Inconsistency is Gov. Larry Hogan’s most consistent political trait.
On Monday of last week, Hogan published an op-ed in The Washington Examiner, a journal of conservative redoubt.
In it he advanced the usual hyperbolic caprioles about one-party governance as reasons to reelect two Republicans running to fill Senate seats from Georgia to preserve the GOP’s mathematical blockade against the Democratic agenda “of destructive proposals.”
“For the sake of our nation,” Hogan wrote, “I urge Georgians to uphold America’s mandate for moderation and compromise by voting to keep David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the U.S. Senate.”
Later that same day, Hogan made public his letter and conversation with President-elect Joe Biden, and other governors, wherein he outlined Maryland’s needs and priorities with an urgent plea for bipartisanship and cooperation to help bail out the states from the economic ravages of the pandemic.
“States are already fighting an uphill battle to rebuild our economies and maintain essential services,” Hogan said in his letter. “Without federal assistance we could be forced to consider. . . measures that will cause an increase in unemployment and further delay the economic recovery.”
Earlier in the month, Hogan wished, as if in a dreamscape, to be reborn as Ronald Reagan. He voted for Reagan as a write-in candidate, he described Reagan as “my hero” and he almost swooned for the halcyon days of the Reagan cinematic presidency.
It is interesting to note that Hogan intruded into the Georgia election when other Republicans are encouraging party members not to vote because, they argue, the machines are conspiratorially rigged in favor of Democrats. That warp has been advanced repeatedly by President Trump and members of his legal team, and has party regulars concerned that the baseless rants will depress voter turnout.
Trump, the lame duck president, is further roiling Georgia Republicans as well as endangering the lives of election officials with his screeds, personal meddling and unfounded claims that he was cheated out of reelection. But the falsehoods are another Trump con job.
Trump has established a political action committee in a way that funnels two-thirds of the money directly to him for personal political use, even after he leaves office, an opportunity to create even more pandemonium. His anti-election tirades are a fund-raising deception. In the 20 days following the election, for example, his new committee raised $170 million. The more Trump undermines the electoral system, the more the cash rolls in.
But that election is, despite the bizarre circumstances, important to both parties for control of the U.S. Senate, currently at 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. If Democrats were to pick up the two seats, the Senate would be deadlocked at 50-50, with the newly elected vice president, Kamala Harris, having the tie-breaking vote.
Hogan made no mention in his letter of the undercurrents of the Jan. 5 runoff election. And that is that both Perdue and Loeffler are under rigorous scrutiny for being privy to insider information as members of the Senate in their prolific stock deals. Perdue alone has made hundreds of stock trades in 2020, according to an exhaustive New York Times analysis.
Yet Hogan does not allow inconsistency to interfere with whatever his motive might be: “Do we want two years [?] of divisive toxic battles over packing the Supreme Court, abolishing the Senate filibuster, and pushing the Green New Deal, or do we want to take these destructive proposals off the table,” he wrote in the Examiner.
Here he is impugning the same Joe Biden he has solicited for help, when, in fact, Biden is a moderate middle-grounder who may come under pressure from the left flank of his party but who is not of a type to pick unnecessary fights he might not win.
Yet here is Hogan asking Biden for bundles of money for Maryland, and the other states. Hogan’s shopping list includes a hefty new stimulus package with specific help for small businesses, a program to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, and of significant interest to Maryland, a special economic embrace of the Chesapeake Bay, which Hogan described in his letter to Biden as “a key pillar of Maryland’s economy.”
So at the same time Hogan supports one-sided Republican stonewalling in the Senate against Democratic programs, he, in the next breath, is asking the Democratic president-elect for help that would require Senate cooperation which under its GOP leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), it is unwilling to extend.
Here’s the “gag” sentence in Hogan’s Examiner piece: “Over the past six years, I worked with a Democratic legislature to create the biggest economic turnaround in America by cutting taxes and regulations, reducing the cost of healthcare and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.”
A couple of phrases mimic Ronald Reagan’s economic mirage of supply-side baloney. But before we get to that, let it be said that if Maryland’s infrastructure is crumbling, as Hogan notes, it’s crashing down on Hogan’s head because of its failures, delays and false starts and his single-minded fixation with public-private partnerships (PPPs).
Reagan was originally a New Deal Democrat who raised taxes 11 times as governor of California and as president. He turned his back on the Democrats during the communist scare of the 1950s when he was president of the Screen Actors Guild.
And much of the myth of the bonhomie and non-partisanship of the Reagan years as president – the happy-hour narrative of putting aside partisan politics at 5 o’clock and gathering for goodwill martinis – is bunk that exists only between book covers bearing the names of fawning biographers.
As governor, Reagan usually made his entrance to the National Association of Governors’ annual meetings in Washington illuminated in television lights and encapsulated by the largest security force of any governor in the country.
He delivered his yearly “welfare cheats” speech and departed wrapped in the same protective wedge. One year, the Reagans brought Frank Sinatra to Washington with them. (While Reagan was busy with the other governors, Sinatra and Nancy Reagan ducked out for lunch at the legendary Sans Souci restaurant, near the White House.)
At one of the program’s meetings on domestic issues at the White House during President Richard M. Nixon’s years, Reagan stood before the nation’s governors and Nixon’s staff to explain how his crackdown on “welfare cheats” had turned California’s budget deficit into a surplus.
Whereupon Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel (D) stood and said: “Ron, if you’d give back the $400 million you stole from the federal government, you’d still have a deficit instead of a surplus.”
At the time, Casper Weinberger, who had worked with Reagan in California, was ensconced in Nixon’s Office of Management and Budget. He tipped off Reagan to a loophole in the federal budget that allowed California to siphon off the $400 million from the federal government before other states – including Maryland – caught on. When word got out, and other states tried to replicate California’s sleight-of-hand, the feds slammed shut the loophole.
Hogan is currently everybody’s accommodating talking head and anti-Trump Republican who has angered some in his own party in Maryland but who is popular enough among Democrats to withstand even Trump’s unhinged wrath.
Hogan is also the beneficiary of the real estate mantra – location, location, location. He sits next door to the media capital of the world, easily available and accessible to the hundreds of cameras and thousands of reporters in the Washington, D.C., media realm. If Hogan seems everywhere, it’s not an illusion. It’s the cameras.
What’s happening in the precincts of his mind appears to be an uncharted adventure to see what sticks. But the pieces don’t compute.
Mort Sahl, the comedian, observed that anyone who maintains a consistent political philosophy will eventually be tried for treason. Hogan needn’t worry.