King William Donald I

February 08, 1991

"I guess you're never a king in your own kingdom." -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

"During a National Governors' Association meeting in Washington this week, Schaefer told some of his colleagues that the only way to cure states' displeasure with federal policies on health care and local aid would be for him to take over the White House." -- News item.

"I'm reminded of a line from Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar.' 'Upon what meat doth this our Caesar feed, that he is grown so great?' " -- Kent County News Editor H. Hurtt Deringer.

In response to questions about the state of his mental health, Governor Schaefer said Wednesday, "my mind's as clear as it's ever been." The question arose on a radio talk show in Baltimore after several well-publicized acts by the governor suggesting he might be, well, unhealthily over-sensitive to the slings and arrows of democratic debate. Also maybe self-inflated to the point of bursting.

He fired off critical and, we would say, abusive letters to private citizens who had written letters critical of him to the editors of newspapers in Annapolis and Westminster. He wrote an offensive letter to a woman who says she gave him a thumbs down gesture as she drove by a campaign event. (He says it was an obscene gesture.) He described the Eastern Shore, which voted against him last year, in scatological terms to members of the General Assembly from the shore.

Let's sort all this out.

1. One politician using jocular, derisive or even menacing foul language to another in private is no big deal. We're surprised at the shoremen for taking it so seriously.

2. A governor has a right to respond to private citizens who criticize him in letters to the editor. The proper way is with his own letter to the editor.

3. Tracking down a motorist through the Motor Vehicle Administration just to insult her crosses the line of proportionality and propriety. It may even violate state law.

Mr. Schaefer is not the first politician to react so viscerally to criticism. He is constantly in the public eye. At the moment, he is the object of much public criticism. That may account for some of his outbursts. Sensitive? Yes. Explosive? Yes. Occasionally profane? Yes. But crazy? Sure, like a fox.

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