The Politics Of Thermometers

Route 2. A weekly journey through Anne Arundel County

September 25, 1990|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,SUN STAFF

The pharmacist down the street said Ed Blanton can put his latest piece of campaign literature where the sun doesn't shine.

Hoping to jump-start his bid to oust Attorney General Joseph Curran on Nov. 6, Republican candidate Blanton mailed out press releases that had a 4-inch-long thermometer taped across one corner.

"The campaign . . . is heating up," Blanton's bright yellow flier proclaimed. "Here's a handy thermometer to gauge Maryland's hottest political race this fall."

The flier is an attempt by Mark Rivers, Blanton's professional campaign manager, to explain why political reporters should take the Republican's campaign for the state's top law enforcement job seriously.

A former assistant attorney general in the late 1960s, Blanton will raise and spend over $100,000 promoting his campaign, Rivers said. And the Republican candidate will make an issue of several well-publicized criminal cases, he said. Also, River said, Blanton will try to link Curran, a Democrat, to the early release of John F. Thanos -- who has been charged with two murders, an attempted murder, two robberies and other crimes between Aug. 29 and Sept. 4. And the Republican was in Annapolis last week inquiring if Curran had a role in the early release of Steven Gregory Anderson, who has been charged with the murder of Crofton resident Gwyn Dixon Criswell.

But first they had to get the attention of political reporters, said Rivers, who had been press secretary for the Republican Party in Connecticut and flew to Maryland last week to pilot the campaign. They needed a gimmick.

Rivers immediately ordered 244 thermometers from a medical supply house and sent them to reporters across the state.

"For the most part, people didn't know (Blanton) was running," Rivers said. "I wanted people to realize it was going to be close; it's going to be hot."

But just what kind of thermometer did the Blanton campaign send out? And what message did it hope to convey?

In our newsroom, mothers of small children immediately identified the thermometer as a rectal thermometer. The pharmacist down the street confirmed their suspicions, noting the differences between the Blanton thermometer and oral thermometers on sale in the pharmacy.

Rivers laughed when asked about the controversy by a reporter. There must be some mistake, he said. The package, which he said was still sitting on his desk, clearly identified the thermometers as oral. "I would never send out an anal thermometer," Rivers said. "The ramifications would be too deep."

SOURCE: John A. Morris


Who am I?

I was reeling in a deep spiritual funk last month over this question when my automobile insurance company canceled me. They said I was some 36-year old yahoo named Robert E. Lee with a dozen accidents and traffic citations to my name.

In a panic I called the Motor Vehicle Administration and said: "Hey, what's the deal? I'm a 23-year-old yahoo named Robert E. Lee, and none of my accidents should have ever been reported on my driving record."

The apparatchik asked for my birth date and license number.

After I reeled them off, the bureaucrat assured me, "You're a 36-year-old yahoo with a '72 Catalina and a '80 Mustang. And you need to have both cars' emissions tested."

I ran to the front window to look in my parking space to make sure -- no muscle cars.

But she had seemed so certain about who I was, that MVA telecommunicator.

How could I argue? She had more proof. State computers and records corroborated her story.

All I had was an expired passport and a dog-eared Social Security card that my mom had signed on my date of birth.

Maybe she was right, and I had just been through some kind of Van Winklian blackout -- was it possible that I had been drinking mead and joy-riding with elves in the hills for the past 13 years without knowing it? A light flashed. Maybe the MVA had made a mistake.

After replacing the bulb, I headed off to stand in the epic information lines of Glen Burnie to assert my identity.

I was passed around to three different trouble-shooting specialists before being sent through the No Trespassing door to the bureau of special problems.

There, amid piles of papers and dozing state employees, was the state's identity czar.

This was the one person in the whole world whose mercy could restore my identity.

She looked at me quickly, grunted, typed a few numbers into the computer and gave me a memo confirming that I am who I say I am.

I doubt I could have ever gotten through my identity crisis without her.

SOURCE: Robert E. Lee?

GO GET YOUR FILL OF ELVIS AT T.R.'S Don't look for Elvis in the frozen foods at Safeway.

You won't catch the King behind the decaf coffee at 7-11 either.

Elvis -- the Elvis -- has been spotted, however, in a cafe in Glen Burnie. No lie.

He's still the King, or so they say at T. R.'s Corner Cafe. He's got a bit more meat on him, though -- roast beef, turkey and bacon.

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