Schaefer is becoming a man without a city

WILEY A. HALL

November 03, 1992|By WILEY A. HALL

Some people say Gov. William Donald Schaefer sold his soul to the Republicans in exchange for a ride to Missouri on the presidential jet.

Others believe the governor, feeling unloved and unwanted in his home state, went scurrying off to President Bush because Mr. Bush was the last person to show him kindness.

But I believe the real reason Governor Schaefer last weekend endorsed the president's apparently doomed bid for re-election was spite. It was yet another manifestation of Mr. Schaefer's ancient enmity toward Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The governor has shown these past few years that he will not allow his personal feelings about Mayor Schmoke to harm the city. Other than that, Governor Schaefer has become Governor Contrary. If Mr. Schmoke shouts "yes," the governor must holler "no." If the mayor prays for sunshine, Mr. Schaefer does a rain dance.

Early in the Democratic primaries, Mr. Schmoke threw his support behind Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. It was inevitable, then, that Mr. Schaefer -- a lifelong Democrat and the leader of his party in Maryland -- would hurl himself into the camp of Mr. Clinton's opponent.

And believe me, we haven't seen the last of Mr. Schaefer's contrariness: Look for the governor to don a sweat suit and baseball cap and start flouncing around Annapolis in Nike high-tops, in defiance of the dark suits, suspenders and sensible shoes favored by the mayor. Look for the governor to renounce his allegiance to City College -- where both men attended high school -- and root for arch-rival Poly in this year's Thanksgiving Day football game.

It is spite -- ugly, irrational and petty -- that gnaws at Governor Schaefer's tortured soul. And what, you ask, has the mayor done to inspire such bitterness? I'll tell you: Mayor Schmoke took former mayor Schaefer's city away from him.

Before Mr. Schmoke, Mr. Schaefer had been the Big Man in Baltimore, the local folk hero, the fabled architect of the city's fabled renaissance. But as Mr. Schmoke's political star began to shine, Mr. Schaefer's began to dim. Many believe it was Mr. Schmoke's advent on the political horizon that forced Mr. Schaefer to abandon his beloved City Hall and run for governor. Then Mr. Schmoke handily beat Mr. Schaefer's hand-picked successor, Clarence H. "Du" Burns.

What's worse, Mr. Schmoke succeeded although he seemed to be Mr. Schaefer's antithesis: Mr. Schaefer was a son of the machine, the consummate team player. But Mr. Schmoke ran a grass-roots campaign outside the political establishment. Mr. Schaefer was and is a colorful, unpolished kind of guy who governs with his heart on his sleeve. But Mr. Schmoke is the smooth, polished, Ivy League type, intellectual and cool, who plays his cards close to his chest. Mr. Schaefer's crowning achievement was the brick and mortar development exemplified by the Inner Harbor. But Mr. Schmoke has spent his time combating the rot Mr. Schaefer left beneath the glitter.

A whole network of good old boys and insiders had grown up and calcified during Mr. Schaefer's 12 years as mayor. Mr. Schmoke shattered that network and disenfranchised it with breathtaking speed and finality.

The simple truth is, Baltimore no longer is Mr. Schaefer's city. It is Mr. Schmoke's. Mr. Schaefer couldn't win there on a bet, while the mayor's office seems to belong to Mr. Schmoke for as long as he wants to keep it.

That must rankle, particularly since Mr. Schmoke's cool and scholarly stewardship of the city has proven far more effective during the current recession than the chaos and hysteria with which Mr. Schaefer has managed state government.

So now, Mr. Schaefer has set out to prove that two can play the antithesis game: If Mr. Schmoke backs the Democratic ticket, Mr. Schaefer will hob-nob with the Republicans. If Mr. Schmoke wants to claim the Clinton family as close personal friends, Mr. Schaefer will lay claim to a special relationship with President Bush.

Wait and see: As Mr. Schmoke and the city grow closer, Mr. Schaefer and the city will grow further apart. He will become an outcast, a pariah. Soon, Mr. Schaefer will be -- dare I say this out loud -- a man without a city.

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