Davis, the spy plane, Steele and Trump
Nobody asked me, but … After all of it — the death of Freddie Gray, the demonstrations, the fires and drugstore lootings, the surge in shootings and killings, the police trials and the Department of Justice report — we would like to have a successful police commissioner. Baltimore needs one.
So a lot of Baltimoreans are rooting for Kevin Davis to stay and succeed at two huge tasks: reforming his department of bad practices and arresting the violent crime that leaves so much blood in the streets.
Davis has eagerly embraced the challenge. In interviews, in news conferences and on the street, he comes across candid, smart and wholly likable. That’s why his handling of Persistent Surveillance is perplexing and troubling.
Davis has defended the aerial surveillance operation, and his only regret seems to be that Bloomberg Businessweek broke the story before he could tell anyone about it. On Richard Sher’s “Square-Off” show over the weekend, the commissioner claimed Persistent Surveillance had helped solve a murder and some shootings.
“Early indications are,” he said, “with this technology, it can make the streets of Baltimore safer.”
That’s fine and probably true. But if, after this test run, Persistent Surveillance never flies over Baltimore again, it will be the commissioner’s fault.
Like it or hate it, we live in a surveillance society — there are cameras everywhere — and I’m mostly on the side of the unworried. If you’re in a public space, you don’t have much expectation of privacy. The problem is not privacy. The problem, from the great and never-ending reality show we call Baltimore, was secrecy.
The project went into operation secretly, and it was funded well outside of public oversight. The whole thing ends up looking shady — as if the Baltimore Police Department and Persistent Surveillance knew there would be significant blowback all along — and it damages Davis’ credibility when he needs every ounce. An apology for not informing the public, including the mayor who appointed him, would have helped.
But as soon as a newspaper columnist suggests you should apologize, it’s too late.
Nobody asked me, but ... Michael Steele, the former Republican national chairman and Maryland lieutenant governor, ought to just declare support for Donald J. Trump for president. He’s pretty much there, from what I see and hear.
When I asked him on my podcast last week if he had decided who would get his vote in November, Steele said, “I have not made up my mind.” But he was critical of Hillary Clinton and spoke positively about the “new team” at the head of the Trump campaign.
Since then, Clinton unleashed an attack on Trump for his ties to the extreme right wing, and for not moving quickly enough to disavow the support of one-time Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. The Clinton campaign released a television commercial quoting members of the Ku Klux Klan who supported Trump: “A lot of what he believes, we believe in.” Trump countered by calling Clinton a bigot. Steele came to Trump’s defense on MSNBC, and again on a Philadelphia radio show, calling the KKK commercial “incendiary” and saying Clinton’s attacks on Trump for his ties to bigotry are as bad as Trump’s ties to bigotry. It was one of those false equivalencies only a Trump surrogate can come up with, and it’s classic American denialism: Raising the race card is as bad as racism.
Steele might think he’s found a comfortable place in the wobbly middle ground for the rest of this campaign. But his recent comments put him on the Trump team.
Nobody asked me, but … Given what we’re seeing in Maine, and given what we’ve seen in New Jersey, Maryland’s Larry Hogan must be the most rational, likable Republican governor on the East Coast, if not the entire country.
As for Maine’s Paul LePage, this tea party Republican’s biggest offense — or the one drawing the most attention right now — might be his ill-tempered, racially charged remarks. But the worst of it has to do with the real power he wields as chief executive.
LePage has stood with other Republican governors, and complicit legislatures, that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. LePage has kept Medicaid from reaching 70,000 low-income Maine residents who do not have health insurance.
In April, the Maine Legislature, with a Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House, managed to approve Medicaid expansion. But the bill passed without a veto-proof margin so it never got to the governor’s desk, reports Kevin Miller, staff writer with the Portland Press-Herald.
So, yeah, LePage appears to be an illtempered guy who seems to say something racially charged every chance he gets. But he’s kept thousands of poor people from getting health care, and that’s the worst of it.