The Barbara Mikulski I Know

In 1999, I was a senior at what was then Western Maryland College up in Westminster. The Political Science department often brought in prominent elected officials to speak to students, and I often attended (often just to hear what the other side was saying). That fateful day, the guest speaker was Barbara Mikulski.

After giving her talking points and remarks, she begin to meet and shake hands with individual students . One student, a female sophomore, introduced herself to Senator Mikulski. Mikulski was being cordial until the fave fateful words that brought the conversation to a screeching halt.”

“I’m from Carroll County,” she said.

With those five words, Barbara Mikulski completely disengaged from the student and turned the other way, ignoring the other words that were coming out of her mouth. As soon as Mikulski realized that she was from Carroll County, was likely a Republican, and was not of use to her in anyway, she disengaged from the conversation and ignored the student.

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That will always be the image of Barbara Mikulski that I remember. Somebody so mean spirited, so disrespectful to a constituent when there was even the slightest possibility that the constituent wasn’t a left-wing Democrat.

In the week following the announcement of her retirement, the mainstream media has been full of stories about Mikulski’s “strength”, her “grit”, her “determination. All admirable qualities. But reporters seem to have forgotten the way Mikulski treated, more accurately said as mistreated, constituents and her staff. One Democrat told me that they were advised to “steer clear” of working for Mikulski given the way she churned through staff for the way she mistreated them. It’s no wonder that Mikulski was perennially recognized as the meanest Senator in Washington. But episodes about Mikulski’s lack of respect for others tended to go unnoticed. Why else would her use of vulgarities in reference to her colleague Ted Cruz not receive a lot of reporting locally at the time, nor did it get a mention this week, either.

It’s unfortunate that the media, in its efforts to heap praise upon Senator Mikulski, have ignored a disrespect for others and a disrespect for her constituents. Which is why I’ll always remember that one moment back at Western Maryland College when I realized the contempt that Barbara Mikuslki had for her fellow Marylanders.

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