To put the best spin on it, one could say that Gov. William Donald Schaefer plays the good cop and Helen Bentley, Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes play the bad cops in dealing with foreigners. The governor wants trade; the Maryland lawmakers want protectionism.
The governor is just back from a trip to the Far East where Japanese President Toshiki Kaifu bluntly told him: "If you are so interested in international trade, speak to your two senators." Mr. Kaifu evidently could not bring himself to mention Representative Bentley, the Second District Republican who is well-known in Japan for smashing a Toshiba TV set with a sledgehammer in front of the Capitol in Washington.
Mr. Kaifu's comments should be taken to heart. Governor Schaefer has gone on nine trips abroad trying to drum up investment in Maryland and commerce through the Port of Baltimore. Next on his agenda is a fall visit to Mexico, which is now negotiating with the United States and Canada to create a North American Free Trade Association. But while Mr. Schaefer goes about his travels, Maryland's two Democratic senators plus Mrs. Bentley and a few other Marylanders in the House vote protectionist on key legislative issues.
The latest instance came just before the governor's Asian trip when President Bush sought to extend his existing authority to negotiate trade agreements that have to be voted up or down by Congress, without being torn apart, piece by piece, by the special interests lobbying Capitol Hill. Mr. Bush prevailed, over the opposition of Senators Mikulski and Sarbanes and Congresswoman Bentley. Had he been defeated, the Mexico negotiations and a new worldwide General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade would have been stymied.
Mr. Schaefer assured the Japanese prime minister that he will talk to the Maryland delegation about the two faces on trade this state presents to the world. We wish him luck but doubt he will have much. Ms. Mikulski and Mr. Sarbanes usually listen more carefully to what the ultra-protectionist AFL-CIO has to say than to trade advocates who want to lower barriers. Ms. Bentley favors hardball treatment of foreign nations, especially Japan, that she feels are destroying the U.S. economic position.
The governor, being the governor, is less concerned with theory than with results. He knows that Maryland needs investment, that Maryland businessmen abroad need entry and that a reputation for enlightened trade policy will bring a practical payoff for the state's economy. He is right. Maryland needs good cops, not bad cops.