- - Sunday, December 8, 2019

In the era of social media — where videos gone “viral” are the currency of the realm — hyper-partisanship, and, dare we say, symptoms of Trump Derangement Syndrome everywhere, political harassment is in vogue. Trump administration officials are routinely heckled and harassed in public places, like restaurants. This obnoxious behavior is corrosive of our democratic society. Political differences here are supposed to be debated, discussed and ultimately voted on. Public harassment has no place in an open society.

Most of the harassment of conservatives and Trump administration officials has come from ordinary civilians — not political types. But late last month, a more grave line was crossed. A prominent public official — a two-term governor of a state, former mayor of a major city and an erstwhile presidential candidate — lit into a Trump administration official in a bar in a wild rant. This deplorable display represented a new low in the annals of American politics, circa 2019.

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting Homeland Security deputy secretary, said he was the victim Wednesday night at a Washington bar of a bigoted screaming jag and a challenge to fight from a prominent former Democratic presidential hopeful,” this newspaper reported. “Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley lost control of his temper, apparently over immigration policy, and began using slurs against Italians, according to Mr. Cuccinelli’s account of the events at the Dubliner bar on Capitol Hill.

“‘O’Malley pushed his way through the small group to confront me face to face, still cursing me, the President, and my Italian ancestry and he got right up in my face, bumped up against me and invited me to take a swing at him,’ Mr. Cuccinelli said. Mr. Cuccinelli’s reply, he told The Times, was: ‘Martin, one of us has to rise above this, and it’s obviously not going to be you.’”

Ken Cuccinelli, in his role at the Department of Homeland Security, has oversight over some of the nation’s immigration enforcement policies. Martin O’Malley has every right to disagree with the way Mr. Cuccinelli is performing in his job and to detest the fact that he is working for what Mr. O’Malley has termed a “fascist president.” He accused Mr. Cuccinelli of putting children in “cages,” a policy that dates to the Obama administration.

But Martin O’Malley is not entitled to terrorize Mr. Cuccinelli in a public space — and certainly not to cast disparaging remarks about the deputy Homeland Security secretary’s ethnic heritage.

Just as Mr. O’Malley has every right to criticize Mr. Cuccinelli’s record, we also have every right to point out that Mr. O’Malley performed miserably as governor of the Old Line State. So badly, in fact, that when it was time for him to slink off the stage, Maryland voters, some of the nation’s most Democratic, actually did the unthinkable and elected a Republican. A more resounding verdict could scarcely be imagined. Besides starting arguments in bars, Mr. O’Malley’s chief passion appeared to be raising taxes. He soaked Maryland residents repeatedly.

Nor was his record as Baltimore mayor stellar. Baltimore is a beautiful, historic city that many fear is now in something approaching terminal decline. As mayor, he did nothing to turn around its failing schools, high crime rate, nor did he stanch the population decline that has been hollowing out the city for decades. It’s little wonder that his 2016 presidential candidate exploded on the launch pad.

People of good faith can disagree on the matters facing our country. But Mr. O’Malley’s outburst shows that “good faith” is not his standard operating procedure.

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