There's Audacity of Hope," John Coale was saying, "and then there's just audacity."
Coale - the big-time Democratic fundraiser and Clintonite who lent $500,000 to Martin O'Malley's campaign in the last days of the governor's race - made that crack over lunch in Baltimore months ago, when Hillary Clinton was still giving Barack Obama a run for his money.
Coale was off the record back then. But he'll let me quote him now that he's made this surprise announcement: He's backing John McCain.
A native Baltimorean who waited tables at Martick's as a UB law student, Coale is known for his work in tobacco litigation - and for being married to Fox News' Greta van Susteren.
(We interrupt this column to issue yet another appeal to Morris Martick, 86-year-old chef of the just-shuttered West Side French restaurant: Open up! Coale, too, bemoans your well-deserved but sweet-potato-soup-depriving retirement.)
Coale has long shared money and connections with Dems. But he showed up at the Republican National Convention last week and announced plans to woo high-profile Dems to "Citizens for McCain." "A Leading Hillary Supporter Defects to McCain," read the headline as Newsweek.com broke the story.
"First, I'm surprised it's any kind of big deal at all," Coale told me later by phone from Minnesota.
"And second, I told McCain that I am doing nothing to help [down-ticket] Republicans. John and I go back. We worked together on the tobacco stuff when he was chairman of the commerce committee. I've known him a long time.
"And I like him a lot. ...
"I'm a true-blue Democrat. But look, I don't know Barack Obama. I had one one-on-one for 30 minutes once. I've worked with McCain. He has a tremendous record of compromise in putting deals together in the Senate.
"I made it very clear this is about John McCain, not Republicans and not Republicans in Maryland," he added. "I will be supporting Martin O'Malley for his re-election and all Democrats, especially in the state of Maryland. I'm holding a fundraiser for what's-his-name on the Eastern Shore."
Frank Kratovil, Democrat for Congress?
"Kratovil. Senior moment. I'll continue to do that kind of thing."
Think twice before dissing community organizers
At the University of Maryland, Baltimore, it's possible to get a degree in something that was a laugh line at the GOP convention: community organizing.
About 160 students are pursuing master's degrees in social work with a concentration in nonprofit management and community organizing.
Dick Cook, director of the school's social work community outreach service, said community organizing shouldn't be viewed as partisan since the term covers so many activities, from registering voters to picketing abortion clinics. Joining the Wasilla, Alaska, PTA, even.
"In Baltimore City, you see playgrounds and libraries and community gardens and crime-reduction efforts, all the result of community organizing," he said. "Many, many years ago, I was director of the Greater Homewood Community Corp. One of my most trusted community leaders was to the right of Attila the Hun. But boy, he was there and he worked on his community issues."
Professor Jim Kunz of McDaniel College's Department of Social Work wrote to say he was "shocked" to hear Sarah Palin ridicule community organizers "only minutes after noting, with pride, her husband's membership in the United Steelworker's Union.
"Does she not realize the historical role that community organizers played in the union movement? ...
"Perhaps whoever answers her question 'what is it exactly that the VP does every day?' can also explain to her what community organizers do."
Never out on the links, - well, hardly ever
Bob Ehrlich would like you to know he's not really that big a golfer.
I suggested the other day that the ex-gov - chairman of McCain's Maryland campaign - might have skipped the convention because it's a great time of year to golf. I quoted an old story by The Baltimore Sun's David Nitkin, which reported that Ehrlich played 20 rounds in 27 days between Sept. 15, 2004, and Oct. 11, 2004.
Not true, says Ehrlich spokesman Greg Massoni.
The scores were posted on a database maintained by the Maryland State Golf Association. Massoni said that the 20 rounds were played over the entire golf season, and that someone at the association just entered the scores all at once on the governor's behalf.
"The governor doesn't do that because he's computer illiterate," Massoni said. "He calls in to a golf pro, who then inserts the scores and then comes up with the official handicap. That individual apparently just listed all the scores consecutively."
Nitkin told me Massoni never made that claim at the time. Massoni said he did.
No one at the association returned my call.
In any case, Massoni said Ehrlich shouldn't take a hit for playing golf while in office - "once a week if he was lucky," and never on consecutive days, he said - since Governor O'Malley lifts weights and has a band. (O'Malley's March seems to be mostly defunct these days, but the guitar came out at the Democratic convention.)
"There were many occasions when [Ehrlich] ended up having to miss a hole to take a phone call," Massoni said. "It wasn't three hours of isolation. Sometimes TV cameras would come at hole 11 and he'd stop and do an interview or something. He was governor while he was golfing."