Diane Rehm strikes out in Townsend interview

This Just In...

September 10, 2001|By Dan Rodricks

HAD SHE offered to get Kathleen K. Townsend some warm milk and cookies Diane Rehm could not have been more fawning in her interview with Maryland's lieutenant governor Friday afternoon. Rehm not only accorded Townsend an hour of National Public Radio exposure --- because, we guess, she's a Kennedy Running For Something! -- but the talk-show host tossed enough softballs to fill a barrel at Play It Again Sports.

To call Rehm's questions softballs is to demean softballs.

These were more like beach balls covered with marshmallows. If Rehm didn't exactly say, "Lieutenant Governor Townsend, talk a little bit about your many accomplishments," she came close, over and over. She accepted KKT's assertions of crime-fighting success and lobbed the state's budget surplus her way so she could whack it into the grandstands. Rehm, sadly reverting to a kind of ladies club chit-chat of some 1940s radio hour, seemed downright giddy about having a "K" on her show. She called her "governor" and "Governor Kennedy Townsend," and asked if she wanted to announce her candidacy for the big chair in Annapolis. (Townsend declined the invitation on the grounds that Rehm's show originated from the Newseum in Arlington, Va. Had it been the Zoh Show, originating from Radio One in Baltimore, Md., I suppose she would have made it official.)

Rehm showed herself to be woefully uninformed and naive when she cloyingly praised Townsend for staging two $10-per- person campaign fund-raisers, one at the Baltimore Zoo, of all places. In this age of the big-money, fat-cat political fund-raiser, wasn't that a charmingly progressive thing to do? Rehm seemed to believe that KKT operated in the rarified air above politics-as-usual. But then, in her best schoolmarmish voice, warned Townsend that the money she raised from these little-people parties wasn't going to be enough. Not in this day and age.

Of course, Rehm seemed clueless to the fact that KKT has raised gobs of money, at record-setting levels, and mostly with the same conventional, fat-cat fund-raisers Rehm appears to abhor.

I heard no mention of the August 2000 party at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, the one Bill Clinton attended; guests paid between $2,000 and $4,000. That party was good for an estimated $800,000.

Nor did Rehm mention the $500,000 fund-raiser at Port Discovery before that, or the $1,000-a-person fund-raiser in Little Italy before that. No mention of December's $1,000- and $500-per- ticket party at Martin's West, either. (The last campaign finance report available in Maryland, 10 months old, showed that half of the $1.5 million Townsend added to her campaign in 2000 was from large, out-of-state contributors.)

All these fund-raisers were organized and pulled off in an attempt to gain an early lead in fund raising and to scare off other candidates two years before the Maryland primary, and there's nothing new or unusual or charming about that.

I didn't hear the entire hour -- had to get out of the car for about 15 minutes to pay my BGE bill -- but caught the end and heard Rehm implore Townsend to come back when she was ready to announce her candidacy.

Oy.

Wayne Curry, Doug Duncan, Bob Ehrlich, Don Donaldo, Martin O'Malley, or anyone else thinking about running for governor, should demand equal time. And cookies.

A rockin' wedding gift

I guess Hecht Co. gift certificates or hand-blown glass candy dishes make nice wedding gifts, but I like Therese Lynch's idea -- a video of strangers reading one line each from Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnet No. 43 from "Sonnets from the Portuguese" interspersed with clips from a heavy-metal rockumentary. Lynch moved about Hampden and Belvedere Square last week with a Panasonic camcorder (and 8-month-old son, Aidan, in a stroller) asking strangers to cooperate with the making of the video -- a wedding gift for her friend, Susan Mitchell. Lynch moved here recently from Takoma Park and got a good dose of Baltimore in the vid-making process.

"The only people who said no to reading a line [from the poem] were the first two people I asked," she says. "I had a guy with a tattoo give the line, `Let me count the ways.' I got a line from a guy named Tom in an ice cream place in Hampden. One old guy, he was very sweet; he couldn't read the poem, so he just said what he felt. He gave advice on marriage. ... The best was the young guy with a bow tie in the ticket booth at the Senator Theatre. He went on and on about his favorite poetry, and he did all his speaking through the [opening] in the ticket booth window."

Using two VCRs at home, Lynch edited the poetry readings with other video clips, including some from one of the bride's favorite films, This Is Spinal Tap. I call that inspired.

Things seen and heard

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