To O’Malley, America Is Just One Big Late-’90s Baltimore

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On Saturday, Gov. Martin O’Malley headed north — to a state only presidential hopefuls visit — to speak well of himself before a group of loyal Democrats.

In a speech in New Hampshire, our governor described Baltimore in 1999, the year he became the city’s mayor. He spoke of a “culture of failure,” of a city overrun by illegal drugs, murder, and a “sense that nothing would work.” Yadda, yadda, yadda, he fixed all that, yadda, yadda. And then he said, “Like in Baltimore in 1999, we as Americans…”

Wait, what?!

Of course, if he’s going to take a running leap at the White House in, oh man, three whole years, he has to build a narrative for himself now, and it has to start with Baltimore. And, yes, there are statistics he can point to (and he does!) that make his mayoralty look heroic.

I love the Baltimore of today. And I wasn’t here in 1999, so I don’t know what it was like. I have no personal experience to call on to assess the difference O’Malley did or didn’t make here in the early 2000s. All I’m saying is, pretend you’re from New Hampshire. Would implying that entire United States is just some oversize version of The Wire, Season 1 Episode 1, resonate for you?

And I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I say that Baltimore hasn’t completely shed its national — and international — reputation for crime.

I’m skeptical that “Let me do for America what I did for Baltimore” is really a winning approach here.

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