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Christie vs. O'Malley on taking responsibility

Yesterday New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie fired his deputy chief of staff for her role in “bridgegate,” a political scandal in the Garden State involving state officials closing lanes on the busy George Washington Bridge connecting Ft. Lee, N.J., to New York City.

Christie fired Bridget Anne Kelly after emails surfaced exposing her involvement in closing the lanes a part of political payback against Ft. Lee’s Democratic mayor, Mark Sokolich, who did not endorse Christie for reelection.

Christie said he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the conduct of some of his staff.

In another statement to Politico, Christie said:

 “I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge. One thing is clear: this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my Administration in any way, and people will be held responsible for their actions.”

Contrast Christie’s response to bridgegate with how our own governor with presidential aspirations, Martin O’Malley, handles himself when things get embarrassing. 

Instead of concern and remorse, as Christie exhibited, O’Malley offered incredulous spin when federal indictments revealed that his Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services had effectively ceded control of the Baltimore City Detention Center to the violent Black Guerrilla Family.

 “I view these indictments as a very positive achievement, and a very positive development in our fight to dismantle gangs,” O’Malley said.  

Was DPSCS Secretary Gary Maynard fired over the scandal?  No.  In fact he remained on the job for another nine months until he resigned to a cushy non-profit job. 

O’Malley defended his corrections chief saying, “Secretary Maynard is one of the best public safety secretaries in the entire nation."

Or, how about O’Malley’s reaction to the late night scrubbing of an embarrassing employment report from the DLLR website by his press secretary and state labor department officials during the height of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign?

Emails I obtained through the Maryland Public Information Act revealed O’Malley’s then press secretary, Shaun Adamec, urgently exhorting labor department employees to remove a gloomy July 2010 DLLR employment report that did not square with the O’Malley campaign’s rosy assessment. 

One email sent late that Friday evening shows Adamec telling DLLR officials to drive to the webmaster’s house if they have to get a new report posted.  Another from then DLLR Communications Director Bernie Kohn stated, “Whatever we can do to make it disappear, we need to do it. That’s coming straight from the top.”

Of course, O’Malley denied knowledge of the negative report. 

However, a document obtained through my records request fight with the Attorney General’s office revealed that high ranking officials, including O’Malley Chief of Staff Matt Gallagher, Deputy Chief of Staff Ted Dallas, and O’Malley’s body man Colm O’Comartun, who now runs the Democratic Governors Association, were all part of the email threads going back and forth that late Friday night in August 2010.

Naturally the O’Malley administration claimed the content of those emails is privileged and refused to release them.  If the governor was truly unaware, then why hide behind executive privilege?

But I digress.

The point here is that when confronted with embarrassing facts, O’Malley either tortures words beyond all meaning, or pulls a Sgt. Schultz: “I see nothing!”

Say what you will about Chris Christie’s blunt manner, but at least he’s consistent in his bluntness — even when it comes to taking responsibility.  

That’s a trait our governor sorely lacks.

--Mark Newgent has contributed commentary to The Washington Examiner and National Review Online, and he is an frequent guest on WBAL Radio. His posts appear here regularly via Red Maryland, which has strived to be the premier blog and radio network of conservative and Republican politics and ideas in the free state since 2007.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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