Glendening, Sauerbrey conveniently forget their pasts

September 13, 1998|By Barry Rascovar

AMNESIA has struck the front-runners for Maryland governor. One candidate can't recognize his longtime pals; the other candidate can't remember what she uttered repeatedly in the past.

Introducing Parris "I'm No Friend of Bill's" Glendening and Ellen "Did I Say That?" Sauerbrey.

These cases of selective memory are carefully calibrated to provide each candidate with maximum voter impact. They are prime examples of politics uber alles -- crass, basic survival strategies in which all that counts is finding a way to win.

It's politics triumphing over principles.

Dump the president

Governor Glendening made headlines around the country for his recent bout with amnesia. Once, he was proud to be photographed next to President Clinton, his favorite president.

But when polls showed this proximity could hurt Mr. Glendening in November, the governor pulled a disappearing act: He just couldn't break a long-standing commitment in Randallstown last week to attend a presidential visit in Montgomery County.

And about that fund-raiser Mr. Glendening had planned, with the president as guest of honor? Golly, said the guv, the prez should stay at home and focus on the nation's pressing business.

Besides, the governor noted in his lecture on public morality, what Mr. Clinton and Monica Lewinsky had done was unconscionable. He said it makes it tough for him to use the president as a role model for his college-age son.

This slap in the face to the president has not gone over well with Democrats who back Mr. Clinton. Mr. Glendening has angered them. He looks like one of Thomas Paine's "sunshine patriots" of the American Revolution, who deserted when the going got tough.

Once again, the governor handled a delicate matter clumsily. He used a hammer to pound on Mr. Clinton's head, though circumstances cried out for the skillful use of a scalpel.

Selective memory has dogged Mr. Glendening. When Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he and the governor had agreed on a plan to put slot machines in the city, Mr. Glendening claimed it never happened. Mr. Schmoke remains embittered.

When racetrack owner Joseph A. De Francis pleaded guilty to exceeding campaign donation limits -- after being pressured by Mr. Glendening to raise more funds -- the governor claimed ignorance. He said he was shocked, shocked by what Mr. De Francis had done.

No one believed him -- and Mr. De Francis remains embittered.

On these occasions, Mr. Glendening came across as a pure political animal. It is this state's version of the "character issue." Poll after poll shows voter unease with Mr. Glendening. His bouts with amnesia help explain why.

Not that Ellen Sauerbrey has a clear and accurate memory these days, either.

Voting on the environment

Remember all those votes she cast against clean air and clean water during her 16 years in the General Assembly? Her abysmally low scores in rankings by conservation and environmental groups? Forget all that. She now says she has a "sacred trust" to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Remember that right-wing conservative group she joined that is fighting environmental extremists? The one that wants to privatize Social Security, endanger the Endangered Species Act and the Food and Drug Administration? The one where she sits on the board of directors?

Heck, she says she hasn't been active for three years -- even though she joined the board of directors three years ago when the group was founded. A check of the group's Web site shows she is still on its board of directors.

Remember her angry anti-abortion stance while a member of the General Assembly? Now she says she will uphold existing law -- then describes how she would, in effect, change existing law.

Remember her years of proposing giant cuts or elimination of arts funding? Now she promises arts groups to "make every effort" to give them a big financial boost.

Remember her fierce opposition in the legislature to any move that smacked of gun control? Now she says she won't try to change gun-control laws on the books.

Remember the executive order on collective bargaining she railed against? The one she said she would take to court to overturn? Now she says she won't try to overturn it.

Trying to please all people? Pandering for votes? Conveniently forgetting what she said and did over the past two decades?

Welcome to the 1998 Maryland race for governor. May the best amnesiac win.

Barry Rascovar is The Sun's deputy editorial page editor.

Pub Date: 9/13/98

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