Once in a while, a politician lets slip how he really feels about something. To wit: Curt Anderson, leader of Baltimore delegates in the Maryland General Assembly, on negotiating a casino deal with Gov. Martin O'Malley — "It really makes you feel kind of unclean."
I mean, when it comes to political quotations, that's practically Biblical in grandeur.
Here's the full precious statement, as reported by the Associated Press: "This thing is all so murky, it really makes you feel kind of unclean. You need to take a shower when you get done because I think everybody is scratching everybody else's back, you know what I'm saying?"
Yeah, we know.
O'Malley, who only in April said he was "fairly ambivalent" about gambling, now seems to think Maryland urgently needs to have a sixth casino at the National Harbor complex on the banks of the Potomac. So he's spending a good part of his summer angling for support.
The Baltimore delegates oppose a casino at Natty Harbor because the casino authorized for the city hasn't even been built yet, and they're concerned that gamblers will be drawn away by a casino in Prince George's County.
So there was this meeting at City Hall the other day, with Fairly Ambivalent O'Malley, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Mike Busch, the speaker of the House and a man once even more ambivalent about gambling than O'Malley; he actually opposed it.
Of course, Busch changed his tune -- happens to the best of them -- and helped O'Malley get slot machines legalized in 2007. The other day he was at City Hall to try to persuade delegates to support a sixth casino.
The experience made Curt Anderson feel unclean.
And imagine: Thomas V. Mike Miller wasn't even there.
The Senate president, bullish on all gambling, all the time, wants the sixth casino, and he's been playing quiet hardball since the final days of the legislative session in Annapolis in April.
Miller didn't get what he wanted, but ever since, he's had O'Malley doing his bidding.
It's as if Miller slipped the governor a pro-casino mickey. They had breakfast together Tuesday in Annapolis. By Wednesday, O'Malley was in Baltimore trying to make a deal. By Friday, he reportedly was drafting a casino expansion bill for a special summer session of the legislature. You tell me who's running this state.
O'Malley conducts this summer crusade for a sixth casino when only three of the five authorized by Maryland voters in 2008 are up and running. It's fine to be forward-thinking, but common sense says you should make sure your foundational business is a sustainable success before you expand it.
Of course, being forward-thinking seems to be in O'Malley's nature. He'd been mayor of Baltimore a little more than two years before he considered running for governor, and he probably still regrets not jumping into the 2002 race. It wasn't long before he had Baltimore in his rear-view mirror, with eyes on a campaign for governor in 2006.
Now, halfway through his second term, O'Malley is seen — first and foremost by himself — as a candidate for president in 2016. He's following what appears to be a well-crafted playbook, doing things that get him national attention, even making an appearance on NBC's "Face the Nation" while Maryland was in the midst of a vast power outage and heat wave following the June 29 derecho. Now, that's commitment!
Which makes the governor's ambivalent obsession with casino gambling all the more perplexing.
This guy needs wins.
But assuming he succeeds in getting gambling expansion on November's ballot — not a given — it will be there along with questions about same-sex marriage, tuition rates for undocumented immigrants and Maryland's new, O'Malley-designed congressional districts. There are all kinds of possibilities in this mess, including political defeats that would diminish the O'Malley resume.
Same-sex marriage will be a close call; it has never survived a referendum test in any state. People who oppose it on religious grounds probably also consider gambling a sin; they'd be happy to reject both on the same day.
O'Malley finally came out for same-sex marriage last year, but is he going to work as hard for that cause as he's been working on casino gambling or his presidential prep?
It's difficult to tell how a vote on the new congressional districts would go, but criticism of the highly partisan maps seemed to resonate with Marylanders who joined the effort to bring the issue to referendum. Its rejection would be a slap at O'Malley.
If it survives referendum, the Maryland Dream Act will allow undocumented immigrants to attend state universities at the same in-state tuition rates as their high school classmates. This is going to be another close call in November. O'Malley supports the law. But Wednesday, when educators, students and clergy held a noon-hour rally for the Dream Act at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where was the governor? At City Hall, doing Mike Miller's bidding for a sixth casino.