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The Tally Ho

Monday, March 21, 2005

From TPM

Ed Kilgore is guest blogging for Talking Points Memo today. The post is about the attempted smear campaign of Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley who may be running against Governor Bob Erlich. You can read it yourself here. But the part I found interesting was this observation
For anyone who has been through a partisan (or in some cases, intra-partisan) transition in a federal, state or local government agency, Steffen is a very familiar and unsavory type: The Commissar. That's the hatchet man sent in to root out heresy, find expendable members of the opposition party, and create the maximum number of fat jobs for the Party Faithful who are rolling off the winning campaign. The Commissar's tenure is invariably short, since he or she is not there to improve public policy, and there are many agencies to purge.

There are Democratic and Republican Commissars, but in my experience, the GOPers are the most numerous and vicious. Why? For the same reason that you tend to have more corruption in Republican administrations: when you don't much care about the positive uses of government, and you don't have the political guts to cut it back as much as you would like, then government becomes little more than a vast patronage operation. And if chaos in services ensues, hey, it's just more proof that government's bad to begin with, right?

In other words, this is an ideological more than a moral matter. The Post profile of Steffen includes a variety of testimonials that he wasn't that bad a guy, despite his nicknames, his undertaker's wardrobe, and his habit of never turning on the lights in his office. But that misses the point: Freepers like Steffen think it's good to disable government and harrass "bureaucrats," just as they probably think saving Maryland from an O'Malley administration justifies trying to wreck his marriage.

-- Ed Kilgore


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