"Attorneys for state Sen. Ulysses S. Currie, on trial for extortion and related charges, began his defense Monday by calling a witness who portrayed the Prince George's County legislator as endlessly pleasant, but not very bright."
— The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 18.
Whoa. This is a game changer. No question, carved in stone, ironclad lock, write this date down, because if stupid is a now a legitimate defense for our politicians, all bets are off.
On the stand, former Maryland Del. Tim Maloney put it this way: "On the smart scale, (Currie) is right at the bottom." (Hello. Your columnist here: Sorry for the intrusion, but this statement is false, and I have proof, but more on that later.) "On the nice (scale), he's right at the top."
Maloney testified that Currie was "not very astute," his communication skills are "just not good," and "no one would call him smart."
Currie is accused of participating in a $245,000 bribery scheme, and appears to be taking the Homer Simpson defense as opposed to disputing the facts.
I don't think that too many people suffer from the delusion that the halls or our legislatures are packed with wizards. But the extent of the ignorance might come as a surprise, and Currie's case brings it right out in the open as matter of fact and public record.
Now, any little misstep from any of our elected officials can be rinsed away with a simple "Hi, I'm a lawmaker, I'm dumb, look at me."
A former colleague broke it down into thirds: A third of the General Assembly was on the ball and did all the work; a third went to Annapolis mostly to party, and a third couldn't really explain what they were doing there if you put a gun to their heads.
When I was in Annapolis — in the days when journalism was a lot more fun — reporters would hold an annual "Dumb-Off," patterned after March Madness. We chose the 64 stupidest lawmakers, seeded them and placed them in regional brackets. Then we kept track of every silly thing they said for the next three weeks and advanced them accordingly.
Currie was a delegate at that time, and as hinted at above, I don't remember him even making the field. I mean, he might have been a 15 seed or something, but would have been quickly knocked out in the first round by an Eastern Shore powerhouse.
Of course, this might have been because Currie never said much about anything at all. Reporters were more charitable to quiet stupidity than we were toward what a reporter for the Washington Post called the "aggressively stupid."
It was one thing just to sit at your desk all session, silently wetting the tip of your index finger and dipping it in onion soup mix. But it was quite another to stand up on the House floor and argue passionately against an amendment that you yourself had originally introduced.
Best I can explain it is that it's kind of the difference between Floyd the Barber and Barney Fife.
However, every so often, one of the dark-horse quiet types would up and make a run. I remember one Montgomery County delegate who went through the session in a virtual coma, except, for some reason, when a bill to change the Maryland state motto came to the floor. To everyone's shock she went all pit bull on us and made it all the way to the Elite Eight.
So I'll be curious to see how Currie's case plays out. He could have the best of both worlds: Electable, but not convictable.
Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tune in to the Rowland Rant on www.herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.