Carroll County Times

Jim Lee: O'Malley is no great uniter

About the only thing worse than Gov. Martin O'Malley being elected president in 2016 would be if Hillary Clinton won the election.

Democrats continue to hope that Clinton will run, and polls suggest that she would have overwhelming support in the party. And in a rational world, she probably would do a good job.

But we don't live in a rational world, especially when it comes to politics.

As fervently as some Democrats support Clinton, many Republicans hate her. House Speaker John Boehner last week announced the creation of a Benghazi web page on the Republican Party's website, and while part of the GOP fanaticism on the attack has to do with making President Barack Obama look bad, just as much of the focus has to do with creating a long-running thread with which they can attack Clinton should she decide to run for president.

Even if Clinton managed to sidestep the landmines being laid now by the GOP, she would still be a lightning rod for controversy that would virtually assure a continuation of the gridlock and contentiousness that has marked Obama's presidency.

Now, perhaps there are no Democratic candidates which any Republican can work with; a fact probably closer to the truth and more worrisome for our country. With their continuing fact-challenged claims, pronouncements that they won't compromise on anything and propensity to shift their stand - opposing things they previously supported just because a Democrat proposed it this time - it would be a challenge for even the most gifted statesman, or woman, to get anything done.

Enter O'Malley.

Last week, O'Malley said he was beginning to explore the possibility of a run for president in 2016, something everyone has pretty much known he was going to do for some time now. O'Malley has been on the talk show circuit, made a lot of appearances and injected himself into many national issues in recent years, but he remains an unknown to a large part of the country. He probably has a better chance of becoming the eventual nominee's running mate on the ticket. But then, stranger things have happened.

Republicans who balked at an Obama presidency because of his lack of experience have a similar argument that should gain the attention of Democratic voters in 2016.

O'Malley has experience, sure, but it is entirely one-sided.

He sat on the Baltimore City Council from 1991 to 1999 before being elected mayor of Charm City, and he moved from there into the governor's mansion in January 2007. Along the way, he accumulated a raft of achievements attributed to him that have made liberals cheer and made conservatives red in anger.

But the Baltimore City Council is a body run, dominated and controlled by Democrats. O'Malley never even had to hear the word "Republican" while he was on the council, or served as mayor for that matter. The last Republican mayor in Baltimore was Theodore McKeldin, who served from 1963 to 1967 and, before that, from 1943 to 1947.

Once he arrived in Annapolis, O'Malley had an opportunity to stretch his wings, so to speak, and reach out to Republicans in the House of Delegates and Senate. With overwhelming Democratic majorities in both chambers, O'Malley really didn't have to bother with Republicans and, beyond the occasional lip service, he's barely acknowledged their existence.

It would be a rude awakening for O'Malley in Washington the first time he realized that there was another party he had to contend with - now two parties if you consider Republicans and their second cousins, the tea partiers. We don't know, of course, whether Republicans will control the House, the Senate or both after the 2016 elections. But the overwhelming Democratic majorities that O'Malley has enjoyed during his time in political office leave him with a huge void in his resume.

I don't foresee a pretty picture for the country if he is elected. Realistically, there really isn't anyone on the Republican or Democratic side who could paint themselves as a great uniter, but there are some candidates and potential candidates who would virtually assure more divisiveness. Let's hope, for our sake, we don't elect one of them.