03/20/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Maryland's Presidential Governor

martin o'malley chesapeake.jpg

I'm down blogging today at the Hard Bean Coffee & Booksellers Cafe in Annapolis, Maryland on what is a beautiful day to think about Martin Luther King, Jr. My hunch is that if the great reverend were around on his own day, I think he'd be tearing down other walls of discrimination, particularly Don't Ask Don't Tell prohibiting military service by "out" gay men and women.

But driving out here from Washington, I was impressed with the quality of roads and "the look" of Highway 50. I have a couple of places I hide in Maryland -- one in Chestertown, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore and another way at the tip of the opposite end of the state in McHenry, Maryland near Deep Creek Lake.

These hideaways are on completely different ends of this state, but the roads are fantastic, and the greenery is well tended between those two ends. I bet there are folks reading this who know pot holes or bad roads that frustrate them -- but sorry, Maryland really does a great job taking care of its infrastructure compared to many other states I have visited.

Maryland's public schools have also been ranked this last week by Education Week as the best in the nation -- highlighting Maryland's ongoing commitment to fully funding education and raising teacher salaries despite the severe economic conditions today.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley deserves a great deal of credit for this. I razz him sometimes -- but he's one of the few governors I know who works hard at public policy and thinks things through.

One of the recent areas of action by O'Malley that has won him praise from most quarters is taking action to restore the oyster beds in Chesapeake Bay. I heard about this from none other than Obama National Security Adviser General Jim Jones and his wife Diane who clearly prefer their time at their home on the Chesapeake Bay to the Washington scene. They are thrilled that O'Malley is working to get the oyster beds back in shape -- and I am too.

Healthy environments, healthy communities, healthy schools, healthy people -- I think that's how it goes.

I've been privileged to sit in on one of the Governor's policy salon dinners that asked tough questions about how to make Maryland a bigger player in climate change policy -- and how to deal with the business community in a fair, square way in reaching those goals. Those around the table were as eclectic as the challenge -- and the Governor and his wife were really into the discussion. So was former presidential candidate and Colorado US Senator Gary Hart for whom O'Malley was once an advance man.

I have no idea if anything lurks in Martin O'Malley's past that would preempt a run for the White House. We seem to want a purity of spirit and behavior in our elected officials that seems completely unrealistic to me -- but that said, what I can say is that O'Malley is of the policy caliber and demonstrates a rare management excellence over a large and effective state bureaucracy that makes him a very credible candidate for the US presidency.

Blue T-shirt wearing gun freedom advocates, of Maryland Shall Issue, who want to deter crime by everyone carrying around a pistol in a visible holster have descended on the Annapolis State House today -- and some are in the coffee shop now. They seem like nice folks other than that I think they are a bit off on gun proliferation -- but O'Malley seems to manage the competing factions on handguns, environmental regulation, gay rights, education, and health care very well without selling his soul.

President Obama should spend some time in Annapolis checking in with Martin O'Malley and his operation here.

O'Malley should have the President to a policy discussion in the Governor's Mansion (and invite me). With all due respect to President Obama who is working these issues hard, I think he might learn some things about how both to achieve policy results while keeping a base of reasonable centrists and progressives on board.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note. Clemons can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons