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In New Hampshire, Martin O’Malley kicks off an unremarkable bid at the US presidency

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
Same old, same old.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

“The governor is going to order ice cream.” So the media was informed by a campaign organizer before he arrived, and so Martin O’Malley, former US governor of Maryland, did during his first official stop as a 2016 presidentical candidate in New Hampshire at the Goldenrod Drive-Thru Restaurant in Manchester. There was the first deployment of what is likely to be his core talking-point: “The two phrases I hear everywhere I go are ‘new leadership’ and ‘getting things done.’” A nearby reporter whispered notes into the base of her iPhone. “Mary from Londonderry!” The Governor said to one supporter. “It’s like a song!” There was plenty of rain.

Freddie Gray did not come up when governor O’Malley and the attendant scrum moved inside the diner—which, it’s worth pointing out for fans of Joan Didion’s Political Fictions, happened to have blue and white tiles lining the floor beneath red benches. Though the demise of Mr. Gray, and the protests it sparked in Maryland’s largest city, certainly had been raised in interviews leading up to the Goldenrod stop.

In an interview with The Atlantic’s James Fallows on May 5, O’Malley said, “The conversation was much larger than just crime.” In his announcement, he said, “The scourge of hopelessness that happened to ignite [in Baltimore] that evening transcends race or geography.” (And, also: one noteworthy line that stood out in his announcement that didn’t necessarily get traction—the statement regarding the fact that a GM employee could once send their kid to college on two weeks’ worth of wages.)

In a follow-up interview with New York magazine, O’Malley said, “We never encouraged aggressive policing. In fact, we emphatically discouraged aggressive policing. What we did do was encourage more assertive and more proactive policing.” And the night before O’Malley’s Sunday visit, The Washington Post released a report suggesting that nearly 400 people in the US have been fatally shot by police so far this year.

Given that, it’s also worth noting that David Simon has been particularly vocal over the past month, crediting O’Malley with initially taking proactive steps to lower crime in Baltimore. Then again, 2005 was a year, which saw one sixth of the city’s population arrested (approximately 100,000 people), a lawsuit filed by the NAACP and the ACLU, and a one-year plunge in aggravated assault statistics by 25% while overall homicide rates sustained. Several felonies found themselves reduced to misdemeanors. “The city council actually passed an ordinance that declared a certain amount of real estate to be drug-free zones,” Simon told Bill Keller of The Marshall Project, adding that, “the drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism.”

And what makes the above answers interesting in relation to those kinds of statistics (in conjunction with D. Watkins’s searing op-ed in The New York Times or Ta-Nehisi Coates’s post regarding rioting, violence, and non-violence) is that O’Malley doesn’t necessarily seem “un-cognizant” of the matter. When speaking with Fallows, O’Malley referenced a video of the police shooting of Walter Scott in North Carolina and how its dissemination led to a charge being filed against the officer in question.

“Would that have happened ten years ago?” Fallows asked. “An era before video cams? Do you think that officer would have been charged?”

“I don’t know,” O’Malley said.

And, also, given how the Obama administration has been reaching out to mayors over the past few years, it would be interesting to imagine a former mayor in office (Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge being the previous two.) Matteo Renzi, former Mayor of Florence, is currently Prime Minister of Italy. Benjamin Barber once went around telling people about why mayors should rule the world.

So far, however, the campaign has kicked off no differently than countless others before it, with a plethora folksy phraseologies and down-home appeals. (“And with those words, the American Dream began,” being a stand-out, hair-raising example from O’Malley.)

“My sense,” the governor said, “is that we’re already picking up steam. This campaign is about 24 hours old. The phrases I hear everyone I go,” he said, reiterating “new leadership” and “getting things done.”

Your correspondent wondered what O’Malley thought would constitute adequate oversight of the 1033 program, why some ex-De Blasio people have gone to work for him, what he thinks of the current cybersecurity landscape, mine owner scofflaws, what’s currently not being measured that the data-fond politician wants to see measured, the difference between early childhood education and “the cradle-to-K” education program Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis is seeking to implement, white papers drawn up by coastal cities with regard to climate change (could he imagine visiting a Boston with canals?), and his impression of the way in which power is structured in Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and elsewhere (this, as of this writing, being one of the latest displays from Erdogan.) So far, he’s called for the reintroduction of Glass-Steagall. He’s called for more spending. He’s emphasized the difference between a “cadence of accountability” versus governing by crisis.

“Last question!” a campaign handler called out. “You endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2008,” a reporter said invitingly. “I did,” the Governor replied. “Hillary was the best candidate for those times, but times change.”

Elsewhere, Trip Gabriel followed Bernie Sanders around. The Iowa co-chair of the GOP insisted that Republican candidates compete in the state’s straw poll. For some inexplicable reason, candidates had decided to make a thing of their 404 error pages.

Reporters filed back out into the rain. The next campaign stop was at hand, and, unfortunately, it was politics as usual.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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