Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Not Ready for Prime Time

Right now the only Democrat running for Governor of Ohio is Columbus mayor, Michael Coleman. An incident last week shows that the Democrats are in a lot of trouble.

First some background. In Miflin High School, four boys attacked a developmentally disabled girl and forced her to have oral sex with two of them while a third video taped it. When this was reported to the school administration, they tried to hush it up. They wanted to call the non-emergency number instead of 911 so that reporters would be less likely to hear about it. By the time police responded, the administrators had left for the day. The principal was busy in a meeting and could not be disturbed by something trivial like a sexual assault on school grounds. Her meeting was with her boss but, when informed of the crime, she didn't bother to tell the boss. State laws were broken.

So what happened to these people? The administrators were given a short training, a two week suspension, and transferred to another school. The principal is under review and may be fired.

Enter talk radio show host Glenn Beck. Beck who has a disabled daughter wanted to know why the people most closely involved got off so lightly. He wanted to hear from the Mayor. But he couldn't get a hold of Coleman so he did a bit with his producer playing the mayor.

Coleman heard about it and called Beck. Beck asked what Coleman was doing about the school administrators? Nothing - Coleman is in charge of the police, not the schools. Ok, what about the investigation? Well, Coleman isn't involved in that either. He also admitted that he sent his kids to Catholic school (and no, he isn't Catholic).

Ok, Beck asked, "Mayor, as a man and a father, aren't you outraged by this incident?" This was Coleman's chance. He had come across badly but he could have talked about how this incident should not have happened, how the school administrators need to worry more about helping students than PR work for the school system. He could have promised to meet with the School Board about the incident.

But he didn't. Instead he asked, "Are you questioning my manhood?"

Beck had done no such thing. He was trying to get some reaction from the Mayor about a nasty incident that happened in Coleman's back yard, figuratively.

In fairness to Coleman, Ohio schools are run by the local school board which is only answerable to the state. As mayor, he has no direct authority over them. As governor, he would so the exchange could have been a good place to talk about what he would do as governor to make schools safer. He missed his chance.

Coleman won his last election unopposed but when running for his first term he ran on an education platform. At the time it seemed like he was a bit confused himself about who ran the schools. One of his first actions was to create a new department of education within the city to work with the school board.

Given all this, it's hard to explain why Coleman distanced himself so far from the incident.

One possibility is Coleman's temper. He has a bad one. I now people who have been on the receiving end if it. He may well have heard Beck's producer playing Coleman and called without any idea of what he was going to say.

It has also been a while since Coleman had to put up with any dissent. He's in his sixth year as mayor and he shared his campaign money in order to pack City Council with Democrats. He may be out of practice in dealing with hostile conservatives.

None of this helps his case for being governor. His likely opponent, Ken Blackwell, held his own against a Congressional panel investigating the election. Could Coleman have stood up to such pressure? Not based on this appearance.

Blackwell's campaign web site has already posted audio files of Coleman on Beck's show.

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