Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) did a whirlwind media tour in New York City on Thursday, cracking jokes with late-night host Seth Meyers on NBC, discussing urban issues on Fox News, and briefly discussing the economy and student debt on CNBC.
It was an unusual flurry of national attention for the state’s second-term governor, but Hogan is a two-fer for guest bookers right now: Last week he took the helm of the National Governors Association, while the controversy surrounding President Trump’s Twitter attacks on Baltimore and U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) has now stretched nearly a week.
After sprinting onto the stage in a navy suit, crisp white shirt and luxe purple (not red, not blue) tie to greet the comedian Meyers, Hogan was applauded several times — for condemning nasty, partisan political attacks, working with the nation’s other governors to combat climate change and promoting infrastructure investments.
After noting that Hogan is a popular Republican governor in a state dominated by Democratic voters and legislators, Meyers, deadpan, asked “Why are there not more of you?”
“I’m one in a million,” Hogan replied, jokingly, adding later, “I’m a different kind of Republican.”
And when Meyers showed a photo of Hogan dancing on stage with Marie Osmond at a National Governors Association event last week, the governor quipped “Maybe I can get a Nutri-System gig out of the deal.”
Meyers did take Hogan to task twice — much more seriously than other questioners have — about his tepid response to Trump’s tweets.
“Your initial statement said, ‘We’re tired of attacks between politicians.’ It didn’t quite seem fair to me to describe [Trump’s tweetstorm] as attacks between politicians — Elijah Cummings doing his job on the [House] Oversight Committee and Donald Trump making an ad hominem attack.”
When Hogan defended his response, saying “the last thing I need to do is jump in there and have more angry reaction to the angry reaction,” Meyers persisted, suggesting that Trump’s berating of Baltimore and one of its top officials went well beyond run-of-the-mill political squabbling.
“It does seem like every time we say ‘these attacks have to stop,’ when we’re talking about something that’s so specific to what Donald Trump did, it is spreading out the blame in a way that’s not quite fair,” Meyers said.
“I said the comments — the tweet — was outrageous and unacceptable and inappropriate,” Hogan replied, referring to his interview on WBAL Radio three days after Trump’s initial salvo. “That’s a pretty strong comment. But I didn’t jump into the fray and getting into the mud with everybody else.”
When Meyers asked about Hogan’s brief flirtation with a White House bid, Hogan said, “I think there’s a majority of people in America who agree with some of the things I’m talking about, but they don’t know who in the heck I am.”
“In the Republican primary, those voters seem to be still pretty stuck on Donald Trump,” he added. “But there are an awful lot of people in the middle in America that would like to see us go in a different direction.”
On Fox, Hogan was asked by host Bill Hemmer if Trump “helped bring attention to the problems in Baltimore?”
“I think that could be the silver lining,” Hogan replied. “I didn’t think the angry attacks on Twitter were appropriate. I just happen to believe we ought to be focusing on the problems and the solutions.”
Hogan faulted the Maryland General Assembly for failing to seriously consider his repeated attempts to require stiffer sentences on repeat violent criminals.
And when Hemmer played a long clip of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), a Fox guest on Wednesday, saying Maryland lawmakers during his tenure “were satisfied with their dysfunctional public schools,” Hogan said, “I agree with a lot of that sentiment.”
The governor said the state has spent billions trying to improve Baltimore’s schools and neighborhoods, only to be undermined by the criminal justice system.
“It’s a revolving door of catch and release,” he said. “They keep going right back on the streets.”
In both interviews in which Trump’s tweets came up, Hogan appeared to steer clear of any suggestion that the president’s statements flowed from racial animosity.
Asked about a Wall Street Journal op-ed that posited that Baltimore’s problems are “deeper” than racism,” Hogan agreed. “The reality is deeper,” he said.
Hogan’s chat on CNBC was brief — barely three minutes — and flitted from topic to topic.
The governor did get to tout the state’s SmartBuy program, where college graduates can “roll in student debt into the purchase of a first home.
“We have foreclosed homes that we’re trying to do something with,” he said. “… It was a pilot program but it’s been so successful and it’s working well.”