Glendening, Clinton restore harmony President's visit to Md. school is opportunity for leaders to make up

October 14, 1998|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Jay Apperson, Susan Baer and Greg Garland contributed to this article.

Things change.

In a public reconciliation, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and President Bill Clinton made a joint appearance yesterday at a Montgomery County elementary school and had nothing but compliments for one another.

"One of the most innovative state governments in America," the president said of Glendening and Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who helped reunite the two politicians.

"You have had a great six years," Glendening said to the man whose behavior he had decried last month as "inappropriate" and "wrong." "We are proud of you and Vice President Al Gore."

The presidential visit to the overcrowded Forest Knolls Elementary School was to promote education issues that have stalled the budget process in Washington. Clinton wants money for 100,000 new teachers and classroom construction, but has not been able to reach an agreement with Republicans on whether federal or local officials should control the funds.

"I don't really relish education as a partisan debate," said Clinton, flanked on the podium by almost a dozen congressional Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

The hastily arranged event also marked the first public appearance of the governor and the president since Glendening criticized Clinton over Labor Day weekend, canceled a fund-raiser with him, then skipped his Sept. 8 visit to another Montgomery County school.

In the weeks since Glendening lashed out at the president over the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Clinton's favorable ratings have remained high. Meanwhile, the governor finds himself in a tight political rematch against Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey, which has forced him to turn back to the White House for support.

Enthusiastic welcome

The governor called the president last week to thank him for help with the campaign. Yesterday, Glendening seemed to go out of his way to show his enthusiasm for Clinton's visit.

As he and Clinton toured the school's portable trailer classrooms -- an illustration of the school crowding that Clinton was seeking to highlight -- Glendening told the president about the students' alarm at the police swarming outside their school yesterday morning.

"They thought something bad happened," Glendening said. "And then when they heard the president was coming, they were really happy."

The governor told reporters he now felt comfortable appearing with Clinton because the president has apologized for his behavior in the Lewinsky matter.

Event may help attract votes

Keith Haller, a Bethesda pollster, said his appearance at the president's side may help Glendening reach undecided voters and shore up his support among blacks, a crucial constituency for him. A recent poll showed that 90 percent of the state's black voters support Clinton.

"I firmly believe that Glendening's top priority at this juncture is to generate interest in African-American voters in Baltimore City and Prince George's County," said Haller, president of Potomac Survey Research. "There's nothing that could do that more directly, more emotionally, than Glendening standing strong with the president at this very trying moment."

In the same vein, Glendening campaigned last night at a rally in Northwest Baltimore aimed at energizing black voters. More than 200 people attended, including Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and representatives from the clergy and local unions. Many of the state's top Democrats were also there, including former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

"We're here for one reason, to get out the black vote to help Governor Glendening and ensure his victory," said Charles G. Tildon Jr., retired president of the former Community College of Baltimore, who helped organize the event.

'Political aspect self-evident'

But the governor's renewed friendship with Clinton can cut both ways. Said Sauerbrey: "I think even Glendening's strongest supporters are embarrassed about [him] one day declining to appear with the president, uninviting the president to his fund-raiser and now a few weeks later inviting the president to be here."

Democratic officials who attended yesterday's joint appearance in Montgomery County were quick to downplay its significance in state politics.

"Obviously, the political aspect of this is self-evident," said Southern Maryland Rep. Steny H. Hoyer. "But I think it's the sideshow and not the main event. There's a real synergy between the governor's agenda and the president's."

The White House, for its part, was happy to capitalize on Glendening's about-face. "All with Glendening is fine," said Clinton adviser Paul Begala. "That's ancient history."

Pub Date: 10/14/98

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