Roughly Speaking Dan Rodricks: Commentary and conversation on life in Baltimore, Maryland and the USA

Rodricks: Pimlico needs love, Trump needs an editor

Nobody asked me, but it would be a breakthrough sublime if Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan could get the owners of Pimlico Race Course engaged in redeveloping the place so we can finally stop all the hand-wringing over the future of the Preakness in Baltimore.

It happens every year, after the Kentucky Derby is over and the Preakness approaches: The track owners complain about conditions at Pimlico and speak in foreboding terms about the neighborhood around it. Meanwhile, they make scant investment and devote most of their attention — and racing days — to the track they own in Laurel.

Sick we are of these perennial gripes and veiled threats, these sour notes. A once-and-for-all public-private partnership is needed to give Pimlico a makeover, and in a way that benefits the communities around the track. Old Hilltop should have more racing dates, but it should also be open for other activities — ethnic festivals, farmers' markets, concerts, weddings, bar mitzvahs, massive yoga classes.

It was good to hear Hogan say he is willing to talk about putting some serious state money into the place. If he wants to do something for Baltimore — after killing the Red Line and canceling State Center — maybe this could be it.

Nobody asked me, but if I were a speechwriter for Donald Trump — and ostensibly interested in helping him improve his presidency — I would prohibit henceforth the use of the first person in all his addresses, especially those he might give at one of the nation's service academies. I would delete any use of "I" or "me," particularly in commencement speeches, which are supposed to be about large ideas or, at least, about the graduates, not the speaker.

Of course, Trump betrays adolescent tendencies toward self-centeredness, and his current speechwriters appear to enable him. On Wednesday, the president used commencement at the Coast Guard Academy to complain about "the way I've been treated lately." Declared the Commander-in-Chief: "No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly."

Great stuff. Just what all those new ensigns and their proud parents wanted to hear — a billionaire who has golfed almost every weekend since he became president complaining about how unfairly he's treated. Hopefully, in the four years since their swab summer in New London, the cadets received just the opposite message from their commanders — no excuses, no whining; serve selflessly, with honor, and, as stated in the academy's core values: "Seek responsibility, accept accountability."

Nobody asked me, but the allegation that Trump asked James Comey, the (now former) FBI director, to end the bureau's investigation of Mike Flynn, the (now former) national security adviser, comes down to a classic he said/he said situation: Trump's word against Comey's. If this were golf, Comey would be the scratch player who follows the rules and Trump the guy who cheats, then brags about winning the match. I mean, ask yourself: Which of these guys would you believe?

Somebody asked Rep. Andy Harris about Trump's request that Comey end the Flynn investigation, and this is what Maryland's 1st District Republican said: "While President Trump's request to Jim Comey may have been improper in context, I do not believe it was made with malicious intent." And what particular insight into Trump's intentions do you suppose Harris has?

The Freedom Caucus congressman's suggestion that Trump meant no harm betrays either unquestioning fealty to a Republican president or obliviousness to his behavior. Take your pick. Both are in some way confirmed by this additional comment from Harris: "With every new presidential administration comes a learning curve, and I believe President Trump has grown into his office over the last four months, while maintaining his goal to drain the swamp."

Drain the swamp? Grown into office? I don't live in Harris' district. I don't even think we live on the same planet.

Nobody asked me, but the "Rod Rosenstein thing" remains something of a head-scratcher, especially among attorneys who have had high regard for the deputy attorney general over his many years as a federal prosecutor in Maryland.

Rosenstein's admission that he knew Trump was going to fire Comey before Rosenstein wrote the now-infamous memo laying out the case against the FBI director suggests a possibility: New to the job, Rosenstein simply did as ordered, knowing Trump intended to fire Comey but not knowing Trump would use Rosenstein's criticism of Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as the main reason.

Whatever happened, once the White House said it was Rosenstein's recommendation that gave Trump a rationale to fire Comey — something that, by the president's later admission, was not the real reason — the deputy AG turned things around quickly. By putting former FBI director Robert Mueller in charge of the investigation of any Trump campaign connections to Russia, Rosenstein won praise for the move but, more importantly, he gained significant separation from the White House, and a maybe a little revenge.

drodricks@baltsun.com

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