Maryland Democrats split sharply in retaining loyalty toward Clinton Governor turns away, congressmen display untarnished support

September 10, 1998|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Two top Maryland Democrats who have been political allies for three decades are attracting national attention for their sharply different reactions to the sex scandal that threatens to destroy the Clinton presidency.

Neither Rep. Steny H. Hoyer nor Gov. Parris N. Glendening has defended Clinton's acknowledged affair with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky. But Hoyer interrupted his own re-election campaign to accompany the embattled president on a difficult overseas trip, and even publicly upbraided a reporter who raised the scandal at a Moscow news conference.

Meanwhile, Glendening made headlines across the country for delivering to Clinton the first major snub. He pointedly canceled a fall fund-raiser in which the president was to be the star attraction, and declared himself too busy to attend a Clinton appearance this week at a Maryland school. He also issued a statement -- citing his son, Raymond -- saying he believes the president has let the country down.

Different styles

The contrast has nothing to do with Clinton, but speaks volumes about the difference between Hoyer and Glendening, according to longtime associates of the two.

Glendening is much more a creature of political expedience, they say, while Hoyer -- though intensely political and highly partisan -- puts a higher premium on loyalty.

"Steny's not going to repudiate this president, I can tell you that," said Thomas V. Mike Miller, the president of the state Senate. "Representative Hoyer is a very loyal person, a very stand-up person. Governor Glendening plays his cards close to his vest. He's very cautious as to what he does."

Both Marylanders, moderate-to-liberal in their outlooks, have made a show of their association with Clinton in the past.

The governor spent much of his first term emphasizing his similarity with Clinton on themes such as education, the environment and the economy.

But now Glendening is locked in a neck-and-neck re-election re-match with Republican Ellen Sauerbrey, who he barely defeated in the 1994 gubernatorial election. As Clinton's troubles exploded last month, the governor began seeking distance.

"A couple of months ago, he was modeling himself after Clinton. He would call himself a Clinton Democrat," said former Del. Timothy F. Maloney, who, like both Glendening and Hoyer, came of age politically in Prince George's County. "And, of course, the moment he's in trouble, he throws [Clinton] overboard."

While Glendening declined through a spokesman to comment further on his relationship with the president, former Rep. Michael D. Barnes defended the governor's sincerity last night.

"I think every public official is struggling with how to deal with this tragic situation, and individuals are coming to different conclusions," said Barnes, a Montgomery County Democrat who is a co-chairman of Glendening's re-election campaign. Glendening "made a decision based on his views of right and wrong, and, as he said, on the signal he sends to Raymond and other young people."

"The governor has said all he intends to say about this," said Peter Hamm, a Glendening campaign spokesman. "Clearly he thinks the president has done a terrific job running the country.

Disappointed but unchanged

Hoyer, who doesn't have a tough re-election battle this year but whose Southern Maryland district has too many Republicans for him to ever feel safe, says he, too, feels let down by the president's behavior.

"I am disappointed at what the president has done," said Hoyer, who was among the House Democratic leaders who met with Clinton at the White House yesterday morning to discuss his increasing political troubles. "He has hurt the presidency. He has hurt himself. He has hurt the party and I think he's hurt the country."

"I don't feel any necessity to pile on," Hoyer explained. "I have been, and will continue to be, a supporter of this president's policies. They are the same as mine, in terms of the programs that he has put forward, that I think have put the country in very good shape."

Wynn plays host

Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Democrat from Prince George's County who also represents a sliver of Montgomery County, has been even more outspoken in his support of the president, and he played host to Clinton during an event Tuesday that focused on public schools in Silver Spring.

"He does have the agenda that I believe is right for the people in my district, for the state and for the country," Wynn said. "I don't share the views the governor has. I think it's important to have the capacity to forgive and that we not get too judgmental."

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