Politics can't hide under banner of parenthood

September 13, 1998|By Susan Reimer

MY FATHER once told his four daughters that his worst enemy could walk through the front door and he would get up out of his chair and stride across the room to greet him.

"Everyone who comes into my home will feel welcome here," he said.

My father had a chance to live up to that promise when the man who ruined his career and caused us to lose the dream house my father built came to visit.

My sisters and I held our breath and watched, but saw no sign of anger or bitterness in my father's hospitality. He was as charming as ever.

Parris Glendening could learn a lot from my father.

The governor of Maryland snubbed President Clinton when he came to Silver Spring last Tuesday to push an educational agenda Glendening shares, then canceled a fund-raiser with the president planned for October.

And he did it not in the name of politics - which it was - but in the name of parenthood.

Less than a month ago, Glendening said he believed Clinton had "great draw and great popularity." His spokesman said that the governor was very pleased to have the president's support and added, "Marylanders know that the president had a very difficult statement to make the other night. He said what he needed to say and it is time to move on."

As recently as Aug. 30, Glendening said: "On the one hand, his actions were wrong. ... But the country is doing exceptionally well. We're at peace. The economy is doing well.

He's dealing with the issues we ought to be dealing with. As president, he has been absolutely great."

But less than a week later, Glendening ditched the president by playing the parent card.

"We have an 18-year-old son, and we try to teach him to be responsible for his actions, and you need models in terms of how to do that, and this makes it even worse," Glendening said.

I, too, am a parent. I know role models and, believe me, Glendening is no role model here.

Those who follow this column know that I have written of my anger at President Clinton's dalliance with a girl half his age, his finger-pointing lies and unapologetic apologies.

But the man is the president, and you don't snub the president or dis-invite the president - not if you have an 18-year-old son for whom you would like to model respect. Respect for the office if not for the man.

All Glendening modeled is political expediency, and the most blatant kind of fair-weather partisanship. Sen. Joseph Lieberman had no more taken his seat after his dignified castigation of Clinton than Glendening, hearing it as an air-raid siren, took it as a signal to run for cover.

That he did it at all was predictable and cynical. That he did it in the name of parenthood was cowardice. This was never about family values or lessons in personal responsibility. Glendening wet his finger, put it to the political winds - and bailed.

Then he said he did it for the good of his son. And it gave me chills.

What Clinton has done to his family and to the presidency is reprehensible and, perhaps, unforgivable. It is almost Gothic in the breadth of its tragedy.

What Glendening has done is small and mean and transparent. He sensed the earth was giving way under the man whom he had happily embraced just days before, and he fled the crumbling temple.

This isn't parenthood. This is politics.

Pub Date: 9/13/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.