Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Talking So Much, Saying So Little

Weeks ago here at Kline Online, I made a pretty big stink about John Morony's taking to the pages of the local newspapers to attack a sitting Republican elected official.

Andi Morony, John's wife and (like John) a member of the Queen Anne's County Republican Central Committee joined Mark Newgent as guest host of Red Maryland's delightfully campy Internet radio show "The Broadside," on December 19. Given the subject matter, it is helpful to note that the episode in question was being broadcast from Mrs. Morony's own living room in Northbrook, a Centreville housing development that could serve as the poster child for suburban sprawl.

Newgent gushingly introduces Mrs. Morony as a 'brilliant political strategist.' (Perhaps. But many in local GOP circles (including regular Broadside co-host Andrew Langer) condemned her role in the distasteful Dick Sossi 'asleep on the job' ads on behalf of Steve Hershey in the 2010 election) Based on Newgent's gratuitous introduction, one could be excused for thinking Morony knows something of what she speaks.

Early on in the show, Morony, whose stock in trade as far as I can tell is bitter partisan warfare, comments that "Martin O'Malley couldn't come up with an original idea to save his life." Nevermind that O'Malley managed to get himself elected governor, twice. This statement about O'Malley's unoriginality soon becomes sadly comical in a 'pot meet kettle' type of way as Morony begins to regurgitate the same tired talking points about PlanMaryland.

I could have written Morony's commentary myself before ever hearing it. With ease she slides into a high-level diatribe, skittering like a water bug on the tense surface of an incredibly deep issue. Instead of illustrating any knowledge of PlanMaryland (a 150+ page plan for collaboration between state agencies of varying jurisdiction and local governments that I can virtually guarantee Morony has never laid eyes on), or the very real problems PlanMaryland is attempting to address, Morony prefers to dwell in the relative comfort of the rote and repetitive. Like a marionette she parrots the talking points of her thought proxies, EJ Pipkin and Mike Smigiel, as if ending every statement with a verbal exclamation point makes her more credible.

PlanMaryland is a War on Rural Maryland! PlanMaryland is a state takeover of local government! Newgent himself ventured to new frontiers of hyperbole when he compared PlanMaryland to Mussolini totalitarianism, as if Martin O'Malley was personally preparing to invade Northern Virginia. Newgent seems to forget that Martin O'Malley was duly elected governor of Maryland, an office generally considered to include the Eastern Shore. The arguments against PlanMaryland predictably didn't get any more detailed or specific than the above.

To illustrate both Morony and Newgent's ignorance more directly, neither of them had any previous knowledge of Maryland Department of Planning Secretary Rich Hall. It is not at all clear to me how one can be trotted out in front of an audience, presented to that audience as some kind of resident expert on a given topic, and not be intimately familiar with major players involved in that topic. Purporting to talk about PlanMaryland and not knowing who Rich Hall is isn't much different than calling yourself a mechanic, and having trouble opening the hood of a car. Instant loss of credibility.

What's worse? Andi Morony said "I doubt he(Rich Hall) could find his way around on the Shore if his life depended on it." Uh oh. Hate to inform Mrs. Morony that Rich Hall was born and raised on the Eastern Shore. Unlike, ahem, Mrs. Morony, who according to her Facebook profile hails from the decidedly non-Eastern Shore town of Bowie, Maryland. EJ Pipkin isn't a native Eastern Shoreman, either. And according to the Maryland State Archives website, Mike Smigiel was born in Baltimore, also not on the Eastern Shore. But moreover, this is a popular refrain on the Shore, to shout from the tree tops that people don't, can't, understand the needs of the Eastern Shore unless they pass some kind of litmus test. In the mind of folks like Andi Morony, only those who want to fundamentally destroy the rural character of the Eastern Shore boast "real" Shore credentials.

Rural Maryland is indeed under attack, but not from PlanMaryland. The attack instead comes from the likes of Pipkin, Smigiel, and a host of realtor/developer backed political puppets who think that the Shore must be destroyed to be saved. They do not understand, or worse willfully ignore, that the development they support increases the size and cost of government as surely as night follows the day. In the same breath, Morony objects to a state government takeover of local planning and zoning authority (a chimera) but then bemoans the closure of the (state-run) Upper Shore Mental Health facility. It might be funny if it weren't so galling and hypocritical.

Mrs. Morony isn't a "brilliant political strategist." She lacks the ability to question the assumptions of the elected officials she works for, and serves them in the least valuable way possible, as simply an intellectual rubber stamp, a perpetual nodding head, a yes-woman. The public she indirectly seeks to serve deserves better representation, representation that actually spends time thinking rationally about issues, not simply reacting to popular villains and convenient foils. It is one thing to hand out palm cards and walk in parades come election time, but being involved in the actual governing process requires a different skill set.


Anonymous said...

Bravao Mr. Kline! Mrs. Morony is but one of several from the same mold.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the commentary.

Erney Maher said...

Right on, Steve!
We need and benefit from your insights.
Erney Maher

Nancy Koval said...

Amen - well said.

Mark said...


While I'm glad you listen to the show, I must ask you except for war what exactly is it you dislike about Italian fascism?

I'd love to discuss with you the philosophical connections between American progressivism and European fascism and the two movements affinity for centralizing power in the state and society run by technocrats.

But somehow I doubt you'd like to venture into such territory. However, that's fine by me as your post merely confirms my argument.

Your "argument," if it can even be called one, was less a defense of Plan Maryland than it was an ad hominem attack on the Morony's and me. At least my comparison is based on academic research that reveals the similar ideological impulses of American progressives and European fascists.

So tell me Mr. Kline, who is the ignorant one here?


Mark Newgent

Steve Kline said...

Mark, likewise, thanks for checking out the blog, and for your comment. Martin O'Malley is legally and popularly elected to the office of Governor of Maryland. No different than Steve Hershey is legally and popularly elected. If you don't like his policies, you have the ability to run against him, or support candidates who will do things differently without threat of assination; something you would have had trouble doing in 1930s Italy.

Secondly, as evidenced by radio shows like yours and blogs like mine, the state does not control the media, and we are free to question its decisions in a public way. Again, not a trait of fascist Italy.

If you would take the time to read PlanMaryland, you would see that there is still a robust role for the localities (indeed, a partnership role between the state and the local governments, as it arguably should be). If local governments are legitimate enough to make these decisions, it is a far streatch to argue that the state government is not equally legitimate. If you would like to argue that NO government should be able to make zoning and land use planning decisions, I would encourage you to inform me as to the difference between that position and anarchy

I do not pretend that PlanMaryland is foolproof, but I also don't pretend that the problems PlanMaryland seeks to remedy do not exist. I will provide the defense of PlanMaryland you seek in a future blog post.

Mark said...


Please respond to the arguments I make, not the straw men you wish to demolish.

Again I repeat my question. Outside of violence and war what exactly is it about fascism you dislike?

Your definition of the term and its manifestations appears to be limited to things you find undesirable.

Furthermore, my connection is wholly accurate. It’s only “hyperbole” in the sense that pointing out that inconvenient truth vexes you.

When I make the connection between O’Malley and Mussolini’s totalitarianism I do not mean it in the Orwellian sense i.e., the “boot stomping on a human face,” rather in the holistic sense as Mussolini did when he coined the term—“everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” For Mussolini and his progressive adherents in America, the state is supreme and politics permeates all matters both spiritual and human. O’Malley unwittingly admitted as much in his 2009 state of the state address when he said stated that “progress” i.e., his political goals require embracing the “power of citizenship” and a “unity of spirit and matter” to “advance the common good.”

In O’Malley’s eyes the individual citizen as mere tool for advancing the will of the all encompassing state.

Teddy Roosevelt, whom you generously quote on the header of your blog, was a devotee of Herbert Croly one of the most influential American progressives. Croly, in his book the promise of American Life, laid out a vision for society that mirrored what Mussolini did in Italy. Croly believed in a great revolutionary leader that would redeem America and usher in a new society guided not by the small r republican principles of the Founders, but rather guided by an elite caste of social engineers who’s “beneficent activities” would lead to the sunny uplands of history. Croly is famous for saying “an individual has no meaning apart from the society in which his individuality has been formed.”

Again this isn’t some libertarian wish projection but historical fact confirmed by most historians—see John Patrick Diggins specifically.

It was in fact, TR who sought to radically centralize government and nationalize our politics away from the local level to the federal level. It was Croly who wrote TRs New Nationalism speech.

Hmm centralization through usurpation of the power of local governments… Sound familiar?

This gets to the second straw man you constructed. Please show me where I’ve argued for as you say “that NO government should be able to make zoning and land use planning decisions.”

The main criticism of Plan Maryland is that through the concentration and centralization of planning of economic growth, it strips the rights of LOCAL and county governments to make those decisions. Forget for a moment it will lead to the even more stagnant growth in rural Maryland, Plan Maryland will create higher housing prices and shortages in the areas in which it does concentrate growth.

Furthermore, Plan Maryland’s assumptions on climate change are based on flawed scientific and economic models, from a state report paid for and written by biased special interest groups (Town Creek Foundation, Environment Maryland, and Chesapeake Climate Action Network). Yeah, I followed the money. You tell me how we are to trust a study that so twists reality as to purport to argue that a cost is actually a benefit?

Now that I think of it, you’re the one who’s been talking a lot but not saying much.

Steve Kline said...

As I assume you know, Mussolini was quite popular in the United States prior to the beginning of World War II. So saying what is it you don't like about totalitarianism aside from war and violence, is somewhat akin to asking, aside from drilling what is it you don't like about the dentist? It's a pretty big part of the equation.

You glossed over the fact that, aside from 'demolishing straw men' (itself an argumemtatitive deflection) I had implied what I didn't like about totalitarianism, and why I think the comparison is bunk. Complete state control of the media, corrupt (or otherwise meaningless elections), the fundamental restriction of free speech, and the general restriction of everyday citizen behavior. The thrust of my statement about your hyperbole comes from my belief that to say we live in anything like a totalitarian state is simply a bridge too far. The fact that you are even free to say that, makes it so.

You seem to again imply that Martin O'Malley's vision of "progress" is foisted on the people unwittingly, but that is just not the case. Mussolini came to power in a coup d'etat. Martin O'Malley came to power by beating a guy that you (and frankly, I) supported. Power doesn't come too much more legitimately than that, whether you like the implications of that power or not. As is often quoted, elections have consequences.

Quoting O'Malley on 'the power of citizenship' and 'common good' which I know gets in the crawl of libertarians like yourself, doesn't bother me. I actually think citizenship IS powerful, and that there is such a thing as a common good, writ large. If there is nothing powerful about citizenship, why do we bother fighting those who seek it illegally? If you reject the notion of a common good (and it appears as though you do, given your presentation of O'Malley's quote as problematic) then you are seemingly rejecting the very underpinning of representative government, and advocating an almost Darwinian model for governing that would be anything but.

I fundamentally reject the assertion that O'Malley does things for the sake of the "state," but rather for the benefit of the citizen. Of course,he is free to define the design of that benefit because of his popular election, the same could also be said of Bob Ehrlich, or Barack Obama. At the time of election, a majority supported his vision of benefit to the citizen. In a second election, the electorate reconfirmed their support of his vision, over the vision of Robert Ehrlich.

As to your assertion that I said you were arguing that NO government can make zoning and planning decisions. My quote was, "If you would like to argue that..." Not that you were arguing that. Just to clarify.

The counties and local governemnts still have a strong role in PlanMaryland. Repeating that they don't doesn't make the assertion any more true. There has been no usurpation of power. The state bears many of the costs of sprawl (roads, education, environmental costs) so there is a real justification for the state to be involved in the planning of communities.

I am not going to debate you on climate change. I spend far too much time outdoors, and have seen enough evidence with my own two eyes, to know that climate change is a fact, and is indeed happening. But I will say that while I do think climate chnage is a problem, I do not believe it is the fundamental problem PlanMaryland seeks to remedy. That would be the ballooning cost of government in places like Queen Anne's County, and the subsequent increase in your taxes linked to that higher cost of government.

Andrew Langer said...

Let me set aside the debate with Mark for a moment, Steve, as well as the personality discussions, and focus on one statement:

"it is helpful to note that the episode in question was being broadcast from Mrs. Morony's own living room in Northbrook, a Centreville housing development that could serve as the poster child for suburban sprawl."

Now, I live in Northbrook, and be that as it may, I take issue with your characterization of it as "the poster child for suburban sprawl."

In point of fact, given PlanMaryland's emphasis on creating communities with higher population densities, situated in/near urban centers, it seems to me that Northbrook is precisely the OPPOSITE of how you might characterize it.

Now, we're going to be talking more about PlanMaryland tonight on the show (7-8 or so). You can listen in at . You can also watch us in our Northbrook studio at

We do allow for call-ins, so you're welcome to call in as well!

Steve Kline said...

Andrew, I appreciate the invite to listen. When I first went to Washington as a lobbyist ten years ago, my first boss gave me some sage advice: "Don't spend time trying to change the minds of no votes. Spend your time on the maybes." So in that spirit, I doubt I will be calling in. Even though I generally enjoy the content and the banter.

As you sing to the anti-PlanMaryland chorus tonight (and that is no knock on you, just a commentary on the likely philosophical bent of the audience) please do take some time to offer an alternative vision for accomodating one million additional people to the population of Maryland, and how we might decrease the size and cost of government while maintaining the level of service they will inevitably require and expect. Oh, and how during this influx of new folks, we will ensure a robust agricultural economy and protect our economicaly valuable natural resources. Look forward to hearing your ideas.

I would be willing to bet that the average daily commute of a Northbrook resident is well over 40 miles. That ain't smart growth.

Steve Kline said...

I also want to say to Mark and Andrew: thanks for posting under your real names. I appreciate the intellectual honesty.