Md. ObamaCare Panel Held Illegal Secret Meetings; WashPost Avoids Connecting Dots to Post-Endorsed Democrat

May 22nd, 2014 5:05 PM

The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson reported yet another black mark against Maryland's rollout of ObamaCare. It seems the "board that oversees Maryland's troubled health insurance marketplace repeatedly violated a state law that requires such groups to fully explain their reasons for meeting behind closed doors" according to a ruling issued Tuesday by the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board.

Although the Washington Post's endorsee for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, was tasked by Gov. Martin O'Malley as his personal point man for the ObamaCare rollout, Brown's name came up a grand total of, wait for it, ZERO times in Johnson's 21-paragraph story. What's more, Johnson's story, while given front-page space on page B1 of the May 22 edition, was slapped with a boring headline that all but discouraged readers to review the story, "Closed sessions broke Md. law." By contrast, on Sunday, staff writer John Wagner treated Brown to a puffy profile in a Metro section front-pager "The Value of Service."

"Anthony Brown's time in Iraq with the Army Reserve has become a defining element in his campaign to be the next governor of Maryland," cooed the subheadline for Wagner's 29-paragraph May 18 story. A few paragraphs in, Wagner quickly dispatched with Republican criticism of the Democratic lieutenant governor's mishandling of ObamaCare, then swung straight back into campaign puffery (emphasis mine).:

But his focus on long-ago service has also provided fodder for his critics, who ask why Brown does not have more of his own accomplishments to tout from his eight years as lieutenant governor. They criticize his oversight of Maryland’s health-care reform effort, and the online insurance exchange that was riddled with technical glitches from the time of its launch.

“He’s been M.I.A. from our perspective,” said Maryland House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (R-Baltimore County). “He was a figure­head to take the credit when they anticipated it would be a huge success. It begs the question, who was in charge?”

Brown, who walks with the swagger of the platoon leader he once was and has a reputation for occasionally barking orders, says his time in uniform has shaped him as a person and informed the way he would govern. He believes in the delegation of authority and says he values accurate reporting of information up the chain of command.

With regard to the health exchange, he has said he delegated responsibility for launching the Web site to the health-exchange staff and never received reports from an independent auditor that foreshadowed potential problems.

Analysts say Brown’s military service is bolstering him in a primary in which voters are weighing leadership qualities as well as policy proposals and records. Brown earned a Bronze Star for his efforts in Baghdad and, as a sitting member of the House of Delegates, was among the highest-ranking elected officials in the nation to serve in Iraq.

“That alone is not enough, but it has become a real advantage to run as a veteran,” said Mike Morrill, a longtime Democratic strategist in Maryland. “It speaks to a time when serving the country was something more people did.

Essentially Wagner tried to turn a negative into a positive, suggesting that Brown did the best he could, delegating authority and, unfortunately, suffering negatively because of the screwups of those down the chain of command. Of course, that doesn't fly in the military, where senior officers are often dismissed for things which happen on their watch but for which they are not personally culpable.

Primary election day is Tuesday, June 24, so there are five Sundays left for the Post to run puffy profiles on the other two major Democrats running for governor and/or to run profiles for the four major contenders for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. The Post has already endorsed a candidate on the GOP side as well, Larry Hogan, hailing him essentially as the most moderate -- read least assertively conservative -- of the candidates.

In their May 11 editorial --one week before Wagner's puff piece -- the Post briefly conceded the state's disastrous ObamaCare rollout is rightly a strike against Brown, before insisting that he makes up for it with "substantive accomplishments" elsewhere:

No doubt, Mr. Brown, who is Gov. Martin O’Malley’s anointed successor, is a mainstay of the Democratic establishment and a paragon of the status quo. That status quo includes the state’s blatant failure to build a functioning online market for private health insurance — a failure over which Mr. Brown presided, or was supposed to preside. It also includes substantive accomplishments, including making the state more welcoming to gays and immigrants and replenishing the transportation fund in support of public transit.