected with that of the army. As my heart has ever expanded with joy, when I have heard its praises, and my indignation has arisen, when the mouth of detraction has been opened against it, it can scarcely be supposed, at this late stage of the war, that I am indifferent to its interests….

      “And let me conjure you, in the name of our common country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the military and national character of America, to express your utmost horror and detestation of the man who wishes, under any specious pretenses, to overturn the liberties of our country, and who wickedly attempts to open the floodgates of civil discord and deluge our rising empire in blood.”…..ington.htm

      1. William Lloyd Garrison, on not playing nice:

        “On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

        1. Here is a speech by O’Malley – “prepared remarks” no less:

          “In times of adversity?for the country we love?Maryland always chooses to move forward. Progress is a choice. Job creation is a choice. Whether we move forward or back: this too is a choice. That is what this election is all about!”


          1. You really want to get depressed? Here is something by frickin’ President *Millard Fillmore* from 1850 –

            “My opinions will be frankly expressed upon the leading subjects of legislation;and if–which I do not anticipate–any act should pass the two Houses ofCongress which should appear to me unconstitutional, or an encroachmenton the just powers of other departments, or with provisions hastily adoptedand likely to produce consequences injurious and unforeseen, I should not shrink from the duty of returning it to you, with my reasons, for yourfurther consideration. Beyond the due performance of these constitutionalobligations, both my respect for the Legislature and my sense of proprietywill restrain me from any attempt to control or influence your proceedings.With you is the power, the honor, and the responsibility of the legislationof the country.”


            Conventional stuff – for its day, fairly substandard. Today? Like frickin’ Demosthenes.

            1. Whose demagoguery is best?

              FDR: “In retrospect we can now see that the turn of the tide came with the turn of the century. We were reaching our last frontier; there was no more free land and our industrial combinations had become great uncontrolled and irresponsible units of power within the state. Clear-sighted men saw with fear the danger that opportunity would no longer be equal; that the growing corporation, like the feudal baron of old, might threaten the economic freedom of individuals to earn a living. In that hour, our antitrust laws were born. The cry was raised against the great corporations. Theodore Roosevelt, the first great Republican progressive, fought a Presidential campaign on the issue of “trust busting” and talked freely about malefactors of great wealth. If the government had a policy it was rather to turn the clock back, to destroy the large combinations and to return to the time when every man owned his individual small business.”


              1. And here’s O’Malley at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in New Hampshire, 2013. This is his *peroration*:

                “The truth is, we’re all going to the same place, and we’re all on the same bus?New Hampshire and Maryland, California and Mississippi?and we will move forward or slip back together. We will succeed or fail together, and we will rise or we will fall together, and we cannot allow ourselves to become the first generation of Americans to give our children a country of less. This is not a matter of wishing or hoping, it’s a matter of believing, and taking action. We are Americans?we make our own destiny. It means that New Hampshire must stand up. It means that Maryland must stand up. It means that each and every one of us must stand up. It only takes one person, then another, and then another, to stand up and say, enough. Enough finger pointing, enough obstruction, enough wasted time. Let us achieve like Americans again, let us lead like Americans again, let us believe like Americans again?in ourselves, in our nation and in one another. Together we can, together we must, and together we will. God Bless you, New Hampshire.”


                1. I’m often amazed at how much more eloquent older speeches are, even as recent as the 1980s, in contrast to today.

                  1. …and the most inspirational speech…ever!

                    What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough…The tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!

                    What the fuck happened to the Delta I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer…We’re just the guys to do it.

                    Let’s do it!

    2. O’Malley isn’t competing against those speeches. He’s competing against a Democratic field that doesn’t have a decent paragraph between them, let alone a whole speech. He doesn’t have to out-gab Lincoln, just Clinton and Sanders.

      Don’t count him out. Clinton is a bad campaigner and Sanders scares any except the far left of the Democratic Party with respect to electability. O’Malley just needs to be the guy who looks electable.

  2. Barack Obama a talented speaker? In every speech he yells at the audience, rather than speaking to them, and at a cadence that is sleep-inducing.

    1. You weren’t exactly clear there.

  3. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

    1. Why are you recruiting in this inefficient manner? It doesn’t work. Why do you need to recruit? If your brother makes 12k a week at 22 hours, why doesn’t he up his hours to 44 a week and double his money? If I join, will he be able to do this?
      [folks, this is why we need the government to safeguard us: If it’s too good to be true, it must be true!]

  4. Hilary Clinton does address third-graders. That’s the reading level of anyone who would listen to her speeches, read her books or pay attention to anything she utters. That is different from someone who will vote for her or fund her campaign because she will insure that they remain comfortably in the crony capitalist world they understand and exploit.
    No. Hilary supporters are not idiots.

  5. Shilling for O’Malley. Hey. It does make things interesting on a mostly libertarian website.
    I will say (tautologically) that an empty suit is empty and ready to be filled by any of the empties running for the POTUS.
    Except Hilary. She’s an empty pant suit.

  6. Fuck the speechifying- O’Malley was a disaster as mayor and governor. He has left behind quite a legacy, one from which Baltimore may never recover. “What he did for Baltimore, he can do for the USA!” would make a great campaign slogan.

  7. My life (and my family’s) doesn’t matter to O’Malley because I apparently have the wrong skin color.

    Why the hell should I give him a damn chance, or even a bit of consideration as a reasonable candidate?

  8. We increased drug treatment to free thousands of our courageous neighbors from the scourge of drug addiction. … Driver’s licenses for new American immigrants, marriage equality, and a ban on assault weapons?and we didn’t just talk about it; we actually got it done!”

    If that’s all this guy wanted to do, I wouldn’t be too worried, really. But of course there is so much more.

  9. This guy is a LOON!

    I saw him say on TV last night that one of the reasons for the rise of ISIS was Global Warming…

    Not a seriouse guy….

    1. I would love to see the speech that quote came from! That may just take the Heavyweight Stupidity title belt away from “too many choices of deodorant makes children starve.”

  10. O’Malley endorses a $15/hr minimum wage. Enough said.

  11. Jesus, I hope Chapman is ok. O’Malley’s dick must have bruised the back of Chapman’s throat when he wrote this piece.

    I will freely admit to being a small “l” libertarian who is most definitely a Republican. So I do have skin in the game. But has anyone from Reason given such a sloppy blowjob, I mean, a serious and thoughtful piece regarding any of the Republican nominees?

    1. I’ll side with you on this. WTF? If he stands out, it’s because he’s a piece of corn in a turd.

  12. As much as I’d love to see a President with an apostrophe in his surname, Martin O’Malley strikes me as a Clintonesque hack. I fear he’s the fallback Democrat of the transpartisan domestic political Establishment. I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if he were to become the nominee, however, since I’m pretty sure Hillary will falter, again. But I see very little reason why anyone should be pleased by that prospect. I suppose he’s a smidgen less horrible than Hillary Herself, but that’s a pretty grim benchmark for prospective Presidents.

    I always rather got the impression that the President who resigned, at the end of Season Two of the American version of “House of Cards,” was based on ex-Governor O’Malley.

  13. “he looks like he walked out of a Cialis commercial”

    He’s a cock.

  14. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ??????

  15. And after a spell of forced upon us by obscene media coverage and false outrage entertainment from a pompas, self

    absorbed, opinionated, brash, unapologetic

    bazillionaire with all the political tact of a mud-

    wrestler…Enters into the ring billionaire # 2. A proverbial Canadian Mountie in comparison, with a crooked smile, but straight teeth (apologies to Shelley Berman) so in the midst of this three ring circus are we expected to be so relieved to see the knight in shining armour we don’t notice the “illion” to the B power behind this professional politician? Will the presidential race really become a battle between the billionaires?

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