Anthony Brown is the Lieutenant Governor here in Maryland. The post is completely ceremonial, created in the 1970’s to avoid a scramble to replace a governor who has to leave office (specifically to avoid the awkward replacement of Spiro Agnew when he became vice president). There are no actual requirements for the job, and it mostly involves traveling around giving speeches that parrot the governor’s positions. Sometimes, like in the case of Anthony Brown, the governor will put his lieutenant in charge of a couple of specific things. Brown was, for example, prominently put in charge of the Maryland ACA exchange and website, a task that was almost certainly meant to demonstrate his leadership skills.
The ACA rollout was a bit of a disaster on the federal level, but it was an even bigger disaster in Maryland.
Yesterday I heard a call-in show about the latest Maryland Gubernatorial debate, and many people were calling in defending Anthony Brown. They said, essentially, that it wasn’t fair to blame him for screwing up the one thing he was put in charge of because it was a very technical issue and he wasn’t a computer programmer.
This is the worst argument I’ve ever heard.
It’s like saying that George Bush’s awful response to Katrina wasn’t his fault because he’s not a meteorologist or that Kennedy’s promise to get Americans to the moon was meaningless because he wasn’t a rocket scientist.
Again, this was a call-in show and I don’t know if this “he isn’t a programmer” thing is actually the Brown campaign’s position, but it sounds a lot like the shifty way the campaign’s handled a lot of things. In the last debate, for example, the Brown campaign would not allow any questions from the station hosting the debate to be directed at Brown. Apparently, some of the station’s reporters had been critical of the lieutenant governor and he wasn’t capable of answering critical questions.
Another debate, the only one in Baltimore, Brown didn’t even participate. What seems to have happened was that all 3 candidates agreed to 3 televised debates, but when one was scheduled on the Baltimore Fox affiliate Brown backed out. The campaign argued that they had agreed to 3 TOTAL debates and that a radio debate counted toward that total. This allowed them to pretend to keep to their word while avoiding a potentially hostile debate setting — and to demonstrate something like contempt for the major urban center of the state.
And then there’s the way that Anthony Brown responded to criticism from his opponent Doug Gansler. Gansler questioned Brown’s executive experience by pointing out that, though he had served in the military, he had been a lawyer in Iraq. Brown’s response was to characterize Gansler’s comments as disparaging to all veterans. He intimated that any military service was leadership experience without actually providing any evidence of his executive skills. Maybe he handled it that way because there isn’t any evidence to be provided, though. He’s got the backing of the current governor and seems to have been groomed for the job, but is he actually going to be worth a damn at it?
He’s evasive and shifty in debates, lacking much in the way of ideas and even more in conveying what ideas he does have. The great executive triumph that was supposed to smooth the way for him was actually a colossal failure, and the way he handles attacks (to dodge or obfuscate) does not fill me with confidence in his ability to get anything done besides the easiest of tasks. If he gets through the primary, I certainly would prefer him to whoever the republican challenger will be, but I don’t think Anthony Brown would have been able to even get this far had he not been the hand-picked successor to the current governor.
I find him uninspiring and petty and shifty and self-important. If he gets through the primary, which I fear he will, I hope he will at least have enough of a scare to change the tenor of his campaign. I hope, though, that he’s surprised on primary day and that Heather Mizeur is able to capitalized on Brown’s massive blowing of his hand-picked status.