He called it his "trilogy of speeches" and over the past 12 days, Parris N. Glendening used these occasions -- his inaugural address, budget message and State of the State address -- to set a tone and a clear mandate for his new administration in Annapolis that is both firm and specific. It is a consciously middle-of-the-road message that advocates fiscal caution and a targeted agenda of immediate actions aimed at boosting Maryland's still fragile economic recovery.
Governor Glendening -- little-known in much of the state, even after his election -- succeeded in giving Marylanders a more defined look at the kind of administration they can expect over the next four years. It is quite a contrast to the way William Donald Schaefer ran the state. There may be less passion and dramatic tension, but there is a more intensely focused thrust on the nitty-gritty of government and how to make it smaller yet efficient.
This governor is all business -- in more than one sense of the term. His speeches were pure policy statements, but with a purpose. The inaugural address laid out a "vision for Maryland in the 21st century" that was a rehash of his campaign promises to set as his priorities education, crime-prevention and job-creation. Yet he used his initial speech to indicate the all-inclusive nature of his approach -- he wants to attack problems through consensus, not through partisan or ideological confrontation.
His budget message left no doubt that Mr. Glendening, not the General Assembly, would lead the state in the next four years -- and that there are limits to what government alone can accomplish. The Glendening direction will be toward a gradual downsizing of the state bureaucracy, followed by a major reduction in income tax rates. The new governor understands that the power of the budget is his greatest weapon. He immediately made good use of it.
To conclude his trilogy, Governor Glendening delivered a State of the State message that showed he is, indeed, all business. Economic development and reshaping Maryland's job-growth efforts consumed most of this 40-minute speech last week. But the talk contained something for just about everyone. The result: broad approval of his aggressive pro-business strategy from corporate leaders to environmentalists and from both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans.
It has been an auspicious start for Maryland's 59th governor. There have been a few missteps -- the delayed and insensitive handling of cabinet dismissals, confusion over how to respond to Mr. Schaefer's list of midnight appointments -- but overall Mr. Glendening has settled into his new job with surprising alacrity. He has even managed to heal some of the wounds from last year's political battles by embracing conservative themes from the election and delaying bruising fights on a number of other social controversies. Not bad for a mere 12 days in office.