It's impossible to overstate the shamelessness of certain politicians who make it their business never to miss an opportunity for self-aggrandizement by stoking racial, ethnic or religious fears. New York hotel magnate turned 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, whose bashing of immigrants, Muslims and minorities has vaulted him to front-runner status in recent polls, is a particularly vile example of the species, but he's hardly unique. He's of a piece with a depressingly long list of preening demagogues, including Baltimore County's own Del. Pat McDonough, who was Maryland's version of The Donald before the real Donald ever dipped a manicured pinkie into politics.
Mr. McDonough's greatest hits include a press release titled "Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays," repeated references to immigrants as magnets for violence, crime and drugs, and a shoving match with a lobbyist during an argument over immigration legislation outside a House of Delegates hearing room. He is spewing vitriol again over reports that the city housing authority quietly relocated a handful of low-income Baltimore public housing tenants to properties in suburbs. He apparently thinks he has a right to be informed any time indigent black mothers and their children venture anywhere near his domain, never mind that no such transfers have occurred there and that much of his district wouldn't be eligible for them in the first place.
But what are details when there's a racial dog whistle to blow? Mr. McDonough is not coy about his desire to prevent poor African-American families from moving to prosperous, mostly white suburbs, instead leaving them cooped up in crime-ridden inner-city ghettos. That's what it means when he says Baltimore County should have no role in helping Baltimore City.
There's no law obliging Baltimore officials to tell Mr. McDonough or anyone else when city residents who use Section 8 vouchers or any other sort of assistance move to the county. Mr. McDonough is proposing new legislation that would change that, but it isn't likely to go far after County Executive Kevin Kamenetz issued a strong statement this week denouncing the idea as un-American: "To suggest that somehow a family that is struggling to make ends meet and searching for a better life for their children will not be a good neighbor is just contrary to everything that is good about our nation," Mr. Kamenetz said. "Baltimore County is a very diverse county, and our diversity is part of our strength."
The truth is that Baltimore's resident relocation program involves a minuscule fraction of city public housing tenants, and it grew out of a long-running federal fair housing lawsuit that left the city under court order to adopt a regional plan to desegregate public housing. As The Sun's Doug Donovan recently reported, officials spent $19 million over the last eight years to finance the purchase of 30 homes in Baltimore County and 16 in Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard counties. The purchases were made through a nonprofit contractor to avoid just the sort of racially-tinged alarmism the likes of Mr. McDonough always seem so eager to supply.
Back in 2012, when he was warning of the "mobs of black youth" terrorizing visitors at the Inner Harbor, he topped off a rant on the radio by calling the mayor an "arsonist." When asked what he meant by that, Mr. McDonough blew off the question with a smarmy remark about how he learned from his parents to "never apologize for the truth."
How Trumpian. Make something up, insist it's the truth and get offended when someone questions it. We can't wait for him to insist we build a "huge" wall along the city-county border, or maybe bar city residents from entering the county altogether. Just like with the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, we keep waiting for the voters to see through such blather, and we keep getting disappointed. Mr. Trump has been at the top of the polls for months, but Mr. McDonough has been at it for the last 13 years. The only consolation we can draw from his legislative career is that it has accomplished so little.