16 January 2007

Character Assassination

Following a story published by Greg Garland in the Baltimore Sun and picked up by various papers in the DC/Baltimore area, it looks as though Kenneth Montague has finally been defeated. The latest smear piece in Garland's personal vendetta implies Montague has used his position as the Secretary of Juvenile Services in Maryland for a coast to coast dream vacation.

There are no outright lies in Garland's character assassination. This is merely an insinuation of corruption, nothing more. Nothing libelous in here.

So what do we have here? Actually, it's easier to see what we don't have in this story. There are no lobbyist-sponsored golf trips and no private jets. There are no brown envelopes and no Jacuzzis overflowing with champagne. What we do have is the story of a Democrat appointed by a Republican for the nearly impossible job of revamping a huge bureaucracy while fending off political punches from Democrats and Republicans on the one hand, and trying his best to do a job while a reporter builds a career out of smear pieces on the other hand.

At some point, after repeated, politically motivated attacks, Ehrlich had made a decision to ignore The Sun. Determined to concentrate on the job at hand, Montague also refused to speak to the Sun. Then the attacks begun.

There were stories of overcrowding and fights in juvenile detention facilities. Some were true, most occurred before Ehrlich and O'Malley took over, all were sensationalized by Garland while any attempt to reform a broken system was ignored. There were other stories involving courageous whistle blowing inspectors who told Garland about the terrible conditions they found. Small details such as Ehrlich and Montague ordering these reports were ignored. That findings did not take later reforms into consideration was also ignored.

Ehrlich lost the elections, but Montague was still a candidate to continue to be the Secretary under O'Malley. Garland and the editors of The Sun could not see that happen. So they dug deep into the files, searching for a hidden Abramoff or a Duke Cunningham, or at least a small vacation on a cruise ship to the Bahamas. Surely they could get something.

To their disappointment, The Sun's researchers could only find learning trips, each with its itinerary and learning points well documented in neat folders. Still, what the hell, The Sun went with the piece. After all, if there wasn't a scandal, they were going to create one. It didn't matter that other Maryland State Secretaries joined Montague in these conferences, and it didn't matter that other states' Juvenile Services Secretaries were there. All the Sun needed to finish Montague's career was a non-story; a hint of corruption which never existed was enough. While Montague was busy traveling from one city to another, bringing ideas and solutions back to Maryland, The Sun was busy destroying him. Finally, it looks like they may have succeeded.

Kenneth Montague resigned today.


EuroYank said...

Very different from Illinois where the Republican Governor is doing jail time for using tax money to fund his re-election campaign and it took a new election and a Democratic incombent to investigate these dealings and finally uncover the whole mess!

People in the Sun said...

A slightly different story here. Garland and The Baltimore Sun used the political mood and the ubiquitous issue of political corruption for the sake of a personal vendetta.

I'm glad the elections are bringing about the unraveling of Republican corruption, but in this case it was nothing but an attack by a reporter's broken ego. It's a shame that he got away with it.

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