Petty, Petty, Petty

July 26, 1992

When the president doesn't call on time, our governor gets cranky. And angry. And petty.

Very, very petty.

That seems to be the reason Maryland's government is operating under a gag order that bars bureaucrats from answering questions from the media, or legislators, unless the communication is cleared through the governor's office. Even our recent inquiries on wild ducks and bungee jumping have run into a stone wall from state employees terrified they would lose their jobs if they answered such simple questions without getting the okay from William Donald Schaefer himself.

And it all started because George Bush didn't telephone Mr. Schaefer on schedule.

Mr. Schaefer, you see, loves "good news" publicity. And he loves to stage-manage announcements so he gets the most favorable and admiring publicity. That's why his minions arranged with the White House for President Bush to phone the governor in the middle of a press conference to inform Mr. Schaefer that Maryland had been granted the second-ever federal waiver to reform its welfare program.

What a PR stunt! What headlines he'd receive!

There was only one small problem: The phone call never came. It turns out the president was too busy to chat that day. The governor just didn't rank high enough on the president's priority list.

So the Schaefer press conference fizzled. The welfare reform waiver came through later that day, by which time no one was paying much attention, and Mr. Schaefer was so peeved he didn't even participate in the announcement. So much for all that great publicity.

Then the governor got mad. And he exploded. From now on, he told his cabinet, no news of any sort would be released without his approval.

Once again, our governor comes across as a most petty fellow. A publicity stunt falls flat and he takes out his anger on everyone around him. He can't get good publicity for himself, so he sets himself up as the Ultimate Censor. What a way to run a government.

We have just one word of advice -- to Mr. Bush, not to Mr. Schaefer: next time, please call your friend Don at the pre-arranged time. There's nothing worse than a sulking, pouting governor. And, Mr. President, you ought to know what we're talking about. You've got kids of your own.

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