Schaefer's 'not nuts,' but finds much in Md. to fault


March 25, 1991|By ROGER SIMON

Some people think he's crazy. His popularity has plummeted. And his legislation is being killed. But William Donald Schaefer says he is not going to change.

Got that? What you have seen before, what you see now, is what you are going to get for the next three years.

"I'm feeling good," Schaefer said, sitting down at a back table at the Towson Inn on York Road. "And I'm not nuts. I'll never have a clearer mind than I have now. Some people would like to use me as a whipping boy to cover their own inadequacies. But I am saner than most members of the legislature."

Big deal. Who isn't?

"The Sunpapers say my popularity is down to 35 percent?" he said. "That's not accurate, but I don't care. Because it's going down to 2 percent! So get ready."

Schaefer spoke for 70 minutes on Friday. He dismissed the rampant rumors that he was depressed because of any personal events in his life or the lives of those close to him.

He sharply attacked the speaker of the Maryland House and the president of the Maryland Senate, saying they were ruining the Democratic Party, and he accused his lieutenant governor of "betrayal."

He also accused the legislature of trying to trap him into instituting taxes next year to make up for an anticipated $363 million deficit. But he said he was not going to fall for the trap: He was going to force the legislature to institute taxes on its own.

But his biggest disappointment, he indicated, was with the people of the Eastern Shore, a place he has considered a second home for 30 years. And when I asked him if he was therefore considering selling his Ocean City residence, he said with real sadness in his voice: "Most likely I will."

And where will you go instead? I asked. Garrett County?

"Well, I didn't win Garrett County," he said with a small smile. "But I won Allegany. And both of them are very beautiful. Very, very beautiful."

He admitted to having made a serious political mistake in criticizing rather than celebrating his 60 percent victory in his re-election campaign. And he also admitted to some depression in the past.

But he said that depression was now over. And his overall tone was not sad or gloomy. It was more like battered yet resolute.

"I go to a National Governors Association meeting and I am a big man," he said. "A big man. The other governors say Maryland has some of the best programs in America. I walk in there, I'm somebody. I was the only governor invited to Kuwait. The president of the United States approved my trip. But you know what they say: You are never a king in your own kingdom.

"For a while I was depressed, down. But now I'm not. Take the nutty things I have been doing. Roger, I have been doing nutty things for 30 years.

"They say I send nasty letters to people? Well, I've sent nice letters to people, too. And I've visited people in their homes for 30 years. I go to old people who can't get somebody to fix their house and I find somebody to fix it.

"I go to people who can't pay their mortgages, and I get the bank to carry them for a few months. I go to people with no heat. I go to people who are having trouble with their kids."

But then why write the nasty letters and make the nasty visits at all? I asked.

"I have written nasty letters to people who have sent nasty letters to me," he said. "They call me 'Governor Sh-tfer,' so I write back 'Numbrain.' Yes, I do it. And you know what?"


"I'd do it again! I'd do it again because I am a human being. I am a human being that cares about people. And I am almost at the end of my career."

But if you keep writing those letters and making those visits, aren't people going to continue to think you're crazy?

"OK, OK, so I know I can't do that anymore," he said and then

paused to pour himself a cup of tea. "But I will do it!" he continued. "And the press will never know. People want me to come and visit them and write them. They say: 'Help me! Help me! I've got a son in prison. I've got a mother I need to get into a

nursing home!'

"And you know the thing that got me in all the trouble, calling the Eastern Shore a sh - thouse? Well I couldn't believe it. People from the Eastern Shore have told me to my face that nothing good ever came out of Baltimore. They have used epithets for black people. They have called me a 'chicken-necker.' And you know what I have done for the Eastern Shore?"

Schaefer recited a long list including the construction of the Denton bypass, the construction or repair of a number of bridges, the creation of jobs, computers for schoolchildren, etc.

"And now they treat me like a dog on the Eastern Shore!" he said.

But you've been a politician for decades, I said. So how come it's a revelation to you that the public is fickle and that people can be ungrateful? How come a savvy politician doesn't know that?

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