O'Malley Must Refocus On Job One

Dec 19, 2013

 

If you decide to run for president while you’re still governor of a state, Job One is still running the state. If you let it seem like Job Two, someone’s going to say you’re cheating the people. If things start coming unglued with Job One, they’re going to start asking how you think you can run the country when you can’t run the state.

This might be a decent summation of Governor Martin O’Malley’s current plight. His highly touted health care exchange isn’t working. Some people – including some of his allies – say his exchange is hopelessly mired in dysfunction. Marylanders still have trouble signing on. Exchange jokes are making the rounds. If you ask anyone close to the program, they’re likely to say: “Getting better every day.”

They’re saying that, but it’s not exactly true. One of O’Malley’s fellow Democrats, newly elected Rep. John Delaney, has an idea: scrap the state plan and join the federal one.

Might not be a bad idea for the frustrated, would-be signers. But it’s probably a non-starter for the governor. He has to make it work. Giving up is not something you do if you’re running for president. O’Malley called in more expert help earlier this week.

Until all of this, many of us might have been inclined to give the governor better-than-passing marks on some of his stewardship. He got a gun control measure through the General Assembly. He championed marriage equality. He helped Baltimore get access to big money for aging schools.

There was, of course, a precursor to the exchange snarl. The Baltimore City Detention Center exploded. Inmates were running the place, impregnating the guards and having their way with cell phones and other contraband.

At least he had not offered his management of prisons as state-of-the-art, as he had for his Obamacare site. Maybe he wouldn’t have been so bold if he’d known how complicated if was.

Maybe if he’d been more attentive to Job One, Job Two wouldn’t seem like such a reach.

Your comments are welcome at fsmith@wypr.org