The Washington Post's 2,300-word profile of Martin O'Malley left me in a state of confusion. How does one write about a talkative Irish guy who speaks of his "Jesuit ideal of being 'a man for others'" without mentioning his religious affiliation or exploring how this shaped his political philosophy? Every indication in the article suggests that O'Malley is a Catholic, but reporter Paul Duggan seems content writing around the edges of this aspect of O'Malley's life.
Consider the article's opening:
In the synagogue meeting hall, the candidate's rhetoric has taken flight. "If there is a motto to the O'Malley-Brown campaign," says the Baltimore mayor, the poet-pol who would be governor, "then it is found in the eyes and faces of the people we seek to serve."
The congregants of B'nai Israel in Rockville came to the Sunday morning forum with earnest questions on the issues, and Martin O'Malley, the great hope of Maryland's Democratic Party, gave them answers, on roads and schools, crime and health care.
Now, in closing, as often happens, he's into oratory.
"While concepts of healing the world -- tikkun olam, tzedakah, justice -- are clearly Judeo concepts, they are also human concepts," says O'Malley, a singer-songwriter of Irish folk music. "They are guardians of the freedom of the human spirit and the proof of what our human frailty can achieve."
The closest we get to exploring O'Malley's religious beliefs is that in his campaign he has cited his Jesuit ideals, which were formed while at Gonzaga College High School. There are also a couple of vague references to "faith." We also learn that O'Malley was a Catholic University student. His website says that he, his wife and four kids attend St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.
O'Malley's religious convictions seem to run deep, but we're not told that. Do they affect his political philosophy? All we have to work with are his vague notions of ideals and being a man for all people.
Now this may seem like a relatively trivial issue outside of Maryland, but O'Malley has been one of the most visible mayors in the country. If he gains the bully pulpit of leading a state adjacent to the massive media scrum that is Washington, D.C., we should expect to hear a lot more from him.
His friends have suggested a potential 2012 presidential campaign could be in the works (yes, I know it's too early for that kind of talk). No doubt if O'Malley rises to that level, his rebellious Irish streak and "Jesuit ideals" will receive more than a passing notice.
Top photo courtesy of O'Malley's campaign website, taken at Bethel A.M.E. Church in Cambridge, Md.