Several months ago, I e-mailed my Governor, Martin O’Malley of Maryland, regarding the Real ID Act of 2005. In response, I received a letter today from the Office of the Secretary of the Md. Department of Transportation written in his (O’Malley’s) behalf. Sending in the B Team, I guess, although I have to admit that most government officials – I speak from personal experience here – don’t even acknowledge receiving letters or e-mails. I did have one U.S Senator from Md. who answered an e-mail; with an e-mail on a topic unrelated to the question I had asked. The only other person who ever responded to an e-mail was Rep. Wexler, who is running for re-election in Florida, and who has without a doubt the most personable and pleasant staff imaginable answering public queries. So a nod to Wexler.
Anyway, I got a letter from the DOT of Md. – a real letter! on real paper! with a letterhead and everything! and they paid the going rate for postage! – which reads that while they “understand your concerns regarding implementation of the REAL ID Act in Md., Gov. O’Malley directed the Md. DOT and MVA to create a driver’s license and identification card that fully complies with the federal REAL ID Act and its associated regulations.” Some of the associated regulations cannot be implemented until around 2017 or so for the simple reason that the technology required by the law does not currently exist, but such a trivial point is mean-spirited nay-saying. I mean, heck, the US Air Force has claimed Outer Space as part of its protectorate; why NOT go for broke? The letter explains that O’Malley wanted Marylanders to be able to use their driver’s licenses as “federally recognized forms of identification” and that the Md. DOT is currently evaluating the 300 pages of federal guidelines from the Dept. of Homeland Security that will govern the REAL ID program. The sheer length of the missive obviously impresses them more than it does me. Although it’s a tried and true means to getting a law passed: make the sucker so long no-one will actually read it before signing it. Hey, it worked when the DOJ printed a long report explaining why there were no valid reasons to invade Iraq. When asked if she’d read the whole report before voting yes to giving Bush go-to-war nod, Hillary Clinton snapped, “The report was over 200 pages long! No-one had time to read the whole thing!” (Actually, the 7 Senators who DID read the whole magillah all voted no.) Then there is a lengthy paragraph discussing public safety and the need to prove residence and the curtailing of fraudulent use of ID’s (and,with no apparent irony intended, this paragraph makes it clear that state MVA employees will be deciding who is legal and who is not; so, yeah, THOSE are the people who should be making these judgments and keeping us all safe. I’m just sayin’.) Of course, there is nothing in the letter regarding O’Malley’s previous opinion, which he stated publicly, that the Real ID Act is an erosion of rights and troublesome legislation; the tone of the whole letter suggests that there was never a question.
In the end, I am thanked for my e-mail and assured the Gov appreciates hearing from me on this very important issue. Not enough to respond himself, mind you, but just enough to have someone many, many miles away from the Governor’s mansion send a letter! on real paper! with a letterhead and everything!
O’Malley caved. He always does eventually. Like all politicians, he makes a public statement on “his position” on an issue, then within a week or two, approves a law that reflects the exact opposite of said position.
If I were a doctor, I’d specialize in spinal replacement research. We’ve got a whole gang of public servants in all 50 states and Washington whose spines seem to have gone missing.