One of the most telling quotes from Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, as his gubernatorial candidacy became mired in controversy last week, was: “I’m a big boy.”
Gansler was declaring that he can admit when he’s wrong. But the line works equally well in summarizing his decision-making, as shown in two examples recently discovered by area newspapers.
A few weeks ago, The Washington Post reported on complaints by Maryland State Police troopers assigned to drive him around. The troopers alleged that Gansler directed them to use lights and sirens so he could get places quickly. Sometimes, Gansler got antsy and flipped on the lights and sirens himself — or he’d take the wheel, the Post reported.
More recently, The Baltimore Sun published a story and photo showing Gansler standing among a roomful of teenagers at a party at a Delaware beach house.
Instead of focusing on whether he’s qualified to govern Maryland, voters have been sucked into dissecting his inclinations for driving fast and permissive parenting.
Gansler has denied the driving allegations, claiming a state police “henchman” is generating political fodder. (Wouldn’t that require a conspiracy among troopers filing false statements?)
But Gansler couldn’t refute a picture of what looked like a raucous party, possibly with alcohol.
Never mind that Gansler, 50, sounds like a teen trying to talk himself out of a grounding by his parents. The questions that accompany these controversies are real and worth debate.
Should the attorney general initiate and condone potentially illegal behavior?
Gansler might dismiss the driving controversy as dirty politics, but he should pledge unequivocally to obeying the laws of the road and not interfering as troopers do the same as part of their jobs.
As for the teen party, even outside of his jurisdiction, the attorney general should be a legal and moral model. It’s hard to fathom him knowingly participating in a plan to give teenagers free rein — likely with beer — at a rented house.
This is questionable behavior as a parent, but unthinkable as the state’s top legal officer. Gansler, commendably, has spoken out in the past against underage drinking, but he loses credibility with his regrettable permissiveness.
We look forward to returning to the issues of the gubernatorial campaign, of which there are many. First, Gansler has soul-searching and explaining to do.