Cardin puts partisanship aside to back Schrader

Political Notebook

August 12, 2007|By Larry Carson

It seems that the partisan bickering that Washington is infamous for does not apply in every situation, as Howard County Republican Dennis R. Schrader, learned on his way to a new high-ranking federal job.

Schrader, a former county councilman and Maryland's homeland security director under Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was confirmed by the U.S. Senate last week to be deputy administrator for national preparedness of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - with a big boost from a Maryland Democrat, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin.

Cardin attended Schrader's hearing late last month before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee to tell his fellow senators what a great choice Schrader was for the federal job - third from the top at FEMA.

Why do that for a Republican, especially the husband of another active local Republican? Former state Sen. Sandra B. Schrader, the nominee's spouse, sat in the audience with the couple's adult daughter Whitney, and other relatives from Schrader's native Buffalo, N.Y.

"I think Dennis did an excellent job as [Maryland] homeland security director," Cardin said last week. "He did that job without any focus on partisan politics. He wanted to make sure we were safe. He's putting the national security first in Maryland. He's competent and well-qualified. He's been a person who has a very impressive record."

At the hearing, Cardin was even more generous in his praise, according to a transcript published online by Federal News Service: "He brings with him an extraordinary background of local, state and federal experience and private sector experience."

Cardin then ticked off Schrader's career as a 27-year active duty and Naval Reserve officer, with a long list of medals and commendations earned along the way.

The senator recalled his experience when, as a state legislator, he worked with Schrader, then a University of Maryland Hospital employee, to help put the then-financially troubled, publicly owned institution on firm footing.

"Dennis used his extraordinary executive leadership to work out that hospital so that today the University of Maryland Medical Center is one of the great academic medical centers in our country ... ," Cardin said. "That didn't just happen, ... and he was part of the team that brought that about."

Schrader's federal job was created by legislation "that was the result of this committee's eight-month investigation into why the response to [Hurricane] Katrina was so horribly botched by all levels of government," said the committee's chairman, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who was the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 2000.

Schrader's job will be to develop strong relationships with state and local governments and to make sure FEMA is ready for any terrorist or natural disaster so that nothing like the poor response to Hurricane Katrina happens again.

"Homeland security is a bipartisan issue," Schrader said last week.

He recalled working well with Cardin over the years on various issues, and said he appreciated his support at the hearing. "It was terrific. Senator Cardin is a gentleman."

Once President Bush signs his commission and he is sworn in, Schrader said he will begin tackling the kinds of disagreements that surfaced last week in published accounts about state and local officials who were angry over a federal rewriting of the national emergency response plan from which they felt excluded.

"I'm just getting on board," Schrader said.

In testifying at the hearing, Schrader described several of his experiences as Maryland Homeland Security director, including when a fuel tanker exploded and burned on Interstate 95. He said he is committed to making sure "we have the very best possible career leadership at the agency," and that he is also committed to diversity.

Lieberman called Schrader's record "really quite extraordinary," adding that, "I'm impressed with the way you handle yourself."

A contrarian

Columbia might be a hotbed of Democrats thirsty for a winning presidential candidate next year, but that has not deterred David Glass, 65, of Long Reach, a semiretired home repairman, from campaigning against a leading candidate.

His dark minivan is festooned with American flags and homemade "Stop Hillary" signs, referring to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat and presidential candidate.

Glass, who calls himself an independent voter, said he has had a good response, although he said a woman at the east Columbia library in Owen Brown told him: "You must be a woman-hater."

He said he is inspired by Fox television personality Sean Hannity, whose judgment Glass said he trusts over the news as reported by The Sun or The Washington Post. He said he has a "passionate interest in making sure Hillary is not the next president."

"I don't criticize her," he said. But he added, "You tell me one or two things she's done. No one has been able to tell me anything she has ever done."

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