When Bill Clinton wrote to a rising Democratic political star back in 2002 that “I won’t be surprised if you go all the way” to the White House, he had no way of knowing that Martin O’Malley would end up throwing his hat into the presidential ring against Hillary Clinton.
That’s just what he did on Saturday. Although O’Malley has long been friendly with the Clintons and even endorsed Secretary Clinton’s presidential bid back in 2008 over Barack Obama, he now thinks he’s the man for the job.
O’Malley certainly harbors no illusions about his chances. On the eve of his announcement, he told a reporter, “I’m drawn to tough challenges, and this one is certainly a tough challenge.”
Relations between O’Malley and Secretary Clinton remain cordial—at least for now. She welcomed him to the race via Twitter, and he tweeted back that he was “eager to engage in a healthy debate about our visions for America.”
Name: Martin Joseph O’Malley
Date of Birth: January 18, 1963
Place of Birth: Washington, D.C.
Political Party: Democratic Party
Marital Status: Married to Katie
Children: Grace, Tara, William and Jack
Alma Mater: Catholic University (B.A.); University of Maryland School of Law (J.D.)
Career: Governor of Maryland (2007-2015); Mayor of Baltimore (1999-2007); Baltimore City Councilman (1991-1999)
Twitter Handle: @GovernorOMalley
O’Malley kicked off his campaign with an event in Baltimore’s inner harbor. Foreign policy merited just 100 words in the speech. He instead focused on his intention to take on Wall Street, corporate interests, and political dynasties in a bid to “rebuild the American Dream.”
You can watch O’Malley’s announcement here.
Foreign Policy Views
Like most governors, O’Malley has a slim foreign policy résumé. Reporters have tried to draw him out on what he would do about the Islamic State, the rise of China, the Ukraine crisis, and other global challenges. So far he has been reluctant to respond, preferring to talk about domestic policy. On a trip to Israel in 2013, he told the press:
I’m sure all of you will ask me foreign policy questions.… I respect your right to ask them, and I hope you’ll respect my right to shy away from answering them.
Salon drew O’Malley out a bit on foreign policy in a March interview. He decried the letter that 47 Republican senators sent to Iran as “outrageous behavior.” When asked what he would do about the Islamic State, Libya, Syria and related issues, he opted for generalities:
I think our most effective foreign policy is a foreign policy of constant engagement around the world, and deploying our considerable diplomatic power, and our economic power, in accordance with our principles. I think we do our men and women in the military a tremendous disservice when we ignore problems until the only solution left to us is a military solution. I think we may well make the world less safe by a quick resort to toppling regimes without the more painstaking work of building economies.
When the interviewer pushed for specifics, O’Malley offered that “over the course of the next couple of months we’ll be laying out a number of policy speeches, almost certainly on national security and foreign policy.” When that happens, expect O’Malley to opt for policies that emphasize American restraint rather than American activism:
I don’t think we should take on the unilateral responsibility of declaring when political leaders do or do not have to go in other countries. Yes, we have to stand up to evil and atrocities but we are at our best when we do that in coordination with allies in the region. And I think that’s what President Obama and John Kerry are attempting to do with ISIS. We should be there in coalition, but it would be counterproductive to make this only our fight.
To judge by O’Malley’s campaign announcement speech, he plans to call his foreign policy approach the New Foreign Policy of Engagement and Collaboration.
O’Malley has spoken out on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). He opposes it. He says:
We must stop entering into bad trade deals that hurt middle class wages and ship middle class jobs overseas. And we certainly shouldn’t be fast tracking failed deals.
He adds that voters “deserve to know where leaders stand” on the TPP, a statement that has been widely interpreted as a shot a Secretary Clinton, who thus far has declined to pick sides on the TPP debate.
Like most Democrats, O’Malley favors government action to address climate change, which he says is “transforming the world in profound ways that continue to evolve.” He has endorsed President Obama’s use of the executive power to curb the emission of heat-trapping gases.
O’Malley favors comprehensive immigration reform. As governor, he backed measures to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and to pay in-state tuition. In his speech announcing his presidential bid, he said:
For the sake of our country’s security, and our country’s well-being, and our country’s economic growth, we must also bring 11 million of our neighbors out of the shadows by passing comprehensive immigration reform.
O’Malley took to Twitter to applaud Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba. He tweeted: “Diplomacy creates opportunities. Embargoes don’t.”
More on O’Malley
The New York Times has “Martin O’Malley on the Issues.” The Washington Post has “7 Things to Know About Martin O’Malley.” NPR has “5 Things You Should Know About Martin O’Malley.” The Baltimore Sun and Washington Post summarize O’Malley’s legacy. The Washington Post lays out the challenges ahead for O’Malley as he seeks the nomination.
James M. Lindsay is senior vice president, director of studies and the Maurice R. Greenberg chair at the Council on Foreign Relations. This article first appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations site.
In the same series, by the same author, Ted Cruz: All You Need to Know, Rand Paul: All You Need to Know, Marco Rubio: All You Need to Know, Carly Fiorina: All You Need to Know, Ben Carson: All You Need to Know, Mike Huckabee: All You Need to Know and Hillary Clinton: All You Need to Know.
Rachael Kauss assisted in the preparation of this post.