While the situation in Baltimore remains fluid, a quick review of the performances (to date) of some of the key political figures involved is in order:
Mayor of Baltimore Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: From a communications standpoint, some of her initial remarks (her comments on “space” as well as her use of the term “thugs”) were ill-phrased (or misinterpreted, depending on one’s perspective). Her prior veto of a body camera bill seems to have been a governance misstep. However, as of this writing, she has demonstrated considerable steadiness in the face of a perilous situation. If she were another politician, she would be lauded for being a “calm, cool, and collected” leader. However, she is not another politician. Respected in many quarters, excoriated in several others, and beloved in perhaps a few…she might be the best person Baltimore could have had as Mayor during this crisis. Depending on how it turns out, she will probably not receive the credit she deserves for resolving it. Overall grade at this moment: Solid B.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Again, there were some early miscues. He was having a difficult time striking the proper balance between compassion for others and adopting a hardline “law and order” stance. He possessed the proverbial dear-in-the-headlights look during his initial press conference, which was less than confidence-inspiring. He was decisive when he signed the executive order to deploy the National Guard; but he should have resisted the urge to remark how he wished that the Mayor (a potential 2018 opponent) asked for the action sooner. One wonders how he will address the root causes of the troubles in Baltimore, and other cities, in the days, weeks, and months ahead. That said, he appears to be collaborating well with local officials and engaging in genuine dialogues with community leaders and others. Overall grade at this moment: B.
Congressman Elijah Cummings. While Rawlings-Blake and Hogan are executives, Cummings is a legislator, which gives him a different set of official duties and responsibilities. This is both limiting but also liberating. This allows him to focus on exercising his moral leadership, speaking in the churches and on the streets to call for the justice that will lead to the restoration of peace. Frankly, he has done an impressive job. Being out there amongst the people – to an extent that some public figures were unable and/or unwilling to do – has made a positive difference. Moreover, he has the gravitas to raise the debate; making it about an exploration of American values and the policies and behaviors that stem from them (the role of police in our society, how the legal system treats all of our citizens, etc…). He says he is in his twilight days, but he is showing his mettle. Putting on my political commentator hat, I would go as far to say that his recent words and deeds reveal someone who would be a fine U.S. Senator. Overall grade at this moment: A-.
Stay tuned, as more will follow.