Schaefer's endorsement of governor a nod from past

June 14, 1998|By MICHAEL OLESKER

WILLIAM Donald Schaefer's endorsement of Parris Glendening is more proof that, in politics, nobody has any memory. Schaefer forgets all the Glendening snubs, and Glendening forgets all the Schaefer gaffes, and everybody gets his picture in the newspaper pretending to be buddies.

There are valid reasons to vote for Parris Glendening next fall, but nobody knows if Schaefer's brand-new benediction is one of them. He backs Glendening because he loathes Larry Gibson. Gibson made Kurt L. Schmoke mayor of Baltimore, and he made Wayne Curry the Prince George's County executive, and now he wishes to make Eileen Rehrmann the next governor. The mere possibility makes Schaefer so livid that he blocks all memory of the times Glendening stiffed him in public.

One of the saddest sights of recent times was the day the Baltimore Ravens came to town. It broke Schaefer's heart to lose the Baltimore Colts, and it drove a knife through him to be excluded on the day Glendening and Art Modell made the Ravens' arrival official.

Two years ago, on a big platform on the precise spot where they now wrap up construction of the Ravens football stadium, Parris Glendening took bows for his (self-inflated) role in stealing Cleveland's ballclub, and gave a graceless speech about how much fun it was to steal them away, while a deflated Schaefer was left to wander about.

Nothing personal, he'd been told. There just wasn't enough room on the platform. Schaefer nodded his head lumpishly. Somehow, there was room for two dozen people on that stage, politicians and football types and negotiators in suits. But no room for

Schaefer, not breathing the same air with a governor made uncomfortable by his very presence. Schaefer was the link between yesterday's loss and this day's triumph, the man who'd bled profusely to bring football back to Baltimore. And it counted for nothing.

A big crowd built in front of the platform that day, and folks began gathering around Schaefer. They wanted to thank him for all of his efforts. Schaefer glanced toward the platform to see if Glendening was watching. He seemed to be thinking: You want to see popularity, Parris, I'll show you popularity.

"Why aren't you up there?" somebody asked.

"The governor didn't ask me," Schaefer declared.

Now, Glendening asks.

Now, Schaefer forgives.

With his re-election campaign showing only modest spark, Glendening welcomed last week the endorsement of Schaefer, who readily admitted he's had his differences with the governor and conceded it hasn't always been "peaches and cream."

"Where else was he gonna go?" a longtime Schaefer ally asked at week's end. "Here and there, he makes peace with Schmoke, although it's never a comfortable relationship. But Larry he can't stand. He thinks he's a bad man."

Larry Gibson can live with that. He took delight last week reminding people -- Democrats, in particular -- that Schaefer once endorsed George Bush for president. Politics is all grapevine and rumor; Gibson knows Schaefer's bad-mouthed him for years, so he's had time to prepare for this moment, and to throw a few shots back.

The question is: Does any of it matter? Glendening looks at Schaefer and sees a vision of electoral Baltimore, overwhelmingly in his corner four years ago but now considered shaky since Schmoke and Gibson bolted for Rehrmann.

But Schaefer's Baltimore -- the old political players, the telephone calls to Irv Kovens in the middle of the night for sage advice, the leaning on Mimi DiPietro and Du Burns to get out the East Baltimore vote, the whole emotional sense of everybody pitching in to help out the beleaguered Schaefer -- feels like a vanished time now. It's nearly 12 years since he left City Hall.

And Schmoke, for all the muscle he's gained in his 10 years in office, has been thoroughly ripped for endorsing Rehrmann. Say what you will about Glendening, he's sent a lot of money to Baltimore; putting aside slot machines, the city's gotten pretty much what it's wanted. For Schmoke, endorsing Rehrmann seemed the act of an ingrate.

But there's something else at play here: In the absence of real drama (such as widespread corruption, not that such a thing could ever happen around here), people tend to vote out of self-interest. It so happens, the state of Maryland's in pretty good shape. People are working, crime's down, so we feel security with the guy currently running the state.

Around here, those who still treasure the city of Baltimore remember Schaefer as its great champion. But he's a political period piece -- and that period was years ago. Schaefer and Glendening have put aside bad memories to embrace each other. But voters must be wondering, are we supposed to care?

Pub Date: 6/14/98

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