Baltimore grimaces as Glendening and Miller get friendly

August 16, 1994|By MICHAEL OLESKER

Once upon a time, Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. did a terrible thing for a man salivating with political ambition. He spoke the truth in public. Or, at least, his version of the truth, in his version of linguistic elegance, with lots of people unexpectedly listening in.

Talking to a Washington television reporter one wintry night in 1989, without thinking that the TV camera was rolling, and without editing himself for mass consumption, he referred to the city of Baltimore as an "[adjectival] ghetto. It's worse than inner-city Washington, D.C. It is [scatological term unacceptable to the sensitivities of this newspaper's readers.]"

Miller, president of the Maryland Senate and lifelong resident of Prince George's County, has never entirely lived down those 30 seconds of air time. Some people are famous for 15 minutes; Miller's infamous forever around here.

The remarks are his version of William Donald Schaefer's Eastern Shore outhouse line, alienating to all who feel targeted, and some think they killed Miller's chances to become governor.

But apparently they didn't kill his imprint in this year's race.

The Washington Post reports Miller and Parris N. Glendening are now holding hands. This is big news to readers of that newspaper, who know that the two men have a history of loathing each other, and it should interest readers of this newspaper, who are still trying to figure what Glendening in the State House would mean to the future of Baltimore.

When Glendening comes here, he makes nice. He says he wants to help the city, says he understands the importance of Baltimore to the entire state.

This gives all who hear him, including Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, a warmish glow. But, when he's spoken to audiences in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, Glendening's urged them to pull together to snatch away Baltimore's historic power.

Pressed about these contradictory remarks a few weeks ago, Glendening said he'd simply been "shoring up my home base." Yesterday morning, pressed about his new relationship with Mike Miller, he said it simply indicated his "home base has come together even stronger."

Home base.

Beautiful.

Here's a man running for governor, saying different things to different audiences, and "home base" is considered an answer for jittery Baltimoreans fearing they're about to become political orphans.

And now, home base is supposed to explain Mike Miller, a man who last year said of Glendening, "You can't trust him. His word is no good," and now makes temporary peace with him.

"It's not a big deal," Glendening said yesterday of the new arrangement. "Baltimore shouldn't read anything into this. I've had major policy differences with [Miller] all the way through."

So why the sudden alliance?

"In the curious world of Prince George's politics," he said, "we've run together before. But this implies no agreement, and no arrangement" -- such as, perhaps, Miller not doing anything to trip Glendening's campaign and, in return, Glendening not doing anything to jeopardize Miller's Senate presidency.

And what about Miller's remarks about Baltimore?

"I strongly reject them," said Glendening. "I did at the time, and I do now. They're outrageous, unacceptable, and typical."

Typical?

"Certainly," he said. "He's made even more outrageous remarks about me."

And yet, here's Glendening suddenly finding peace with Miller, an odd alliance that refuels concern about Baltimore vs. the D.C. suburbs.

"It's very disturbing to me," Mickey Steinberg was saying yesterday, as he tried to get his own campaign moving.

"This race has had tremendous undertones of polarization, of region alization. Glendening's being pushed down there not just as governor, but as the man to bring power to the Washington suburbs.

"I'm not a Baltimore-area candidate, even though I'm from Baltimore. I recognize that Baltimore's vitality has a direct relationship to the whole state. It's the state's heart. But this isn't a regional office we're running for, it's governor of the whole state."

Parris Glendening says the same thing, except when he's not in Baltimore.

And Mike Miller says something completely different, and now he's making nice with Glendening.

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