NPR generously donated an hour-long interview on Wednesday on The Diane Rehm Show to former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Rehm also gave an hour to former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb in July.) Both Democrats are in Pataki territory in the polls for the Democratic presidential nomination.
It was a pretty gentle hour of asking what his ideas were. But the strangest part came when Rehm turned to the Republican desire to discontinue federal funding of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s leading abortion provider. Rehm bizarrely made it sound like there was just one Center for Medical Progress video, and one “individual” recorded discussing selling baby body parts. O’Malley denied ever seeing “that video.”
O’MALLEY: I think this effort to turn Planned Parenthood into a football is wrong. 97 percent of what Planned Parenthood does is preventive health care for women. And so I think they should leave Planned Parenthood alone.
REHM: They -- apparently, someone videotaped an individual at Planned Parenthood talking about the selling of fetal tissues. How do you feel about the use of fetal tissues in experimentation?
O'MALLEY: Diane, I have not seen that video and I'm not in a position to react to the video. I will say this, that I think that Planned Parenthood or any health provider should abide by whatever the applicable laws and the ethical rules are in the particular state.
REHM: And as far as abortion is concerned, are you comfortable with the fact that Planned Parenthood does, no matter how small the percentage, continue to provide abortions.
O'MALLEY: And there are restrictions on the use of any federal funds in those...
REHM: Of course.
O'MALLEY...which already exists, which is why this ploy by the Republicans to make this the throw-down issue over which they would shut down the government is wrong headed. I believe that there are some decisions that government is no good at making and among them are decisions that should be left to women and their doctors.
O’Malley suggested Republicans and conservatives were racist on several occasions. First, he described Trump as thriving on racist appeals:
REHM So how would you tap the mood among Democrats? Is it very similar to that of Republican primary voters who are out there saying, you know, we want something new, we want something different?
O'MALLEY It's somewhat similar, though in our party, we don’t have the sort of racist, anti-immigrant sentiment that Donald Trump seems to adept at tapping in the ranks of the Republican party.
It surfaced again when Rehm asked why there’s so much gun violence in America:
O’MALLEY: I think this has been a long time coming. I mean there is a culture of violence and there's a culture of guns in the United States of America. And...
REHM: Has that been revved up by particular groups?
O'MALLEY: I don't -- I think that -- I think there's a sickness within us and it's a sickness of violence and a devaluing of lives. It is intertwined with our legacy of racism that has been with us as a nation since the first days of our founding.
He repeated himself when immigration resurfaced: “I have proposed going even further than the president in extending executive action, as we forge a consensus, to pass comprehensive immigration reform. And I am opposed to the xenophobic, racist rants from people like Donald Trump, who want to take away the birthright of American-born kids and all the rest that goes with that sort of resurgence of the Know-Nothing Party.”
Putting on Webb and O’Malley when they both are scoring 2 percent of less in recent polls could be excused because both served in states in the D.C. metropolitan area. But O’Malley in the latest CBS-New York Times poll, O’Malley drew a “—“, which looks like “zero.” Rehm insulted O’Malley a little by implying he might not make the cut of the CNN Democratic debate, just as Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore didn’t make Wednesday’s second Republican debate:
REHM: If you are at two percent at that point of the first Democratic debate, will you be on the stage?
O'MALLEY: I would think so.
REHM: You would?
O'MALLEY: I would.
REHM: You don't think there's going to be a cutoff there?
O'MALLEY: I would -- I would think that given the number of people seeking the Democratic nomination, surely the Democratic Party is organized enough to be able to accommodate those candidates who've announced, especially if they've served before in the U.S. Senate or as governor.
PS: While O’Malley wouldn’t watch a single sting video on Planned Parenthood, he did enthusiastically proclaim “I love what I've read so far of the pope's encyclical on our common home, the Earth.”
O'Malley's campaign is so lackluster that he didn't even make it to the D.C. studio of Rehm's show at WAMU-FM until 16 minutes into the hour. He did the first part from his cellphone in traffic.