A screenshot from Twitter shows Baltimore County state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling responding to a post about U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar by calling her “illegal.” The senator’s tweet was deleted after The Baltimore Sun asked about it. Salling also is running for Congress.
A screenshot from Twitter shows Baltimore County state Sen. Johnny Ray Salling responding to a post about U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar by calling her “illegal.” The senator’s tweet was deleted after The Baltimore Sun asked about it. Salling also is running for Congress.

State Sen. Johnny Ray Salling says he didn’t write, post or know about a now-deleted tweet from his account calling Rep. Ilhan Omar an “illegal.” He speculates that his account might have been hacked. We have no idea what happened, but we can say that he’s telling the truth when he says he doesn’t engage in name-calling on social media. Even a cursory glance at his Twitter and Facebook posts backs him up. The Dundalk Republican talks about substantive issues such as the minimum wage and his opposition to dredging Man-O-War Shoal. He highlights constituents he’s met and places he’s visited. He sends birthday wishes to his sister. But he is not prone to name-calling or overt partisanship of any sort, not online and not on the floor of the Senate.

The only reason to take real note of this odd episode is that Mr. Salling’s prospective opponent in the nascent contest for Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, recently said something eminently sensible about Ms. Omar and her fellow Squad-mate Rep. Rashida Tlaib after the Israeli government refused to allow them to visit the country. Amid the swirling national controversy earlier this month about that decision by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Mr. Ruppersberger, a Democrat, issued a statement that didn’t defend anything the two freshmen congresswomen have said about Israel. Mr. Ruppersberger didn’t condemn their views either, except by implication in noting his own history of “votes to protect Israel and defend our shared commitments to peace and stability.” He didn’t mention President Donald Trump or his extremely unusual if not unprecedented effort to persuade a foreign government to deny entry to his political enemies.

Advertisement

Rather, Mr. Ruppersberger said this: “The United States and Israel have ... shared commitments to democracy and human rights as well as the freedoms of religion and speech. In its decision to prevent Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar from entering its country, the Israeli government is not doing itself any favors. A visit is a unique opportunity to see first-hand the threats Israel faces and gain an appreciation for its painful history. They should welcome these women, and begin a conversation rooted in respect and diplomacy.”

In other words, engagement with those with whom we disagree, dialogue and experience in seeing the world as others see it are the tools of advancement in politics and public policy. Mr. Ruppersberger’s statement reflects a faith in facts, reason and goodwill that is sorely lacking in our politics. It assumes that minds can be changed, that partisanship can be cast aside and that our leaders can reach beyond their hardened perspectives to move forward in the common interest. You can call that naive in the age of Trump, but we’re glad any time we see someone reaffirm what were once the ideals of our democracy.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Salling evinces a similar defiance of our current slash-and-burn politics. In March, he attended a Senate dinner honoring Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who is battling cancer, and Senator Salling posted a picture of himself with the featured guest at the event, former President Bill Clinton. Evidently he got a lot of blow-back online about that, so he posted a long response on Facebook saying that while he most certainly did not agree with every position taken by President Clinton over the years, that won’t stop him from shaking the man’s hand. “I am open to meeting everyone, whether they’re a Republican, Democrat, or a Yankees fan,” he wrote. “A little civility is what we need in our current political climate, and I encourage you to carry that with you in your daily interactions.”

Friends and neighbors, Earlier today, I posted a photo of myself meeting President Bill Clinton at an annual event...

Posted by Senator Johnny Ray Salling on Friday, March 8, 2019

Hear, hear. If this is the attitude we get from the two candidates in Maryland’s 2nd District next year — not a sure thing; both Mr. Ruppersberger and Mr. Salling have opponents in their parties’ primaries — it could be a welcome tonic to the nastiness that has taken root in our politics. The 2020 election looks to be nasty, from the top on down. Let’s hope that at least in this one district, Maryland can model a little civility.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement