Josh Kurtz: The Six Crises of President Ehrlich

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By: Josh Kurtz 

When politicians who are not quite ready for prime time announce they’re running for president, it’s often said that they’re really running for vice president. There’s no shame in that.

Of course, there was the case of former Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp, who was so colorless that his brief candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976 was greeted with speculation that he was really running to become secretary of Transportation (for the record, he didn’t even get that).

In view of that history, how are we to regard our own former Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s toe-dip into the presidential waters? First, let’s give the guy a little credit: He’s probably thinking about running for president because he’d actually like to be president. There’s no shame in that, either.

It’s also safe to say that with Larry Hogan’s victory, with Martin O’Malley’s presidential exploratory effort already in high gear, with conservatives from coast to coast jazzed about Ben Carson, Ehrlich is feeling left out. So he’s probably thinking, to quote a vastly more successful presidential candidate in 1976, “Why not the best?”

But what reward can Ehrlich actually expect with his White House flirtation? The vice-presidency? Nah. Secretary of Commerce? Even that’s probably a stretch.

What Ehrlich is probably hoping for is higher speaking fees and more appearances on cable TV. Even there, his erstwhile No. 2, Michael Steele, has badly eclipsed him. So the man needs to restore a modicum of respect. Maybe he’ll even turn around and run for Senate in 2016 or 2018 – a job he was probably always better suited for than being governor.

Still, it’s fun to speculate about what an Ehrlich presidency might look like. So, let’s bend the time-space continuum a little bit and visit the Comcast Oval Office. President Ehrlich is alone, practicing with his putter, staring into a full-length mirror that has been installed at his request, and humming along to the Spinners’ “Could It Be I’m Falling in Love?” which is being piped out of a stereo speaker somewhere. Suddenly, an aide bursts in.

“Sir!” says the breathless young man, wearing a blue blazer and khaki pants. “There’s rioting in the streets all over the country after Ferguson and Staten Island. African-American leaders are demanding a meeting and demanding that you do something. Al Sharpton is planning a protest in front of the White House.”

President Ehrlich leans on his putter, looking exasperated.

“Oh God,” he says. “What next? How many times do I have to show I care about black people? Isn’t it enough that I cried when Bobbie Smith and Big Daddy Lipscomb died? Ok, ok, ok. Call up Nat Oaks and tell him to find me some black kids to shoot hoops with again. And see what Sen. Julius Henson is up to. Sheesh. I have to think of everything around here.”

“Yes, sir.”

A few minutes later, another young man clad in a blue blazer and khaki pants bursts in.

“Mr. President, the ISIS crisis is getting out of hand! Our allies are demanding swift and decisive action and the public fears we may fall victim to another 9-11-like attack!”

President Ehrlich gets a dreamy look in his face. “‘Isis.’ Isn’t that a Bob Dylan song?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“I remember Sonny Bono teaching it to me in the House gym. Sonny wasn’t just bubble gum, you know. He was deep.” He begins to croon: “What drives me to you is what drives me insane.”

President Ehrlich is lost in thought for another minute more. He then focuses. “The people of Catonsville, Arbutus and Perry Hall have suffered too many losses overseas over the last several years. Let them fend for themselves.”

The aide bows slightly and retreats. Seconds later, another, dressed in a blue blazer and khaki pants, rushes in.

“Mr. President, the people are demanding action on immigration reform! Five hundred thousand Latinos are planning to circle the White House next Saturday!”

President Ehrlich shakes his head sadly.

“I know. That’s why I plan to be at Turf Valley that day. I’m gonna conquer that 13th hole on the Hialeah if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Uh, yes sir,” the aide says, looking rather perplexed. President Ehrlich’s face turns resolute.

“When are these people going to learn to assimilate? Enough with this multiculturalism crap already.”

The aide looks perplexed. “So, no statement?” he asks, rather timidly.

That is my statement!” Ehrlich says, swiping the air with his putter. “Enough with this multiculturalism crap already!”

The aide leaves and moments later another, also wearing a blue blazer and khakis, comes in, rather tentatively.

“Mr. President, Speaker Pelosi has invited you to tea.”

President Ehrlich looks to the ceiling, eyes rolling.

“Nancy Pelosi can shove her tea up her sweet bippy! Why in the world would I want to sit down with that old bag? Worse, she’ll probably have Rosa DeLauro with her. Or Louise Slaughter. She’ll just go on and on again about pay inequity, food stamps and the minimum wage. She’ll point up there,” he says, holding the putter above his head, “and talk about the glass ceiling. So tiresome! Really, I’d rather discuss just about anything – even Glass-Steagall.”

President Ehrlich suddenly leans his putter against his desk, runs to his chair, sits down and begins scribbling on White House notepaper. “Glass-Steagall,” he muses. “Pretty funny.”

“Good one, sir,” the aide says, before withdrawing.

Seconds later, another aide rushes in, wearing khakis and a blue blazer.

“Mr. President, environmentalists are planning a rally in front of the White House demanding action on climate change,” he says. “Martin O’Malley plans to serenade them.”

President Ehrlich looks agitated.

“Call the FBI, the CIA, the Joint Chiefs and Homeland Security and see if we can’t get O’Malley deported. There ought to be a law about all that charisma. Maybe my buddies in Congress can help me out there.”

“Yes, sir,” the aide agrees.

“But we can’t be too careful,” the president continues, reaching into his desk and pulling out blueprints from a drawer. “This confirms my decision to have the picture windows here in the Oval covered with scenes from Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District.”

“I guess so, Mr. President – very pretty,” the aide says, leaning down and looking at the blueprints on the desk before turning around to leave.

“Bruce Bereano was right,” President Ehrlich says, stopping the aide dead in his tracks. “The tree huggers will never be satisfied until every last business shutters. Isn’t it enough that I gave them the flush tax?”

“It ought to be,” the aide says, while leaving the room. “Bruce is always right.”

President Ehrlich gets up from his chair, walks around the desk and picks up his putter. He shakes his head.

“Hoo boy,” he says out loud, though no one else is in the room. “Five crises in one day. This is a tough job. What could possibly go wrong next?”

Just then, another young man in a blue blazer and khaki pants rushes into the Comcast room.

“Mr. President, Brittany Spears is playing the Verizon Center tonight and she’s requested a meeting before the show…”

Ok, ok, it’s fantasy. But how much more fantasy than Ehrlich’s sojourns to New Hampshire?

“People are responding to blunt,” Ehrlich told the Baltimore Sun last week, in a serious article about his White House aspirations.

Could that have been a hidden drug reference?

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily, a Capitol Hill publication. He can be reached at .

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Josh Kurtz has been writing about Maryland politics since late 1995. Louie Goldstein, William Donald Schaefer and Pete Rawlings were alive, but the Intercounty Connector, as far as anyone could tell, was dead.

But some things never change: Mike Miller is still in charge of the Senate. Gerry Evans and Bruce Bereano are among the top-earning lobbyists in Annapolis. Steny Hoyer is still waiting for Nancy Pelosi to disappear. And Maryland Republicans are still struggling to be relevant.

The media landscape in Maryland has changed a lot, and Kurtz is happy to write weekly for Center Maryland. He's been writing a column for the website since it launched in January 2010.

In his "real" job, Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily down on Capitol Hill. But he'll always find Maryland politics more fascinating.

Kurtz grew up in New York City and attended public schools there. He has a BA in History from the University of Wisconsin and an MS in Journalism from Columbia University. He's married with two daughters and lives in Takoma Park, Md. He hopes you'll drop him a line, or maybe go out for a meal with him, because he's always hungry -- for political gossip.