The fat is in the fire for sure

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September 08, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Leave it to William Donald Schaefer to speak the unspeakable. Not "Mother Hubbard." Not "little girl." Not even "walk again." Of all the things the proudly un-PC comptroller has uttered, "fat" takes the cake. So says a guy who teaches college courses on the likes of rhetoric and political persuasion.

"That is not a phraseology that you can rationalize as being cute," Towson University Professor Richard Vatz said. "There are certain words you iterate and certain words you don't. You don't utter the word `fat' without a qualifier. `Fat' makes the average person wince. That's a wince word.

"Now, there's no such term in political rhetoric," Vatz hastened to add, before going on to define his newly coined term as something "completely incongruous with a smile."

"`Fat' is completely incongruous with a smile," he said. "If I go up to you and say, `You putting on a little weight?' That's not good. But if I say, `You're fat.' There's no smile that can ameliorate that word."

For the record, Schaefer said rival Janet Owens was "getting fat" not "fat." Is that any better? Vatz said "getting" has a "slightly ameliorative" effect, but he still deemed the insult "not justifiable."

"He's playing with electoral fire when he uses that kind of language," Vatz said.

Even so, the professor still prefers Schaefer over Owens or Peter Franchot. (The comptroller could be considered a friend of a friend since Robert Ehrlich has guest-lectured in Vatz's classes since the governor was a delegate.)

Vatz doesn't think the election should turn on the insult, particularly since Schaefer says Owens started it back in May. That's when Owens told WBAL's Ron Smith that telling Schaefer she was running for comptroller was like having to tell grandpa it's time to give up the car keys.

Owens, who has worked with the elderly and said she cried during her meeting with Schaefer, has said she didn't mean it as a dig. But Vatz said her language was loaded, too.

"That is not inoffensive," Vatz said. "That explains a little bit Schaefer's hostility."

Only opposes placid white guys

On the ballot, it looks like Leonard Kerpelman, the lawyer who won the 1963 Supreme Court case outlawing organized prayer in public schools, is challenging state Sen. Lisa Gladden for her 41st District seat. But he only filed for office, he said, "because I thought I'd be running against a sort of placid white fellow."

He later discovered that he had challenged "a nice black lady." He asked to have his name scratched from the ballot, but his request came too late.

"I didn't even know who my own state senator was," he sheepishly told The Sun's Jill Rosen. "I was thinking I knew what I was doing. And now I'm out the 50 bucks [filing fee]."

So who was this placid white guy Kerpelman was hoping to oust? The Baltimore delegation isn't exactly overflowing with them. In fact, there's only one white male senator, George Della, and Kerpelman admits that he wasn't the target. "It gets worse," he said. "The guy I'm talking about wasn't even a senator. He's a delegate." And Kerpelman isn't naming names.

Gladden, meanwhile, couldn't be happier. "I hope that next time my challenger drops out for the same reason - because I'm a nice black lady."

OK to eat with off-duty lobbyists?

A reader wants me to set the record straight about one of Jim Rosapepe's dining partners the night state Sen. John Giannetti performed his politically handy Heimlich maneuver. I wrote that Rosapepe was not eating with lobbyists, as Giannetti claims in a campaign flier. The reader points out that one person at the table, Del. Sheila Hixson, is a Washington lobbyist.

But Hixson says I was right the first time. Since the legislature was in session at the time, she was on leave from her lobbying job with Potomac Advocates. And she said she would have no need to lobby Giannetti on behalf of her clients: defense contractors.

But the reader was not convinced: "Well, you would be very surprised as to how D.C. lobbyists work."

Ask for a growler, get a groaner

My piece on Steve Fogleman, the Sam Adams beer-taster and aspiring Baltimore state's attorney, prompted this note from a Pasadena reader:

"Apparently, he's not aware of a law that prevents law-abiding adults in Maryland (e.g. my husband and me, in our 50s, and my mother, in her 80s, all without children) from having ANY alcohol delivered to their homes-wine, liquor and, yes, beer!!! Aren't attorneys supposed to abide by the same, lousy laws to which we, the commoners are subjected?"

I checked with the Maryland attorney general's office. "The regulations contain provisions for distribution of samples by licensed wholesalers to Alcoholic Beverage Experts, including possible shipment from non-state sources," AG spokesman Kevin Enright replied by e-mail. "I have nipped another [would-be scandal] in the BUD."

OK to quote him on the Bud part?

"Guinness gracious," Enright shot back. "I don't give a Schlitz."

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