For democracy's sake, five hours in stir


September 03, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

The day after his debate-night arrest, Allan Lichtman issued a "Letter from a Baltimore County Jail." In case anybody missed the reference - hey, the voters aren't all history profs like Lichtman - the missive opened with a quotation from Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Lichtman's letter blasts organizers of the Senate debate for only inviting the two Democratic front-runners, Ben Cardin and Kweisi Mfume. It's not quite the stuff of King. No references to Thomas Aquinas or Socrates. But MLK had a couple advantages over Lichtman: pen and paper.

"I write to you from a Baltimore County jail," the letter says. "I write from memory because the jailer allows no paper, no pen or pencil in his cell."

Lichtman had to compose his 2 1/2 -page letter in his head, putting it down on paper (or computer screen) only after he was sprung. Of course, he could have just waited until he got home. (He was released about five hours after his arrest.)

But then Lichtman couldn't have used the compelling present tense in lines like this: "I am in jail because I put my body on the line to uphold the right of the people to choose their United States Senator from Maryland."

`Allan, go limp, go limp'

You can watch Lichtman get arrested on WBAL-TV's Web site, at least as of this writing. Here are the highlights:

Turned away at MPT station door, Lichtman confronts a black guy with a clipboard who appears to work there. "You should know. You're an African American. What if they had arrested Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and not let them debate?"

Lichtman's the history buff, but did Parks and MLK debate?

As standoff drags on, the clipboard guy - mutely standing by - gets pulled into it again. "If this had happened in the 1960s, this man would still be in the segregated South," Lichtman tells a white police officer. "Women would still be discriminated against. You, as a police officer, would not have basic rights."

Is that what the '60s were all about? Police rights?

As an officer finally puts cuffs on Lichtman, his wife, NARAL veteran Karyn Strickler, drops to the ground in her little black dress. "Allan, go limp, go limp," she says. "Allan, lie down."

A supporter tries to get a chant going: "What's he charged with, Democracy? What's he charged with, Democracy?" The crowd sticks with the more pedestrian, "Open the debate."

Not on the video, but related: Josh Rales, another shut-out Senate candidate, offered to post Lichtman's bond. But Rales - who has spent $5.2 million of his personal fortune on his campaign and is polling at 6 percent - didn't need to blow any more cash. Lichtman was released on his own recognizance.

And Wonkette picked up reports on Lichtman's arrest, then provided links to related topics: "READ MORE: crazies, maryland, midterms, senate."

Hey, my cousin was in pictures

Any politician with a movie star in the family is going to tap into those Hollywood ties - even if the star and the pol are first cousins, twice removed, and the star is long dead. So that's why Del. Peter Franchot is hosting a special screening of Five Graves to Cairo Wednesday night in Silver Spring. The 1943 Billy Wilder film stars Franchot Tone, a matinee idol of the 1930s and '40s. Franchot's great-grandfather and Tone's mother were siblings.

Tone's biggest claim to fame might be his brief marriage to Joan Crawford. Movie trivia buffs know him as part of the answer to this question: Which film is the only one in history to have three nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role? (Answer: The 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty," with Tone, Clark Gable and Charles Laughton nominated. They all lost to Victor McLaglen for The Informer.)

The screening might help raise campaign cash, but will having a famous relative really help at the ballot box? The only Marylander old enough to remember seeing Tone on the silver screen might be William Donald Schaefer.

Connect the dots

Bob, Kendel, Drew and Joshua Ehrlich were spotted one night last week having dinner at a Burger King near Timonium. You'd think a family with an official chef could have it their way at home. But even the first family, who'd just visited the state fair, sometimes needs fast food, says Ehrlich spokesman Greg Massoni. "With football practice and running around getting ready for school, I think they drop in for a quick meal." ... An HBO special promoting The Wire has interviews with several people said to have mayoral ambitions: City Council President Sheila Dixon, Baltimore State's Attorney Pat Jessamy and Councilman Keiffer Mitchell. The show misspells Mitchell's first name. "Like Kiefer Sutherland," Mitchell said. "That's Hollywood. Maybe they're trying to improve my image."

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