Politically astute Clinton takes his cue, earns respect in Canton pool game



Bill Clinton may not have carried Maryland, but he did all right in the bar owned by the family of state Sen. American Joe Miedusiewski.

The Arkansas governor and his motorcade decided to drop in at the Canton bar after dining in Little Italy the night before the primary. He had charmed American Joe just by pronouncing his name right (Med-uh-SHEF-ski), but it was when he took a pool game from the local hotshot that he began to win over the crowd.

Here's how Mr. Miedusiewski told the story on the Senate floor: "When he came in, everyone was calling him Bill. When he won the pool game, it was Governor Clinton. After he drank a draft beer and ate a codfish cake, they were calling him Mr. President."

Truth and consequences

The story you are about to read is true. The names have been omitted to protect the candid.

Senators wrestling with the budget, line by line, suddenly realized that they had cut funding earmarked for Motor Vehicles Administration services on the Eastern Shore.

Problem was, some of the same senators had voted on the floor for a bill guaranteeing those services, sponsored by the garrulous Sen. Frederick C. Malkus Jr., D-Dorchester.

"I have to vote for his bills," one of the senators said, almost apologetically. "Once I didn't, and he didn't talk to me for eight months. Which wasn't all bad; don't get me wrong."

"I hold the record," a second senator said proudly. "Once he didn't talk to me for three years."

Give that man a Xanax

Is the senator from Prince George's County named Thomas P. O'Reilly, or Thomas P. O'Riled-Up?

Over the past week, the silver-haired attorney who chairs the Senate Finance Committee has seemed a little, well, high-strung.

First, he objected strenuously to a routine request to delay, by two days, the second reading of the Senate's off-track betting bill -- sorry, the satellite-simulcast betting bill -- that had come out of his committee with 12 amendments.

(Mr. O'Reilly's impassioned plea to speed the bill along seemed especially ironic, given that he had repeatedly delayed a far less controversial bill on purchasing energy- efficient state vehicles. Mr. O'Reilly said he needed to study the issue, but every time it returned, he confessed he still hadn't done his homework.)

When the OTB returned to the floor Friday, Mr. O'Reilly had apparently decided that the best way to defeat unfriendly amendments was to hit the high notes -- literally. As his voice wavered and cracked up and down the scales, he sang the praises of the Maryland racing industry.

"It's beautiful," he repeated, mantra-like. "It's beautiful."

Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-Baltimore, couldn't match Mr. O'Reilly in sheer shrillness, but his vehement opposition to the bill was just as loud.

The high-volume exchange finally led Sen. John A. Cade to comment: "When we talked about raising the level of debate on the floor, I didn't know we were talking about the decibels."

Playing numbers in the House

When it comes to gambling this session, almost anything goes in the House of Delegates.

Although a committee killed a bill that would have allowed riverboat casinos to ply the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, the House felt more kindly toward another bill permitting an array of gambling in Frederick County.

House Bill 439 allows casino nights, tip jars and punchboard gambling by civic, veterans, hospital and athletic groups in that county.

Some of these events puzzled Del. Leon G. Billings, D-Montgomery, who asked for definitions of tip jars and the like.

"Is this legalized numbers?" Mr. Billings asked last week.

"That's one way of looking at it," replied Del. John S. Arnick, a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the Judiciary Committee.

The bill passed 98-20 Friday.

Delegates Ports-mer

They might as well be called Ports-mer, those two delegates from Baltimore County who like to vote together, sponsor bills together and ruffle feathers in Annapolis together.

James F. Ports and Alfred W. Redmer, Republicans from the 8th District, are the dynamic duo of divisiveness. They enjoy challenging what they perceive to be "The System" in Annapolis.

Last week, they took on the House Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee with their bill to limit senators and delegates to three terms in office. Some delegates took the bill personally, especially when Ports-mer argued that long-time legislators are unresponsive to their constituents.

The two were questioned sharply, but they didn't seem to mind at all.

They're together so often that a colleague on the House Judiciary Committee asked, "Which one's the sidekick?"

Paul who?

When former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas came to Annapolis last summer, Del. Carol Petzold, D-Montgomery, went a reception for him.

She didn't stay long. Something about not wanting to fall asleep on her feet. She didn't vote for him last Tuesday, either.

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