As a retired U.S. Army officer, I employ an information-gathering technique that I learned in the military called “Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield” (IPB). With IPB, an officer measures gathered information against a set of criteria to make crucial decisions on the battlefield. I find that IPB is equally useful for political considerations. When deciding on whether a candidate will earn my vote, I use three criteria to guide me: does the Candidate have (1) integrity; (2) respect for others; and, as we say in the Army, (3) the ability to “know what right looks like.” These criteria led to my 2016 decision to abandon my life-long party and become as a Democrat. It was perhaps the best informed and most rewarding decision of my life. I have recently used IPB to decide whether County Executive Steve Schuh meets my criteria and if he has earned my vote.
After recently attending a few public forums with the candidates, I find the similarities between Schuh and Trump, especially regarding their overinflated view of their accomplishments, are becoming clear. During the President’s Sept. 25, 2018 address to the annual United Nations, Trump said “in less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” drawing laughter and head shakes from UN members. Similarly, Mr. Schuh boasts of the raises he has given teachers in AA County when in fact the raise amounted to 0.12 percent over a three-year period (2016-18, adjusted for inflation). Such a boast should warrant laughter as well if it were not for the sad truth that it adversely affects the lives of so many teachers (and by extension children) in our county. According to Richard Benfer of the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, Schuh’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal “…is insufficient to reverse the harm he has done during his time in office as teacher pay plummeted to the lowest in any urban district in Maryland.” A candidate who uses exaggeration as a campaign ploy is not a candidate with integrity.
Respect for Others
Schuh operates in a partisan manner and his lack of respect for his colleagues has received more than one rebuke. Aptly put by the Capital Editorial Board, Schuh’s “my-way-or-you’re-an-idiot” attitude prompted their appeal to him to “put away personal animosity.” Similar to Trump, when Schuh is questioned and feels threatened, he resorts to name calling and bullying tactics. Examples, such as calling concerns about transparency “boneheaded” or worse, calling a high school student who questioned his policy on teacher’s pay “another dumb kid” mimicking adults, are indicative of his true character. His penchant for vengeance has cost the county one very respected administrative hearing officer, two county auditors, 52 firefighter positions and probably others who have felt his wrath but are too timid to step forward. Respect for others is not something Mr. Schuh seems to value.
Like Mr. Trump, Schuh is loyal to those who give him unwavering support, even when the decent thing to do is walk away. Why, for example, would Schuh financially back Michael Peroutka, an extremist who calls public schools a “culture of death” and who pushes for all county children to be home schooled? Schuh’s job as County Executive is to champion our public schools, not disparage them! But we must conclude that as a student of Peroutka’s extreme ideology and a graduate of Peroutka’s Constitution Institute, Schuh holds ideas that are equally as radical. Schuh stood by Peroutka, even after their own party ousted Peroutka in the primaries. Schuh also supported the dangerous “Personhood” Resolution, which showed complete disregard and a lack of respect for the women of our county. Again, I ponder why the entire GOP, even those at the county level, whose job description does not include health, put so much effort into controlling women’s reproductive organs. Later I learned that Mr. Schuh’s extreme view of abortion is not new. As a delegate in 2011, he was one of the co-sponsors of a constitutional amendment which would have made abortion illegal in Maryland even in the cases of rape and incest. This is an extreme stance even by most pro-life advocates. Finally, despite calls to disavow his words, Schuh has refused to take a moral stand on council member John Grasso’s recent Islamophobic Facebook rants. It is abundantly obvious that Schuh is as much of an extremist as his friend.
Knowing what right looks like
Finally, Mr. Schuh’s lack of judgment and failure to “know what right looks like” has been amply demonstrated by his continued close association with his mentor, former county executive and ex-convict, John Leopold. Schuh, well-schooled by Leopold, carried over 18 staff members from the disgraced former county executive’s administration. According to the Capital Leopold was thrilled Schuh had helped to “carry out” his vision. Forget the fact that such carryovers from one administration to the next smell fishy, should the residents of the county be thrilled that an ex-convict’s vision is carried on via Mr. Schuh? In 2017, Schuh appointed Leopold to serve on the disability commission, possibly helping Leopold lay groundwork for another run for office. This is not “what right looks like.” This is what cronyism looks like.
A final disqualifying factor to me was seeing a picture of Mr. Schuh, as the face of Maryland’s Republican Party, cast his electoral vote for Donald Trump and personally attend the Inauguration. Mr. Schuh, I assure you that none of this is “what right looks like.”
In closing, the IPB skills that have served me well as an officer in the Army continue to assist me as I make informed, value-based decisions about whether a candidate deserves my vote. Steve Schuh’s behavior consistently fails to satisfy my three key criteria: integrity, respect and knowing “what right looks like.” After applying the same criteria to Steuart Pittman, I am confident in my judgment and will follow the fire, police and teachers, all of whom have endorsed Pittman for County Executive, to cast my vote for him at the polls in November. It is now very clear to me these public servants clearly “Know What Right Looks Like.”
The author, who wishes to remain anonymous, served 20 years in the U.S. Army and has lived in Anne Arundel County since 2001.