Julius Henson, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and Democrats

–Richard E. Vatz

“He who lies down with dogs gets up with fleas.” [French Proverb]“He who is known to have lain with dogs will be assumed to have fleas.” [Vatzian emendation]

My late, wonderful, ingenuous mother had a characteristically understated expression when she thought that I, as a lad, should not play with a particularly badly reputed child of my age: “He is not a very nice person.”

The above admonition and proverbs come to mind as I think about the accusations that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich-hired political operative Julius Henson engineered about 50,000 “robocalls” fraudulently implicitly imploring citizens primarily in Democratic districts not to vote in Maryland’s gubernatorial election since Gov. Martin O’Malley had already won.

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There is — and this is — no defense of Mr. Henson. His disingenuous claim that such calls were made to encourage Republicans to vote is so transparently inaccurate that it is not worth disputing.

What is worth disputing is the quick assumption by many Democrats that Gov. Ehrlich was part of this deceptive, unethical practice.

Days ago, I wrote to a Democratic bud in the General Assembly the following: “I agree with you…on the outrageousness of the fraudulent robocalls…I do not think that it is remotely possible that he [Ehrlich] knew of the content or purpose of Henson’s calls.”

That was an easy judgment. I have written and talked about the decency and honesty of Gov. Ehrlich in my personal experience with him. He has, as I have said and written, in the 18 years I have known him never said anything to me privately that would upset any fair-minded person if said person had read the remarks in The Baltimore Sun. I also believe 100% that in the years I have known him that he is a man of complete personal and public rectitude.

That said, in my view it was a mistake to hire Henson. It is intentionally misleading, however, for Democratic critics to affect being shocked and appalled by his political actions while ignoring their own sordid history with this gentleman. In addition all of those who were silent when former Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele was racially pilloried by some Democrats and had his credit report illegally obtained should be similarly chastened.

Overall moral lessons:

1. If you want to hire a man infamous for unethical political attacks just to keep him from attacking you, keep a very close leash on his activities. Better yet, don’t hire him.

2. If you want to credibly claim you are scandalized and disgusted by political activity by a hireling of your opponent, show some earlier outrage when that cur worked for you and your political friends. Revolted Democrats who were silent about Henson’s earlier political sleaziness are revolting.

–Professor Vatz is professor of political rhetoric at Towson University

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